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Is Vegan Keto Possible?

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Quick Summary tl;dr

Again, this article isn’t about the ethics of veganism; I think that as long as you’re getting enough high quality protein, vitamins & minerals, it’s perfectly fine to reduce your consumption of animal foods.

Disclaimers: veganism is also about ethics. This article is not about ethics, it’s just to show it’s totally possible to reduce your consumption of animal foods and carbohydrates simultaneously. I said it wasn’t about ethics, but many vegans are A-OK with eating oysters and oysters SMOKE steak as a source of vitamin B12. Otherwise just take a B12 pill. Some nutritional yeast products are also good sources of B12. And DHA (algal or spirulina if you prefer).

Is Vegan Keto Doable?

Yes, absolutely, and there are a number of online groups (eg, /r/veganketo) available for advice, tips, suggestions, etc.

The idea of this “Eco-Atkins” diet was explored in a 1 month long, highly controlled pilot study in 2009 ( 1) and a 6 month, ad lib follow-up study in 2014 ( 2).

Is Vegan Keto Possible?

What Are the Studies on Vegan Keto?

Since this diet is somewhat foreign to many, dividing the study like that made sense: during the first part, all of the food was provided in a hypocaloric context. This accomplished a couple things:

  1. It “taught” the participants what kind of foods they could eat on this diet, such that in the 6-month follow-up they were better able to stick to the diet.

  2. Providing it in a hypocaloric context ensured all of the food was eaten and they were seeing a genuine change in the animal content of the diets and not differences in calorie intake or weight loss.

During the second part of the study, the participants were free to eat as much as they wanted, so if the diets differently influenced hunger and appetite, we would see a difference in body weight.

My only recommendation for plant-based fats would be to stick with coconut oil, cocoa butter, and avocado, and steer away from other common seed oils like canola and corn oils.

Results

By design, both groups lost weight and there was no differences between the groups:

Is Vegan Keto Possible?

And interestingly, the low carb plant-based group was actually more satisfied with their diet! This didn’t manifest in more weight loss because the calories were identical in both groups and they were advised to maintain normal physical activity.

And what happened after 6 months of ad lib feeding? Well, that satiety paid off for the low carb plant-based dieters:

Is Vegan Keto Possible?

The participants in the plant-based group also experienced a significant reduction in LDL cholesterol.

Why Vegan Keto?

Most people come to veganism due to ethical concerns. That is fine. Nutrition-wise, there are few reasons to follow a vegan approach.

Make sure you are getting all the nutrients you need by including a variety of low-carb foods into your diet. You can find plenty of vegan keto recipes here, both sweet and savory. Some recipes include vegan-friendly alternatives so make sure to check our swap tips.

What About Protein on a Vegan Keto Diet?

Vegans generally have no problems getting enough protein. Literally, all plants have protein.

Getting high protein while maintaining nutritional ketosis may require vegan-friendly protein supplements, and there are many of them, but getting adequate protein is still no problem. My only recommendation would be to incorporate them into mixed meals. That is, don’t rely on only one source of protein in any meals. This goes for non-vegans, too.

Oysters are a great source of vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, and low carb protein. Kinda like a vegan multivitamin supplement.

Is Vegan Keto Possible?

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Bill Lagakos, Ph.D.
Nutritional sciences researcher, consultant and blogger

Bill Lagakos

Hi, I’m Bill. I have a Ph.D. in Nutritional Biochemistry and Physiology from Rutgers University where my dissertation focused on fatty acid-binding proteins and energy metabolism. I studied inflammation and diabetes at UCSD. And most recently, I studied circadian biology at the Mayo Clinic. I have a broad range of knowledge about health, wellness, sickness, and disease... and I’m learning more every day!

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Comments (15)

I stopped reading after the fist paragraph.
1) No vegan eats oysters. If they eat oysters they are not vegan by definition.
2) Veganism isn't necessarily about ethics. It's simply not eating foods or using products of animal origin.
If the writer is this uninformed the rest of the article isn't worth persevering with.

Dear Phillip, that is not true. Not all vegans avoid oysters. You can find plenty of articles by doing a quick Google search. Secondly, veganism IS also about ethics, plus other reasons which are addressed in this post. The disclaimer is meant to clarify that we are not discussing ethical reasons for which some people go vegan.

I'm not sure about you but I used to be vegan for almost a decade so I'm pretty sure I know what I'm talking about and:
a) I did eat oysters, and b) For most people it's mostly ethics. The environmental and health arguments have long been proven to be based on misinformation. And it's not really the point of this post.
I still can't eat meat but I started eating fish and seafood because my health was deteriorating on a vegan diet. It's better if you stop second guessing what others are doing.

It made me sad to read oysters mentioned as a vegan food source. They are not.

The reason some vegans include oysters in their diet is explained in the post, there's not need to get emotional.

Dear Martina, Bill and the Keto Diet team. I really appreciate your scientific approach and well researched articles on the benefits of the ketodiet. Heartfelt thanks! ❤️

Thank you so much, we appreciate your kind words!

Are oysters considered vegan? I know many ideological vegans who would argue with vehemence that oysters and other bi-valves are not vegan. Also, yeast is not considered vegan.
Any thoughts?

It depends. Some vegans eat all of these and others strictly avoid everything including clothing and beauty products made from animal products. I know vegans who just avoid meat, dairy and eggs but eat honey. A friend of mine is vegan 90% of the time but eats fish or seafood just to get the nutrients she needs. So i guess it depends how determined  they are.

Oysters are considered "vegan" by many from an ethical perspective.
In my opinion, they seem about as sentient as fungi, so I agree with the vegan classification.

vegan?
if I'm not wrong oysters are animals... or they don't count?
it seems to hear people talking about IF and what they actually 'eat' in fasting days (25% or so of the average calorie intake of non-fasting days). fasting is simply not eating at all, not eating less.
words have already a meaning, let's stick to it and everybody will understand where they are and possibly why.
vegan is obviously possible, but not advisable.
besides, about the ethical side of veganism (animals' sufferings and poor lives are disgusting and we should put an end to it), even agriculture has a dark ethical side... unfortunately less known but deprecable as well.

I know low-carb is the best diet for me and I will never go back to being vegan again. The problem is that most vegans will never do what I did and it’s still healthier if they can at least keep their carbs down. But I still think that even veganism can be healthy, it’s just not working for me. No diet is sustainable if everyone does the same thing so I say do what works best for you and your health. ANY diet can be unhealthy, bad for the planet and unethical. It depends how your food is sourced. The biggest issue is overconsumption and overpopulation. We just all need to learn not to waste food and be more responsible in how we live our lives.

See also: bivalveganism https://sentientist.org/tag/bivalvegan/

Vegan on its own is really not good for any human being or dogs and cats. Keto diet is perfect let’s not ruin everything. Thank you

This post is not meant to encourage a vegan diet - it simply looks at the options and limitations for those who don't eat meat for ethical reasons but want to follow a low-carb diet. Some people don't have access to ethically sourced animal products.