Health

The Ketogenic Diet – Vegan Style

Many of you may have heard of this diet before, but to give a quick summary of it, the ketogenic diet is a high-fat, adequate-protein, low-carb diet which forces the body to rely on fat instead of carbohydrates for energy. Instead of burning glucose (which comes from carbs) for energy, the body switches to burning ketones (a broken down product of fat). The ketogenic diet puts the body in a state of ketosis. Ketosis can occur through the reduction of carbohydrates in the diet or through fasting. Ketones are produced in the liver where fatty acids are broken down, either from body fat or the fat that we eat.

It was originally used in the 1920s as a way to mimic the effects of fasting to help aid in treating severe cases of epilepsy in children, though now many people use variations of it for other outcomes.

There has been extensive research showing that the ketogenic diet may be helpful in treating conditions like cancer, diabetes, acne, neurological conditions, heart disease and obesity.

Now, I became interested in this diet when the gym I go to set a challenge of who could reduce their body fat percentage the most and increase muscle mass. I really wanted to win (it was the competitive spirit within me), so I went out looking for ways I could help reduce my carb intake while not starving myself. That’s when I came across the book Smart Carbs by Luke Hines, and he talked about the smart carb curve. He referred to five different zones; the keto zone, the low-carb zone, the sustain zone, the carb excess zone, and the warning zone. For the keto zone, he recommended that you consume around 0-50 grams of carbohydrates per day. To achieve this, it’s important that your fat intake is sufficient enough to support this very low-carb intake by supplying you with ketones as your energy source.

So, after reading this I began implementing what I had learnt into my diet. I downloaded the app, MyFitnessPal, which helps track your calorie intake. I used it for its macronutrient tracker, specifically focusing on how many carbs I was eating, ensuring I stayed below 50g of carbs a day.

Now, I’m vegan, so ensuring I ate high fat, low carb foods, while still ensuring I was receiving enough protein during the day, proved to be a little more difficult and restrictive compared to those who would consume animal products, like meat, eggs, and dairy, as a source of fat.

However, it was possible and I’ve been following this keto diet for around 4 weeks now.

So, in this post I’ll share with you the high-fat, low-carb foods I consume on a regular basis, as well as some vegan foods that are keto-approved, plus, a quick run-through of what I eat in a day on a keto diet.

What Does a Healthy keto Diet Look Like?

So before I begin, I wanted to quickly go through what a healthy keto diet looks like for those of you interested in going on one yourself.

Now, this is an interesting question and there are hundreds of opinions about what the best answer is.

A typical low-carb diet may simply focus on limiting carb intake without really focusing on increasing fats. It’s easy to be eating mostly meats and any other low-carb foods for a low-carbohydrate diet, and not get into ketosis.

Now, you may be thinking “what’s the difference?” Well, the ketogenic diet goes a step further and limits protein as well in order for the body to achieve ketosis. A ketogenic diet is composed of:

  • 65 – 80% of calories from fat
  • 10 – 15% of calories from protein (0.5 gram per pound of lean body mass)
  • The remaining 5 – 10% calories from carbohydrates.

How to Eat Keto

Ideally, a keto diet should be made up of whole and nutritious foods that do not cause inflammation. This means that 5-10% of the carbohydrates you consume should come from vegetables, seeds, and nuts rather than another source of starch.

The fats you consume can come from nuts, seeds, olive oil, avocado, avocado oil, bacon or pastured lard, grass-fed butter, MCT oil, etc.

Once a person is keto-adapted, the appetite is often regulated. So rather than feeling deprived, it actually becomes natural to feel less hungry overall and you might naturally go without eating for 12 hours overnight.

Vegan Keto Foods

Here is a small list of keto-friendly foods for all you vegans out there that would like to go on the ketogenic diet, but aren’t sure what to eat. These include (but are not restricted to):

  • Avocado
  • Asparagus
  • Artichoke
  • Bamboo shoots
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Broccoli/broccolini
  • Bok choy
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Capsicum
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Chard
  • Chicory greens
  • Citrus
  • Chillies
  • Cucumber
  • Daikon
  • Eggplant
  • Endive
  • Fennel
  • Kale
  • Fresh/dry herbs and spices
  • Kohlrabi
  • Leeks
  • Mixed lettuce
  • Mushrooms
  • Olives
  • Onions
  • Okra
  • Palm hearts
  • Radicchio
  • Raspberries
  • Radishes
  • Rocket
  • Spring onion
  • Spinach
  • Squash
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes
  • Turnips
  • Zucchini
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Sauerkraut
  • shredded coconut
  • Almond milk
  • Coconut milk/cream
  • Coconut oil
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Green leaf stevia
  • Apple cider vinegar

Why Do the Ketogenic Diet?

Mark Sisson, creator of the blog Mark’s Daily Apple, says doing a keto reset helps to restore our flexibility to alternate between different types of fuels and stored fats for energy, depending on what’s available. This flexibility has allowed us humans to thrive for millions of years, as back in our hunter-gatherer days, they didn’t always have access to the variety and abundance of foods that we have available to us today.

This flexibility has been found to be quite important for health. Research has shown that the ketogenic diet provides health benefits by:

  • Stabilising blood sugar and lowering insulin
  • Reducing oxidative stress
  • Improving the number of mitochondria (organelles found in cells which help create energy for the cell) and helps them to function better
  • Activating autophagy (a cellular clean-up process), where the cells break down old and broken parts of body tissue into reusable nutrients.
  • Providing our cells with ketones, which is a much cleaner burning fuel than glucose
  • Activating anti-inflammatory and anti-aging biochemical pathways.

Major Health Benefits of a Ketogenic Diet

The ketogenic diet may help:

  1. Improve metabolic health from lowered blood sugar. When switching from burning glucose to burning ketones for energy, the blood sugar and insulin fluctuate much less. The liver can constantly supply just enough glucose in the blood to keep the brain functioning.
  2. Reduce appetite and cravings. The stabilised blood sugar can help reduce hunger and food cravings. Plus, the ketone bodies can also help suppress hunger by acting on the hypothalamus in the brain. What’s more, high-fat meals can encourage the production of a hormone in the body that helps increase satiety in the gut.
  3. Protect against cancer. Everyone has emerging cancer cells, but the cells only develop into cancerous ones if the immune system fails to identify and kill them off before that happens. The ketogenic diet helps reduce oxidative stress and inflammation, reduces blood sugar, encourages cellular clean-up, and stimulates the cancer-killing immune responses. Furthermore, most cancers feed on sugar in the body, so by eliminating that food source (glucose) from the body and replacing it with ketones, you essentially starve the cancer cells.
  4. Protect neurons and Improve brain function. It has been reported that the keto diet may help improve cognitive function, slow down the progression of neurodegenerative diseases, and may even help protect users from such diseases.
  5. Slow down aging. Ketosis reduces oxidative damage. Oxidation is a natural process in our bodies that helps our immune cells kill off germs and causes us to feel tired at the end of the day. However, it also causes damage to our DNA and encourages aging. By reducing blood sugar, ketosis significantly helps to reduce oxidative stress in the body, as glucose is an oxidising sugar. What’s more, ketosis promotes autophagy, which is an anti-aging cellular cleanup process. It involves a cell eating its own old, defective parts to recycle nutrients and keep itself functioning like new.

A Ketogenic Diet Is Not About Deprivation

You should not be depriving yourself when on a ketogenic diet. Rather, you should find the balance where you feel good without excess hunger or cravings.

Most people do better when they include some natural source of carbohydrates (like lots of vegetables, for example) and occasionally add starchy carbohydrates to their diet.

Now, you don’t need to stay on a ketogenic diet at all times to reap all these benefits listed above. Our ancestors went through times of fasting and times where they consumed plenty of foods. You may only need to be in a state of ketosis or fast a few days a week. Everyone is individual. So listen to your body and decide for yourself what’s best for you.

Keto Diet Cautions

The ketogenic diet is not for everyone. There are some people who should be very careful with the ketogenic diet, or who at least should not do it without medical supervision. This may include:

  • Type 1 Diabetics
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers
  • People with the genes ApoE4/E4 or ApoE3/E4
  • Women who struggle with irregular cycles and infertility
  • Strength and high-intensity athletes.

What I Eat in A Day on The Ketogenic Diet

Now here is a short meal plan of what I eat as a vegan on the ketogenic diet. Keep in mind this is only one day of meals so it should not be misconstrued as a complete meal plan. This is just an example to give you an idea of what I eat.

Breakfast

Protein Shake:

  • Amazonia Raw Protein Isolate plant protein powder
  • Spirulina
  • Cacao powder
  • Flax seeds
  • Hemp seeds
  • Natural peanut butter (just peanuts, no added sugar, oil, salts, etc.)
  • Filtered water

Snack

Sautéed Spinach, Olive and Almond Butter Salad: (I know, sounds gross, but tastes really good!)

  • Coconut oil (for sautéing)
  • Spinach
  • Chilli flakes
  • Olives
  • Avocado
  • Hemp seeds
  • Flax seeds
  • Almond butter (just almonds, no added sugar, oil, salts, etc.)
  • Olive oil
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Lemon juice
  • Himalayan salt and black pepper (for seasoning).

Lunch

Golden Cauliflower:

  • Oven-baked cauliflower
  • Tumeric
  • Cumin
  • Coriander
  • Chilli powder
  • Lime.

Snack

Stuffed Mushrooms:

  • Portobello mushrooms
  • Garlic
  • Crushed almonds
  • Lemon juice and zest
  • Olive oil
  • Himalayan salt and black pepper (for seasoning).

Dinner

Indian-Spiced Brussels Sprouts:

  • Coconut oil (for sautéing)
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Curry leaves
  • Chilli powder
  • Smoked paprika
  • Himalayan salt and black pepper (for seasoning).

I purposefully left out the quantities of each item as everyone is individual, so you’ll all require different amounts of each food to ensure you reach your daily target of fats, protein and carbs.

As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.

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Have you tried the ketogenic diet before? What was your experience? Please share below! It’s a great way to share tips and tricks with the community that you’ve learnt while being on the diet.

I hope you have a great day!

Vanessa xx

 

Sources:

Wells, Katie. (October 26, 2018). How to Do a Ketogenic Diet (& Is It Safe for Women?). Wellness Mama. Retrieved from https://wellnessmama.com/335469/ketogenic-diet/

Link, Rachael, MS, RD. (May 17, 2018). Vegan Keto Diet & Vegetarian Keto Diet: Can They Be Done?. Dr. Axe. Retrieved from https://draxe.com/vegetarian-vegan-keto-diet/

Hines, Luke. Smart Carbs. Sydney: Pan Macmillan, 2018. Print.

 

 

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