Many people, especially beginners, find it challenging to implement the popular Keto diet. It is a more restrictive diet than lots of other popular options, but the effort is well worth the many different benefits to be gained. Contrary to what many people believe, the diet is also highly compatible with a vegetarian lifestyle. Vegetarian Keto diets are becoming a popular trend, but what should vegetarians be aware of when it comes to ketogenic diets?
1. Vegetarian Keto Diet Framework
The Keto diet can generally be described as a high fat, moderate protein, low carbohydrate nutritional plan. A ketogenic diet involves using your food intake to move your body from processing glucose for energy, to processing ketones for energy.
When your body is low on carbohydrates, it starts processing ketones to break down fat – a process known as ketosis. Achieving and maintaining ketosis is the entire goal of the Keto diet.
It’s all about what you eat. Cutting down carbohydrates below a specific level helps your body to achieve ketosis. In general, those following a Keto diet might break down their daily food intake like so:
- 75% fat
- 20% protein
- 5% carbohydrates
Considering the moderate protein intake, it’s pretty clear from this breakdown that vegetarians can easily follow a Keto diet plan. Whereas a higher protein diet might be more difficult for vegetarians who cannot supplement with meat. If you are vegetarian and want to try a ketogenic diet, take a look at this beginner’s guide to the Keto diet, including a convenient infographic to help you get started today.
2. Benefits of a Vegetarian Keto Diet
So, why try a vegetarian Keto diet? Here are just some of the health boosts you can expect from a vegetarian ketogenic diet:
- Weight loss
Scientific studies have shown that Keto diets can result in over twice the weight loss achieved by other nutritional plans.
- Reduced inflammation
Inflammation is part of our bodies’ natural autoimmune responses designed to keep us healthy and fight infections. But a poor diet can result in inflammation that is out of control which is actually harmful to our immune system. Keto reduces inflammation and helps to keep our bodies balanced.
- Boosted immune system
Aside from reducing inflammation, the Keto diet also helps to boost our immune system because a varied Keto diet is packed with lots of micronutrients such as vitamins that help maintain a healthy immune response.
- Hunger regulation
Reducing carbohydrates and increasing fat intake helps us to feel fuller for longer. This reduces hunger pangs and helps to regulate your appetite.
- Reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes
By reducing carbohydrates and changing the way your body produces energy, your blood glucose levels are lowered which reduces the blood sugar spikes associated with Type 2 diabetes.
3. Drawbacks of a Vegetarian Keto Diet
Vegetarian ketogenic diets have very few drawbacks when it comes to overall health. However, there are some initial side effects that beginners should be aware of:
- Nutritional deficiencies may occur
Some people who undertake a vegetarian Keto diet can experience nutritional deficiencies. But the main cause of this is a lack of variation which can occur on any type of diet. It’s important to carefully research sources of different nutrients and vary your food intake.
- The Keto “flu”
The Keto flu refers to some symptoms that can occur when on the Keto diet, especially in the beginning. The symptoms can include headaches, fatigue, and dizziness. But these side effects are easily avoided by staying properly hydrated and getting all the nutrients you need.
4. Macronutrients and Micronutrients
The key to a successful vegetarian Keto diet is sticking to the correct amount of macronutrients per day without missing out on vital micronutrients.
Macronutrients play a vital role in providing us with energy and keeping our body functioning. Macronutrients are:
Micronutrients play a vital role in maintaining many of our body’s core functionalities, systems, and structures such as our immune system and neurological function among others. Micronutrients include:
- Water-soluble vitamins (B Vitamins, Vitamin C)
- Fat-soluble vitamins (Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin K, Vitamin E)
- Macrominerals (Calcium, Sodium, Potassium, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Chloride, Sulfur)
- Trace minerals (Iron, Copper, Zinc, Manganese, Iodine, Fluoride, Selenium)
It’s essential to pay attention to your intake of micronutrients, as well as the correct proportions of macronutrients, for a successful vegetarian Keto diet.
5. Vegetarian and Keto-Friendly Proteins
Without meat as an option for protein intake, vegetarians can feel limited in their choices on high protein diets. Since protein intake is not a core focus for a ketogenic diet, vegetarians can find healthy sources of protein from a wide variety of foods.
High protein foods that are suitable for a vegetarian Keto diet include:
- Edamame beans
- Cottage cheese
- Peanut butter
- Almond butter
- Hemp seeds
- Greek yogurt
6. Vegetarian and Keto-Friendly Fats
High fat intake is the core of a successful vegetarian Keto diet. It sounds counterintuitive to have a high-fat diet, but it’s all about the types of fats that you eat.
For example, Keto is not an excuse to fill your diet with artificial trans fats that are harmful to your heart health, among other things. Carefully select your sources of fat that will be broken down as ketones. A good rule of thumb is to try and consume fats that occur naturally as part of a food’s make up, rather than artificial fats.
Examples of healthy sources of fat for your vegetarian Keto diet include:
- Full fat Greek yogurt
- Nuts and nut butters
- Coconut oil
- Whole eggs
7. Vegetarian Keto Diet Sample Meal Plan
It can be pretty difficult to picture your vegetarian Keto diet from a list of foods. Here is an example of a typical day in your vegetarian Keto diet to give you some inspiration. Don’t forget to vary your sources of protein and fat as much as possible to keep those micronutrients coming:
Smoothie with full-fat milk, spinach, peanut butter, MCT oil, and chocolate whey protein powder
Zucchini noodles with tempeh meatballs and creamy avocado sauce
Coconut curry made with olive oil, mixed veggies, and tofu
There is no rule that says vegetarians can’t try Keto diets. If you are vegetarian and want to try a ketogenic diet, just keep the tips above in mind and go for it!