Ask Anna: Vegan Keto

Today on the blog, I’m addressing my latest Ask Anna question. (Thank you to those of you who have submitted questions so far! As a reminder, here’s what Ask Anna is all about, and here’s where you can submit a question for me to answer.)

My latest question:

What do you think about a vegan ketogenic diet? Healthy? Unhealthy? How do people survive?!

This is a great question, especially since keto diets are so front and center right now. I feel like most of us have HEARD about them, but do you really know what they’re all about? (I mean, you probably have a friend who posts about fat bombs all the time, but doesn’t that just sound gross? No? Just me?)

Anyway.

Yes, keto is definitely a big deal right now. And I love the added layer of vegan, because that absolutely adds to the complexity.

Admittedly, I wasn’t super familiar with keto diets. I have read a bit about them and know they’re focused around high fat consumption and very few carbs (that’s what makes it especially tricky for vegans), and I have friends who have seen great success with keto diets. I know it can be an amazing tool for weight loss for many people just based on what I’ve heard anecdotally.

Ketogenic plans remove most carbohydrates from your diet because your body always turns to carbs first as a form of fuel. If there aren’t carbs to use, your body has to turn to fat more quickly to break that down for energy. Getting to this stage is know as “ketosis.”

(Interestingly, this diet was first developed to treat neurological issues, namely serious seizures in kids.)

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photo credit: Healthful Pursuit

However, to help answer my latest Ask Anna question I wanted to turn to resources who know much more about all things nutrition than I do: two registered dietitians! One is a friend of mine from college, and the other is a Lead Registered Dietitian at the 131 Method, a program that is built to help reset your metabolism and boost weight loss. I’d read a bit about 131 and knew it had a keto component to it, which is why I included that source.

Here’s what they each had to say about keto in general, and VEGAN keto specifically, too. The key takeaway: Both recommend that keto diets be short-term efforts as part of a weight loss/management plan rather than an ongoing lifestyle.

First up: Lauren Dauro, my college friend and Registered Dietitian, had to say on vegan diets, keto diets, and vegan keto diets:

“The research behind the vegan diet is very positive, but as you know, you have to be very careful about incorporating all essential nutrients. Some people thrive on vegetarian/vegan diets; others (like myself) feel a lack of energy and satiety — and personally, my quality of life is improved by cheese. 🙂 I really think as we discover more about bio-individuality and nutritional genetics, we will be able to pinpoint which type of diet is best for each person. Until then, it’s pretty much trial and error!

Keto diets have been popular and have proven to be beneficial for weight management and glucose levels in the short term. However, just recently there have been many recent studies showing that it’s actually very detrimental for long-term health. I personally (and professionally) believe that carbohydrates (mostly complex, and in moderation) are NOT our enemies. I’m actually a big fan of the South Beach-style diet that has short-term carbohydrate restrictions but gradually incorporates a moderate level of complex carbs.

To consider a vegan keto diet would be incredibly restrictive and likely not provide the long-term benefits for the massive amount of effort it would take to maintain it. If it’s something someone is interested in pursuing, I’d encourage them to meet with a local dietitian/nutritionist to get an idea of how they could make it work for them.”

And here’s what Ashley Sweeney from 131 told me:

“Yes, we believe there’s a time and a place where a ketogenic diet is healthy. We also believe it’s important to phase your diet, and it isn’t intended for the long term. People following a vegan ketogenic diet have to do more planning, but it is still possible through healthy, plant-based fats.”

And what might one eat on a keto vegan diet? Here, here, and here are a few recipes to give you an idea of what a vegan keto diet might look like.

As some additional resources about ketogenic diets in general, I found these to be helpful:

Of course, I haven’t tried a vegan keto diet, so I can’t speak to it personally. As with most dietary switches, I think it’s important to both do your research and to pay attention to how it makes your body feel and perform. Keto might be great for you, and if you’ve tried it/are trying it, I’d love to hear from you!

What else is on your mind? What topic are you interested in learning more about?

Send your question my way and I’ll answer it in an upcoming Ask Anna post!

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