Keto Vs Vegan Diets
The one thing I’ve learned as a physician when discussing healthy lifestyles and better eating habits with patients is that there is a lot of strong feelings among people that follow specific diets. The Keto Vs Vegan debate definitely appears to fall into that category of having passionate followers on both sides.
While some people can have a reasonable and nuanced discussion about different diets, others are adamant that their style of eating is the “best” and the only healthy way to eat.
This argument is very evident when discussing the differences between keto vs vegan diets. There’s a lot of passion and sometimes inflexibility on both sides which I think takes away from the scientific
What is the keto diet?
The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, low carbohydrate diet that restricts refined and processed carbohydrates in order to get the body to use fat (and ketones) as a fuel source instead of blood glucose.
As the body adapts to a very low level of carbohydrates in the diet (usually less than 50 grams of carbs a day), the liver starts making ketone bodies from fat stores as another source of energy.
The ketogenic diet can include more meat and fish as well as cheese due to their higher fat and lower carbohydrate content.
High carb foods such as bread, rice and pasta are excluded or significantly restricted on the ketogenic diet. Many starchy vegetables that are also high in carbohydrates such as potatoes as well as beans are also excluded from a ketogenic diet.
A well-formulated ketogenic diet also focuses on getting the high amount of fat from healthy sources like avocado, fatty fish such as salmon or mackerel and grass-fed beef.
What is the vegan diet?
A vegan diet is a plant-based diet that avoids any animal products. A strict vegan diet would eliminate meat, poultry. fish, dairy, and eggs from the diet and focus mostly on vegetables, beans, and grains, which some fruits.
The vegan diet typically is a very low-fat and sometimes low protein diet because of the restriction of meat and dairy. Fats are often replaced with olive oil or other plant-based oils. Protein sources are usually from beans.
A vegetarian diet is a little less strict that a vegan diet. In a vegetarian diet, dairy such as milk and cheese is allowed as well as some egg consumption.
Pescatarians follow a vegetarian diet but also eat fish, but still exclude other animal sources such as beef, chicken and pork in their diet.
How does the ketogenic diet improve health?
The main health benefits of the ketogenic diet appear to be due to weight loss and the very low carbohydrate intake on the diet. The very low-carb content of the ketogenic diet appears to improve insulin resistance in some people and can significantly improve blood sugar control in diabetics. (1)https://www.acpjournals.org/doi/abs/10.7326/0003-4819-142-6-200503150-00006. Multiple studies also found that people on a ketogenic diet ate fewer calories per day than before they were on the ketogenic diet and this decrease in caloric intake resulted in weight loss as well .(2)https://www.acpjournals.org/doi/abs/10.7326/0003-4819-142-6-200503150-00006 (3)https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27643725/
One benefit of the ketogenic diet is that because of its focus on very-low carb foods, it significantly restricts the amount of refined or processed foods that are consumed.
How does a vegan diet improve health?
A well-formulated vegan (or vegetarian) diet also restricts the amount of refined or processed foods eaten since a vegan diet restricts eating any type of animal product. The focus on a plant-based vegan diet may result in less inflammation in the body when even compared to the American Heart Association diet, (4)https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30571591/ and this decrease of inflammation may result in lowering of heart disease.(5)https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26853923/
The Verdict – Keto vs Vegan Diet
Keto vs Vegan, which is the right diet to follow?
I’ll disclose up front that I currently follow a mostly ketogenic diet. But in the past I’ve also been vegan, vegetarian and pescatarian (and for longer than I’ve been keto and low-carb).
I think the answer for Keto vs Vegan depends somewhat on your ethical view of animals and animal sources. Vegans tend to have a strong opinion on meat and other animal products being unethical and cruel to animals. And I can respect that opinion, especially as someone that once ate like that for similar reasons.
However, for me, I found eating a vegan and vegetarian diet was more of a challenge and more restricting (for me). I found that I was still eating a high-carb diet which included a lot of rice and pasta as well as bread. That high carb intake was even with a focus on healthy salads and vegetables as a main course.
I’ve found (for me) ketogenic diet less restrictive and easier to follow and have also noticed easier weight loss, better mood and that it was easier to gain muscle on a ketogenic diet.
That said, when comparing keto vs vegan diet for yourself, it really should come down to which diet you think you can follow. There are proven health benefits to both diets, especially when compared to the unhealthy Standard American Diet (SAD) and way of eating.
You can also combine keto and vegan and follow a ketogenic vegan diet that focuses on healthy fats and lower carb choices while maintaining a vegan lifestyle.