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Eating A Plant-Based Keto Diet

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By Dr. Justin Marchegiani

Eating a ketogenic diet has reached mainstream popularity, often referred to as a diet full of meat and cheese. If you are interested in the fat-burning health effects of the keto diet, but turned off by the consumption of animal products, you may be curious if it’s possible to be both plant-based (vegan vegetarian, pescatarian) and stay in ketosis. Good news for all you meat-free folk: ketosis is most definitely achievable while sticking to plant-based foods!

Refresher: What’s the Keto Diet?

In a traditional Keto Diet, you eat high fat and low carb, and your body enters a state called ketosis. Ketosis is when your body begins burning primarily fat, rather than glucose, for energy.

The Standard American Diet is composed largely of carbohydrate-heavy foods. With a high-carb diet, your body runs off of glucose (sugar) as fuel. When you lower your carbohydrate intake and reach the metabolic state of ketosis, there is not much glucose available, so your body begins to use fat for fuel–including stored body fat. This is one reason why the keto diet is so popular for weight loss.

In addition to the weight loss benefits, the keto diet has shown amazing results for lowering inflammation, regulating insulin response, and protecting against cancer and neurological disease. It’s no wonder this diet has taken over the health world!

How to do the Keto Diet and Eat Plant-Based

Mainstream chatter about the keto diet leaves our plant-based friends in the dust; many vegans and vegetarians don’t realize that they too can partake in the keto-hype!

No matter your diet, it’s important to choose high-quality food sources. If you are eating a conventional keto diet, a fast food hamburger patty with cheese technically meets the “keto requirement” of high fat/low carb, but it is not going to provide much nutritional value (and if anything, will have negative effects on your health). Similar scenario with a plant-based diet: Eating chips and soy veggie dogs is within the bounds of a vegan diet, but is not going to do you many favors in the health department.

Applying this to a plant-based keto diet–let’s look at how we can reach ketosis with high quality sources of fat and protein.

Questions about plant-based keto? Click here to talk to the doctor!

Plant-Based Foods for Ketosis

For plant-based ketosis, here are some of the foods that should make up a large part of your diet!

Plant-based keto foods (vegan-friendly):

  • Avocados: Avocados, and avocado oil, are a great source of healthy fats as well as a whole host of micronutrients.
  • Coconut: Coconuts, coconut oil, and coconut yogurt are great sources of healthy fat. Add coconut oil to your coffee for a satiating keto coffee to help extend your morning fast. 
  • Olives: Olives are a delicious snack and make a great addition to many meals! Load your salad up with olives and drizzle with olive oil.
  • Nuts and seeds: These are an excellent keto-friendly snack, and can also be added to many meals for an extra dose of fat and protein!
  • If you are vegetarian (no meat, but other animal products are okay): Pastured eggs, goat cheese, goat yogurt, grass-fed butter and ghee are great sources of healthy keto-friendly fat and protein.
  • If you are pescatarian (eat fish), wild-caught fish is an excellent source of healthy fats and protein.

Keto Foods to Avoid

Let’s have a look at a few common “bad” plant-based foods and why we want to avoid them.

  • Highly processed seed oils: canola “rapeseed”, vegetable, and soybean oil are all highly inflammatory oils prone to oxidation.
  • Soy: Soy is high in antinutrients, which inhibit nutrient absorption. This means that any meal containing soy is going to automatically have lower nutritional value. Soy is also high in lectins, which are linked to leaky gut, inflammation and autoimmune reactions. 
  • Seitan: Seitan is a soy-free meat replacement, however, it is made from wheat gluten which is inflammatory and can lead to leaky gut and other health issues over time.

Good sources of protein on a plant-based diet, keto or not, include nuts, seeds, spirulina, natto, and tempeh.

Takeaway

Plant-based ketogenesis is totally possible! Just like any other diet, be sure to choose your foods with care: organic nuts and product, high quality fats and oils, and if you are vegetarian or pescatarian, pastured eggs, grass-fed dairy, and wild-caught fish. Choosing organic whole foods provides you with the most nutrition, while avoiding pesticides and inflammatory compounds.

Curious if the keto diet is right for you? Click here to work with a functional medicine doctor!

References:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23801097/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19664276

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3826507/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1503071

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1868922

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The entire contents of this website are based upon the opinions of Dr. Justin Marchegiani unless otherwise noted. Individual articles are based upon the opinions of the respective author, who retains copyright as marked. The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. It is intended as a sharing of knowledge and information from the research and experience of Dr. Justin and his community. Dr. Justin encourages you to make your own health care decisions based upon your research and in partnership with a qualified healthcare professional. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Dr. Marchegiani’s products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. If you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition, consult your physician before using any products.