Many types of research have shown that high-fat and low-carb diets are a better option to live a healthier lifestyle. Why? The plan is to deprive your body of carbs, causing it to break down fats for fuel. Hence the formulation of ‘Ketogenic diets’.
What is the excitement of a keto diet all about? Since glucose is the simplest and easiest form of energy to break down, there’s no surprise your body would pick it as the first fuel source over other options.
The beauty of science is once you are on a low-carb diet, your body burns more fat to produce ketones which are magnificent fuels for your brain. Also, a ketogenic diet is an effective blood sugar control method, because no glucose equals low insulin level. Reducing your carb intake and getting calories from healthy fats is an incredible way to lose weight.
Going on a vegetarian diet means completely abstaining from meat, poultry, and fish. Health benefits, include a drop in cholesterol levels, reduced chances of heart disease, blood pressure regulation, and weight loss promotion.
A keto vegetarian diet is the product of a keto and vegetarian diet. In the traditional keto diet, most fat is from animal protein. However, going vegan keto means only consuming only plant-based foods.
There are so many things to consider when you want to go vegetarian while keto dieting or you want to tweak your vegetarian diet to be a high-fat low-carb diet. It can be confusing for a vegan bean lover to stop eating these legumes because they contain too many carbs for a keto diet.
Some vegetarian diets are more flexible than others.
- Pescatarians: This is the most flexible type in the books. These individuals eat eggs, seafood, and dairy but avoid meats.
- Lacto-Ovo vegetarian diet: This type is mostly preferred. On this diet, you can eat eggs and dairy (yay for Greek yogurt), but are not allowed to eat poultry, seafood, and meats.
- Lacto-vegetarian diet: It is similar to the Lacto-ovo diet but here, eggs are prohibited.
- Vegan diet: Most environmentalists and animal lovers pick this diet. The rue is no eating animal products of any kind including honey, dairy, meats, poultry, and eggs.
First, I will say that going keto as a vegan is much more challenging than going vegetarian on a keto diet. Although, it’s not impossible.
The more flexible vegetarian diets are best suited to marry keto diets to develop a healthy vegetarian keto diet. This is because they provide a wide variety of low-carb veggies and vegan protein sources.
A healthy vegetarian keto diet allows you to enjoy the benefits of both worlds.
According to the WHO, more than one billion people in the world are obese, 7.2% of adults above 20 are suffering from heart disease, 422 million are diabetic, and globally, 4% suffer from non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
Statistic show that the prevalence of chronic diseases is alarming and at the rate at which the numbers are rising, non-communicable diseases will be considered a global pandemic (if they haven’t already). Low carbohydrate diets lower the risks of these diseases because ketosis suppresses inflammation by removing foods that trigger inflammations.
Leafy greens and whole foods are rich in fiber which promotes weight loss by increasing satiety. Low-carb vegetables increase the breakdown of body fat by reducing blood sugar and insulin levels.
Healthy fats like medium-chain triglycerides increase satiety levels and reduce your appetite.
Are you aware that not all bacteria are bad? There are bacteria in your gut that are helpful, and their reduction could contribute to chronic diseases like obesity and diabetes. Your good bacteria love plants, so make low-carb veggies your friend.
In addition, your vegetarian keto diet should include fermented foods. For Lacto-Ovo vegetarians, Greek yogurt should be their go-to snack. Kimchi, kefir, and plain yogurt are options. Hey sweet tooth, yes you, pick the unflavored variety.
A vegetarian keto diet increases cells’ insulin sensitivity, reducing blood glucose levels. High fiber from whole foods and leafy greens slows down glucose absorption, thus regulating sugar levels.
Moreover, on a vegetarian keto diet, you will eat less, lose weight more and experience better glycemic control.
As much as I am singing the praises of a vegetarian keto diet, I would be lying if I said there are no risks to being a keto vegetarian.
A high fat low carb diet is the healthier way of eating, but not eating meat has its own predicaments.
A vegan keto gets their protein from plant sources only, yet most of our proteins (67%) is from animal products. Three quarters of essential amino acids are from animal products. Once these are eliminated, we are prone to nutritional deficiencies.
Your body can make glucose when your net carbs are low, since it undergoes amino acids and fat metabolism to produce sugar for energy.
Eighty-five percent of energy is reserved in fats which your body burns fat in storage when glucose is inadequate. This is how a low fat diet leads to weight loss.
Proteins are the most essential macronutrient (most scholars agree). They are used in wound repair, DNA formulation, building muscles and hormone development and these are proteins’ unique functions.
A plant only diet can give you the essential amino acids you’re looking for but it may be hardest to get all of them since meats and fishes are the ‘complete proteins’ not plants. Moreover, a ketogenic diet prohibits legumes and whole grains which reduces the variety of protein sources you can consume.
Protein powders cater for these nutritional deficiencies. If you combine the proteins from your diet and that from protein powder, you will get adequate amounts to meet your daily protein requirements.
This is a fancy term for micronutrient deficiency. Animal meats are a better source of iron than plants because their iron (Heme) is more available than Non-Heme iron. Some key nutrients, like taurine and creatine, can only be obtained from meats.
Another micronutrient concern is B vitamins. A vegetarian keto risks vitamin B12 deficiency because of its insufficient amounts in plants. Also, niacin and thiamine are inadequate in a low-carb diet.
Vitamin B12 supplementation is necessary for anyone on a vegetarian keto diet. The best part is your starchy vegetables contain folate, which increases the absorption of vitamin B12. Keto- approved fruits, nuts, and vegetables are rich in cobalt which also increases the bioavailability of B12.
The best sources of essential fatty acids are fish and meats, which a vegan keto diet lacks. Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are necessary for building immunity, promoting brain function, formulation of cell membrane structure, and anti-inflammatory properties.
Keto dieters can pick the less restrictive types of plant diets to not miss out on the essential fatty acids animals have to offer.
One thing that doesn’t sit well with me is how some scientific writers will tell people to eat healthy fats, but not tell them what makes a fat healthy. Luckily, I am not them, so let’s see why a specific fat is a healthy option for a vegetarian keto diet.
A keto diet-led way of eating means one consumes a high-fat diet. It has been proven that too much fat is not good for your health because it leads to weight gain and high cholesterol levels are a risk factor for heart disease. Going vegetarian keto is the solution because fats from plant sources are healthier. What is it about these fats that make them healthy?
There are four types of fats, monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, saturated fats, and trans fats.
I love the advancement of science, to be honest, because years ago, facts were eradicating fats was healthier. But now, research has shown that not eating fats completely leads to nutritional deficiencies but consuming healthier fats is a better option.
Trans fats should be prohibited in our diets, saturated fats limited, and monounsaturated and polyunsaturated should be our main sources of dietary fats.
Trans fats are byproducts of hydrogenation, a process of solidifying healthy oils to increase their shelf life. These are not natural fats, but are manufactured unhealthy fats. Consuming them leads to an increase in LDL cholesterol which replaces the beneficial HDL cholesterols.
Trans fat sources include pastries and fast foods. Before eating that handful of French fries, allow me to mention that 2 calories of trans fat from those fries increase your risks of cardiovascular diseases by 23%. Okay, proceed.
Saturated fats have a maximum number of hydrogen atoms surrounding carbon atoms and lack double bonds. These fats are solid at room temperature, and their sources include whole milk, coconut oil, red meat, and baked food products.
There has been arguments of whether or not saturated fats are good or bad. In my opinion, as long as you are not consuming too much of these fats, you’re heart is safe. Limit your daily intake of saturated fats to 10% of your calories.
Monounsaturated fats remain liquid at room temperature because they have a single carbon-to-carbon bond, meaning two fewer hydrogen atoms than saturated fats and a bend at the double bond. Despite consuming a high monounsaturated fat diet, the risks of coronary diseases are minimal.
Polyunsaturated fats are essential fats your body needs but cannot make on its own, so you get them from your diet. These fats have two or more double bonds in their structure, and they are omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Polyunsaturated FA reduce LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, improving one’s cholesterol profile.
Good sources of monounsaturated fats are olive oil, canola oil, avocado oil, peanut oils, and high-oleic oils like sunflower oils.
Polyunsaturated fat sources are foods rich in omega-3, including salmon, canola oil, flax seeds, and un-hydrogenated soybean oil. Linoleic acid and omega-6 sources include sunflower, soybean, walnut, corn oils, and safflower.
So now that we know which fats to eat and why let’s talk about how to go vegetarian keto!
Keto diets are low carb meaning reducing the amount of daily carb allotment to 5-10% of your total calories, which is less than 50g of carbs, will ensure you meet the net carbs requirements of eating keto.
Keto vegetarians should avoid starchy vegetables like green peas, sweet potatoes, beets, and butternut squash and pick non-starchy vegetables like cauliflowers, baby corn, spinach, and brussels sprouts.
The Lacto-Ovo diet is best suited for keto vegetarians because you can eat eggs which will enable you to get adequate and bioavailable proteins. Eggs are also a good source of B12, iron, vitamin A, and choline.
In addition, Lacto-Ovo and lacto-vegetarians can consume milk and dairy products which are great protein sources. Whey protein is a better choice than casein (milk protein) because it is easy to digest and it contains all essential amino acids.
If you don’t want whey protein powders, consider soy protein, hemp protein, and other sources of vegetarian alternatives.
Use healthier oils like olive oil, chia seeds oil, pumpkin seeds oil, avocado oil, and hemp seeds oil when you go vegan keto. These seed oils are rich in vitamin D, which promotes the absorption of vitamin B and reduce the risks of micronutrient deficiencies.
Cook more with monounsaturated or polyunsaturated oils than saturated ones. Also, olive oil is the best salad dressing option.
A vegan keto diet can predispose you to nutrient deficiencies due to all the foods you are eliminating. Plants are nutrient-dense foods, and combining them correctly, will increase nutrient bioavailability. Nutrient-nutrient interaction can affect the absorption of nutrients, which means a high or low level of a certain nutrient can affect the bioavailability of another.
Vitamin C in high levels interferes with the absorption of vitamin B12. Wait approximately 2 hours after taking your B12 supplements before enjoying your strawberries. However, Vitamin C promotes iron absorption, so squeezing lemon juice on your salad has more benefits than just flavor enhancement.
Here are keto recipes you can try from non-starchy plant sources:
This cauliflower rice cooked in coconut milk is one of the simplest keto recipes for those in a rush but still want to enjoy a delicious meal. It only takes 15 minutes to cook!
Normal noodles are high in carbs so zucchinis are good non-starchy vegetables’ alternatives.
Roast your brussels sprouts until brown, then pour almond butter sauce on them. Simply divine!
As long as you have a variety of whole, unprocessed foods to pick from, you’re staying ahead of nutrient deficiencies and prioritizing your plant proteins, you’re vegetarian keto dieting right! I hope this article was helpful for you considering going vegetarian as a keto dieter.
Drop a comment about your favorite vegetarian keto recipe and healthier alternatives you can use to switch up your cooking. All the best to my vegetarian keto dieters. I’m rooting for you!