I’ve covered the ketogenic diet pretty extensively within a few previous articles including Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner the Keto Way, Breaking Down the Ketogenic Diet for Plant-Based Dieters, and Is it Possible to Eat an Eco-Conscious Keto Diet? Yet, all of these articles take the traditionally animal-product heavy diet and shows how you can make it vegan-friendly and animal-product free.
What if there was a diet that actually combined these two ways of life? Turns out there is! It’s called the Ketotarian diet.
Ketotarian combines the ketogenic diet and vegetarian diet. Therefore, there’s still a slight bit of tweaking to make it fully vegan. With that said, the ketotarian diet goes a long way to making a traditional keto diet almost 100 percent plant-based and eco-conscious and much easier for vegan dieters to follow.
So, how about we jump in and learn a bit about this diet, how to follow it, and why it’s a better option than the traditional ketogenic diet.
What is a Ketotarian Diet?
The ketotarian diet was designed and introduced by a functional medicine practitioner by the name Will Cole M.D. Functional medicine is a “systems biology–based approach that focuses on identifying and addressing the root cause of disease” by the way of reviewing “each symptom or differential diagnosis [which] may be one of many contributing to an individual’s illness.” Basically, functional medicine focuses on the body as a whole in order to discover the root of an ailment including nutrition, physical activity, and lifestyle habits.
Doctor Cole created the ketotarian diet for those wishing to practice a plant-based lifestyle, yet still reap the benefits of ketosis. The ketotarian diet includes non-starchy veggies, low-fructose fruit, and plant-based fats (nuts, seeds, avocado, coconut products, and healthy oils). It’s important to note that there is an option in the ketotarian diet to include organic eggs, ghee butter, and wild-caught fish, yet for strict vegetarians and vegans, this would not be included.
Looking at restrictions, you’ll want to refer to your macronutrient guidelines. It’s all about sticking to the appropriate ratios of macronutrients: fat, carbs, and protein. The ketotarian diet requires your stick to “60 to 75 percent of calories from fat, 15 to 30 percent of calories from protein, and up to 15 percent of calories from carbs.” What does this look like on the plate? Much like the keto diet, ketotarians are restricted from consuming high starch plant-based items such as grains, legumes, starchy veggies (potatoes, corn, peas), and higher fructose fruit (mangoes, apples, watermelon). What sets keto and ketotarian apart is that ketotarians are also restricted from meat.
We keep referring to ketosis, which is the foundational basis for the ketogenic diet. Basically, you decide to follow a keto diet in order to get your body to a state of ketosis.
Need a refresher on ketosis?
First off, it’s important to note that, while the word ketosis is a popularly thrown about diet term, it’s actually a “normal metabolic process” that has simply gained attention as an effective way to increase energy and burn adipose fat tissue. The body enters a state of ketosis when it “does not have enough glucose for energy,” — derived from sugar (such as fruits and milk) and starch (such as bread and pasta). When this happens, your body will “burn stored fats instead; this results in a build-up of acids called ketones within the body.”
In particular, during ketosis, the body likes to source glucose energy from triglycerides — a “type of fat (lipid) found in your blood” that is stored in your fat cells and are “released by hormones for energy between meals.” This is how eating a high-fat diet (the keto diet) can actually burn more fat, lower cholesterol numbers, and build more lean muscle mass.With that said, the only way your body burns healthy fat is by depleting glucose stores, therefore cutting refined carbohydrates and drastically reducing your intake of other carbohydrates is an integral part of a successful keto diet.
Ketotarian Versus Ketogenic
Both the ketogenic diet and the ketotarian diet follow similar rules, yet use different food sources in order to achieve the main goal of ketosis. Here are a few similarities and dissimilarities to help you compare these diets.
The main similarity between these diets is their fat to carb ratio.
Both the “ketogenic and ketotarian diets are high-fat and very low-carb,” which helps achieve that coveted state of fat-burning ketosis. With that said, a surprising component of the ketotarian diet that generally pricks ears and interest is that ketotarians are allowed more carbs. In fact, the ketotarian diet “allows for up to 15 percent of your calories to come from carbs, as long as they come from vegetables.” In comparison with a stark 5 percent of carbs on the ketogenic diet, this makes the ketotarian diet much more appealing!
The main dissimilarity is meat consumption in a ketogenic diet. While, the standard ketogenic diet relies on “meat and some types of dairy for fat and protein,” and the ketotarian diet “focuses on fish and plant-based sources,” which can then be further reduced to simply plant-based sources for vegans.
Plus, per Will Cole M.D. — founder of the Ketotarian diet — there are fewer “no-no foods” on the ketotarian diet versus the ketogenic diet. For instance, ketotarians are allowed tempeh and natto — two super nutritious fermented soybean products — as well as low-fructose fruits such as “bananas, blueberries, strawberries, and avocados.” Both of these types of foods are generally excluded from a traditional ketogenic diet.
The Argument for Vegan-Specific Ketotarian
There are many reasons to favor a plant-based diet such as more nutrient-dense and diverse meals, lower cholesterol intake, increase in powerful antioxidants, reduction in inflammation, and better healthy weight management.
Yet, one of the biggest impacts of switching to a plant-based diet is on the environment.
Not only will you cut your carbon footprint in half, but it’s also been discovered that going plant-based helps conserve water (it takes 1,000 gallons to produce just one gallon of milk), protects animals, preserves natural habitats, increases air cleanliness, and helps reduce the risk of ocean dead zones. Per Nutritionist Kristen Mancinelli, R.D., the “industrial food system is horribly damaging to the environment,” and the meat and dairy industries “are two of the biggest causes of greenhouse gas emissions, and require large amounts of water and land use.”
Switching from a ketogenic diet to a vegan-specific ketotarian diet can help on all of these fronts!
You can even take it to the next step on the vegan-specific ketotarian diet by seeking out local farms for your fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, shopping at a farmers markets, and focusing on sustainably and responsibly sourced foods at your local grocery store.
There are a few popular vegan-specific ketotarian foods that also happen to be vastly diverse in the kitchen. These foods are particularly good to have on hand as you begin your vegan-specific ketotarian diet, making it easier to consume filling meals when you’re not sure what else to eat. Remember, it takes time to learn the ins and outs of a new diet, so make it a point to have these staples in your kitchen!
One of the main components of a vegan-specific ketotarian diet is lots of non-starchy veggies. These foods will fill your tummy without adding on those unwanted carbohydrates that will kick you out of ketosis. Artichokes are a great non-starchy, filling, and meaty option! Plus, they are super diverse and can be found at great prices at the grocery store. Try an easy roast, such as this Roasted Artichokes With Lemon Aioli, or opt for a more complicated tasty dish, such as this Kale and Artichoke Dip.
Just because you cut out refined sugar, doesn’t mean you can’t have a little something sweet! Berries, lemons, and limes are all low-fructose fruits meaning they won’t cause drastic blood sugar spikes, which will push your body out of ketosis. Lemons are great to simply add to your water instead of downing that sugar-filled soda or make a tasty lemon creation such as this Lemonade with a Calming Twist. Lime can be squeezed on a veggie dish to bring out the flavors, such as these Spicy Lime Cauliflower Steaks. Lastly, berries are wonderful and refreshing treats that pair great with keto-friendly granola or plant-based yogurt or to sweeten up a smoothie such as this Raspberry Lemon Tart Smoothie.
No high-fat diet is complete without some avocado! Not only is avocado incredibly diverse — eat it raw, make a dessert, churn a smoothie, or simply mix it into your morning tofu scramble — but it’s jam-packed with a range of vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats. Try out a few of these creative avocado recipes: Protein Quinoa Bowl (trade out the sweet potato and quinoa to make ketotarian), Creamy Kale Smoothie (ditch the mango to make ketotarian), or this Roasted Vegetable Guacamole.
If you’re already practicing a plant-based diet, then your pantry shelves are most likely lined with an array of nuts and seeds. They are filled with healthy fats and protein, making them a perfect addition to a vegan-specific ketotarian diet. They can be consumed raw as an easy snack, soaked and pulverized for plant-based milk, — such as this Almond Milk — cheeses, — such as this Herbed Macadamia Nut Cheese or this Raw Cashew Cheese Tarts With Sun-Dried Tomato Crust — or they can be chopped to make your own energy bars or bites such as these No-Bake Superfood Energy Bars (nix the maple syrup and dates to make ketotarian). These are just a few ways that nuts and seeds can be utilized in creative and delicious ways!
Coconut Oil and Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
An easy way to get that whopping 60 to 75 percent of fat in your diet is through the addition of healthy fat-filled oils. Coconut oil tops the list due to its high-fat content and the fact that its one of the only plant-based oils that is safe to cook at high heats with. Coconut oil is perfect for raw baking or crisping up veggies on the stovetop or used in high-fat recipes such as this Homemade Butter recipe.
With that said, you can’t discount the many health benefits of extra-virgin olive oil! This oil has been hailed as one of the healthiest additions to a diet, yet it’s important to know how to get the most out of this oil. If you can, try consuming it in its raw form. Simply drizzle it onto your salad, dip your artichoke leaves into it, or use it in a raw baking recipe.
Vegan-Specific Ketotarian Tips
If you practice a ketotarian diet with a strict vegan outline, then you’ll need to make sure to supplement enough carbs and proteins to make up for those few animal-based products. Specifically, a vegan-specific ketotarian diet removes the eggs, ghee butter, and fish and integrates other plant-based sources of carbs and proteins.
Per Doctor Cole, some great keto-safe options include tempeh, hempeh (tempeh made from hemp seeds), natto, hemp protein powder, hemp hearts/seeds, nutritional yeast, sacha inchi seed protein powder, and spirulina.
We also highly recommend downloading our Food Monster App, which is available for iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 15,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to new recipes every day. Check it out!
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