What is a Vegan Ketogenic diet?
With ketogenic diets being so popular right now, you may be wondering “What is a ketogenic diet?” and “Is it right for me?” You may also be wondering whether ketogenic diets can be modified to suit a vegan lifestyle. This article will help answer all those questions and more!
First of all, a standard ketogenic diet is by definition one that is high in fat, contains moderate amounts of protein and minimal amounts of carbohydrates. With these proportions of macro-nutrients, your body is forced to burn fat for fuel.
The majority of people around the world consume diets in which carbohydrates of one kind or another are the main source of fuel for their bodies. In other words, both starches and simple sugars in their diet are broken down into glucose which is then metabolized for energy.
Physiologically speaking, it is only when you consume carbohydrates in insufficient amounts that your body starts using protein and fat for fuel. In other words, when your carbohydrate intake is extremely limited, your body is forced to break down fat for energy instead of relying on glucose. As a result, your liver starts producing greater amounts of ketones; by-products of the , burning of fat for fuel. As your ketone levels rise, your body goes into a state of ketosis ( the state of having high amounts of ketones in your blood). How can you tell if you are in a state of ketosis? You can verify this via blood tests, urine tests, and even breath tests.
Perceived Benefits of Standard Ketogenic Diets
Why are ketogenic diets all the rage? Many people today have turned to ketogenic diets to address specific health issues such as seizures in children, and obesity, diabetes, and heart disease in adults. And indeed, many have found that they DO lose weight, have better blood sugar control, lower cholesterol levels (no everyone sees this), and are able to function well physically and mentally on this diet. As a result, many people automatically assume that this diet will decrease their risk for heart disease, cancer, and stroke in the long term. Practically speaking, for many people the greatest impact on their health comes from not consuming refined carbohydrates and junk food, and not overeating. In addition, hunger is usually not an issue once you are in ketosis and are feeling good.
Drawbacks of Standard Ketogenic Diets
The biggest drawback of a standard ketogenic diet is that many people consume a fairly high amount of animal-sourced fats and protein and a dramatically low amount of fruit and legumes. The impact of this pattern of eating is that overall fiber intake is often insufficient. This is particularly concerning since studies indicate that the best health outcomes and lowest risks for colon cancer arise when your daily fiber intake is over 40 grams! It also comes as no surprise that consuming a standard ketogenic diet makes you more prone to constipation, a common complaint of those who adhere to this diet. However, constipation is the least of your worries on this diet; over time, the intake of high amounts of animal-sourced fat and protein has been shown by many studies to increase your risk of many chronic diseases such as cancer and heart attacks . Unfortunately, just because you feel good isn’t proof that what you are doing today is contributing to your long-term health. As of today, there are few long-term studies of populations on ketogenic diets to give us precise figures on the long-term health outcomes of a standard ketogenic diet. However, it stands to reason that NOT ONE of the half a dozen populations identified as living long and healthy lives around the world is practicing standard ketogenic diets.
What we do know is that diets high in animal fat tend to increase inflammation in the body, and this inflammation is what actually sets the stage for, and eventually leads to many kinds of chronic diseases including type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer. In addition, animal protein is very acidic to the body and leads to the loss of calcium from your bones and teeth, which contributes over time to you developing osteoporosis. High animal protein intake is also hard on the kidneys, so it’s no wonder that we are seeing skyrocketing rates of kidney disease in the Western world. The standard ketogenic diet is also high in so-called “healthy” vegetable oils many of which are high in omega 6 fats which tend to increase inflammation in your body.
The Solution to Standard Ketogenic Diets
One way to try the ketogenic diet without all the drawbacks associated with the consumption of animal products is to practice a vegan ketogenic diet. This diet will still allow you to be in ketosis but avoid the drawbacks of a standard ketogenic diet.
The Basics of a Vegan Ketogenic Diet
Just as with a standard ketogenic diet, you will have to count your macros and track your intake of protein, fat, and carbs quite closely. In order to calculate your net carbs (a more accurate measure of carb content/carb effects when you are on a ketogenic diet), the grams of fiber in your food will need to be subtracted from the total carb content of your food.In addition, instead of meat for protein, on a vegan keto diet you will use high protein plant options such as tofu and tempeh, and use healthy fat sources such as avocados and nuts, green leafy vegetables, and rarely any fruit or legumes. Sound too complicated? It’s a much simpler process if you use some kind of app on your phone or ipad to help you track your macros. One popular one is My Fitness Pal [https://www.myfitnesspal.com/]
- Vegan carb targets
On a vegan keto diet you will want to keep your total carb count to 35 net carbs or less a day. To do this, you will want to eat lots of low-carb veggies. In terms of fat, you will want 70% of your calories to come from healthy fats and 25% from plant-based proteins.
How do you determine your total caloric intake? You will set your total calorie intake targets based on your own body weight, age, activity level and what you are trying to accomplish on the keto diet. If you need help to figure out those targets, there are a number of online calculators available that make it fast and easy. One such online calculator is https://www.ruled.me/keto-calculator/
If you want to lose weight, your total calorie intake will be lower than if you are wanting to maintain or gain weight. But even if you are trying to lose weight, you need to eat enough so that your body does not switch to starvation mode and lower your metabolism, which makes it extremely difficult to lose weight. Daily exercise is also very important in order to maintain toned muscles. Muscle mass can also help you to lose fat weight faster. What’s more, even if your scale doesn’t budge an inch because you have gained muscle weight, you will lose inches off your body resulting in smaller clothing sizes.
- Things you CAN eat
Puzzled as to what what you can eat on a vegan keto diet? On a vegan keto diet you can eat low carb protein sources such as tofu and tempeh, seitan (wheat gluten) and other vegan “meats”. Mushrooms and leafy greens are no problem, as well as other above ground vegetables such as cauliflower and broccoli, zucchini, and cucumbers. Sea vegetables and fermented foods can add variety and flavor. Your fats will come from nuts and seeds, avocados, and high fat dairy substitutes like unsweetened coconut yogurt, cultured vegan butters, vegan cheeses and coconut cream. Oils such as coconut oil, MCT oils, olive oil, and red palm oil which are lower in omega 6s are also used as sources of fat. Berries with low glycemic indexes are the only fruits allowed (raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries). If you want to sweeten your food, only low-carb sweeteners such as stevia, erythritol, and monk fruit are allowed.
So it’s entirely possible to experience the many benefits of ketosis while sticking to a vegan diet. I hope that is good news for you!