How to be Keto and Vegan (and What is the Keto Diet Anyway?)

vegan keto

Low-carb diets seem like a thing of the past. It appears lately, however, that there’s a new(er) player on the scene. The idea of a ketogenic diet actually isn’t novel, but since keto is now having its heyday we’re here to tell you that vegans can benefit, too.

What does Ketogenic mean?

A ketogenic diet is one that puts your body into a state of ketosis. I know, don’t you just love it when definitions use one form of the same word to define another? Ketosis is a metabolic state during which your body uses fat, instead of carbohydrates, as its energy source. So, a Keto diet restricts carbs in order to encourage your system to run off fat, aka go into a state of ketosis.

How do I enter ketosis?

Ketosis is a naturally occurring metabolic pathway. In fact, ketones are what allow us to survive for long periods of time without food. When your body is in starvation mode it resorts to using stored fat as fuel. Ketosis encourages your body to mimic starvation mode, minus all the hunger and additional muscle loss, by also using fat as food.

The key to ketosis is all in the carbs. In order for your body to switch to this metabolic pathway it must have limited carbohydrates available. This is because carbs and fats are processed using different pathways and the body prioritizes carbohydrate conversion over that of fats.

How limited? The exact amount varies from person to person, based on body type and genetics, but somewhere between 20-100g of carbohydrates daily, with the sweet spot typically falling between 20-50g. Because everyone’s unique, the way to determine how many grams of carbs you should eat is to figure out at what point you’re experiencing ketosis. And, while there are several indicators of this (such as weight loss, suppressed appetite, and increased focus) the most accurate way to determine whether or not you’re in a state of ketosis is by measuring ketone levels in either blood, urine, or breath. 

What, biochemically, is ketosis?

Ketosis is one of three naturally occurring metabolic pathways. When there aren’t anymore carbohydrates left to process (aka all the glucose is gone) your body switches from glycolysis, the pathway by which sugar is converted to energy, to beta-oxidation, the pathway by which fats, in the form of fatty acids and glycerol, are transformed into energy.

During beta-oxidation your liver breaks down fatty acids and glycerol into three different, water-soluble ketone bodies, called acetoacetate (AcAc), beta-hydroxybutyrate (beta HB) and acetone. Acetoacetate and beta-hydroxybutyrate are ultimately the ketones that the body is able to use as fuel. Once your system switches to using ketones as energy it causes a shift in your metabolism, burning more fat while simultaneously suppressing your appetite! #win 

Benefits of a Keto Diet

Weight loss isn’t the only thing this diet’s got going in its favor. Those following a keto diet have clinically shown decreases in blood insulin levels as well as increased mental clarity.

A ketogenic diet has also been shown to help alleviate symptoms of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) in women by promoting healthy weight, balancing testosterone levels, improving the ratio of luteinizing hormone to follicle-stimulating hormone, and lowering fasting insulin. Additionally, a keto diet could help prevent and treat neurological diseases categorized by neuron death, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimers, and has long been used as treatment in those with epilepsy. 

Let’s make Keto Vegan

Ultimately the difference between Keto and other low-carb diets, like Atkins or South Beach, lies in the amount of protein consumed. As a high fat diet 75% of calories consumed should come from fat, 20% from protein, and 5% from carbs (like above-ground veggies and a few, select fruit).

Although many keto-ers rely on animal products for their high fat intake, this diet can absolutely be vegan friendly. Let’s break it down (numbers in parenthesis are equal to the amount of carbohydrates per 100g). 


To eat liberally: cauliflower (4g per 100g), cabbage (3g), avocado – also great for healthy fats! (2g), broccoli (4g), zucchini (3g), spinach (1g), asparagus (2g), kale (4g), green beans (4g), Brussels sprouts (5g). (More generally this category is comprised of vegetables that are grown above ground.)

To avoid: carrot (7g), onion (7g), beets (7g), parsnips (13g), rutabaga (7g), potato (15g), celeriac (7g), sweet potato (17g). (Aka root vegetables.)


To eat: raspberries (5g), blackberries (5g), and strawberries (6g).

All other fruits should be consumed in moderation or not at all due to their high carbohydrate levels.

Legumes and Grains

To avoid: peas, corn, lentils, legumes, quinoa, and all other grains and grain products.



Nuts and seeds

To eat: pecans (4g), Brazil nuts (4g), and macadamia nuts (5g).

To eat in moderation: hazelnuts (7g), walnuts (7g), peanuts (7g), pine nuts (9g), almonds (10g), and nut butters (typically 4g of carbohydrates per two tablespoons).

To avoid: pistachio (18g), and cashews (27g).

Oils and Fats (aka the good stuff)

Olive oil, coconut oil, sesame oil, avocado oil, macadamia nut oil, and MCT oil. No carbs – eat it all!


To eat: tofu (varies by brand and style but typically below 5g per 100g), leafy greens (see veggies, above), and nuts (see above).


To eat: olives (3g), guacamole (3g – without tomato, because tomatoes can add up quickly), and coconut cream (7g).

To drink: homemade almond or coconut milk (varies but typically low), champagne (1g), and wine (red/white 2g).

So there you have it. It may take some planning, and certainly an adjustment period, but a ketogenic, vegan diet is definitely possible.

how to be vegan and keto

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