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Vegan diet vs keto diet, what are the key differences, and how are they similar? Discover the health benefits and risk factors for each, which foods you can eat, and which ones you shouldn’t, and the crucial questions to ask yourself to determine the best diet to help you reach your weight loss goals.
Before I lost 125 pounds, I would always hear that you have to eat lots of animal proteins in order to lose weight and gain muscle. But now that I’m a health coach and have lost weight, I know the pros and cons of an animal-based diet vs a whole food plant-based diet.
Although they are different in that one diet relies heavily on high-fat foods and one eliminates all animal products, there are similarities. Both diets will require research, experimentation, planning, and possibly working with a dietician or health coach to help you prevent nutrient deficiencies.
You will want to read about the differences and the critical questions to ask your coach and yourself if you’re considering either a vegan diet (the black bean burger below would make a great vegan meal) or keto diet.
What is a Vegan Diet
It’s a diet consisting of plant-based foods where you don’t eat any animal products, like meat, eggs, or dairy. Strict vegans will steer clear of processed foods made from animals, such as gelatin in Jell-O and marshmallows, and some candy like Skittles, honey, and even some wines.
However, there’s still a wide variety of tasty options for vegans. You can chow down on all kinds of fruits, veggies, nuts, and seeds. Plus, you can indulge in sugary and starchy treats like potato chips, cookies, and cake. However, if weight loss is your goal then watch out for those snack attacks.
Many people choose to adopt a vegan diet for religious or ideological reasons, such as animal welfare or environmental reasons. They firmly believe that eating animals is just not right, so resisting those tempting animal products becomes easier for them.
Many others choose it for rapid weight loss, health reasons, a medical condition or to lower the risk of chronic diseases. Eating meat can increase your risk of cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, etc. A diet consisting of whole grains and whole foods can be the best for overall health. Read more about a vegan diet for weight loss.
Pros and Cons
Vegan diets have some positive aspects. They are rich in fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants that fight off free radicals in our bodies. Vegans tend to eat fewer calories, less saturated fats, more fruits, veggies, and healthy foods, which is associated with lower cholesterol, lower incidence of stroke, and lower risk of mortality from stroke and heart disease.
But not all vegans eat super healthy. Some “junk food vegans” go for processed vegan foods, missing out on the benefits of whole foods and potentially leading to weight gain. Also, vegans might lack certain nutrients like iron, omega-3s, and vitamin B12, which are mostly found in animal products.
To make up for it, vegans can pair iron-rich foods with vitamin C sources to help with absorption. They can get some omega-3s from walnuts and chia seeds. Spending time in the sun or eating portobello mushrooms can help with vitamin D.
Vegans may need B12 supplements since it’s vital for nerve and blood cell function. A favorite vegan food containing B12 is nutritional yeast. Be sure to look for non-fortified nutritional yeast. It can be sprinkled on popcorn or salads or used in recipes like this Vegetable Bouillon Powder, Healthy Spinach Artichoke Dip, or Healthy Spaghetti Carbonara.
As a vegan, it’s important to watch protein intake, aiming to combine beans and grains for complete proteins and utilize plant-based protein powder. Keep in mind nearly all foods, including vegetables, have protein.
Overall, with some smart choices and maybe a few supplements, a vegan diet can be healthy and nourishing.
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What’s the Difference Between Vegan and Vegetarian Diet?
A vegan diet is a bit stricter than a vegetarian diet. Both diets avoid eating meat, like beef, chicken, and fish. But vegans go a step further and also say no to other animal products like eggs, milk, and cheese. They don’t want anything that comes from animals. Some vegans adopt a vegan lifestyle which means they do not purchase clothing (like leather) or beauty products that have been tested on animals, as well.
On the other hand, vegetarians avoid meat too, but they may still eat things like eggs, milk, and cheese. They don’t mind having things that come from animals, as long as the animal itself isn’t harmed.
So, in short, vegans avoid all animal products, while vegetarians avoid meat but might still enjoy some animal-derived foods.
What is a Keto Diet?
The ketogenic diet is also known as a meat diet. It’s a special kind of diet that’s high fat, moderate in protein, and very low in carbohydrates. It was first created in the 1920s to help treat epilepsy, a condition that affects the brain. But it has become one of the most popular diets for people wanting to lose weight.
When you eat a low-carb diet like the keto diet, your body runs out of its usual fuel called glucose. Your body starts breaking down fat and turns it into energy in the form of ketone bodies. This process is called ketosis, and you will stay in this state of ketosis as long as you limit your carb intake.
If you want to try the standard keto diet, there are certain foods you can eat and others you should avoid. It’s important to know what’s allowed and not allowed on this diet. Keto dieters eat a lot of meat, butter, and full-fat dairy and avoid carbohydrates like potatoes, pasta, rice, breads, and fruits.
A typical high-fat diet consists of less than 20 to 40 grams of carbohydrates a day, so a large plain baked potato could put you over your allotted daily carbohydrate intake.
You can keep track of your macros with Chronometer. It’s a free app that allows you to track your calories, macros, body weight, and even workouts.
Pros and Cons
The keto diet has shown promising results in reducing seizures in kids and helping with certain neurological disorders like epilepsy, dementia, and traumatic brain injury. It can also lead to quick weight loss, at least in the short term. Some research suggests it might improve blood sugar, and help with insulin resistance, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels, which could be helpful for people with type 2 diabetes.
But there are downsides too. Eating lots of animal products on keto could raise “bad” cholesterol levels. Some people find it tough to stick with keto for a long time, and there aren’t enough long-term studies to know all the potential risks. Some concerns include fat buildup in the liver, kidney stones, and vitamin and mineral shortages. And, keto misses out on many plant-based foods linked to a longer life and lower cancer risk, like fruits, veggies, whole grains, and beans.
Keto can cause short-term side effects too, known as “keto flu.” People might experience feeling sick, tired, and dizzy, nausea, vomiting, headache, fatigue, dizziness, insomnia, difficulty exercising, and constipation. Drinking enough fluids and getting electrolytes can help with these symptoms. This homemade electrolyte recipe might help.
Major Differences – Vegan Diet vs Meat Diet
A keto diet severely limits carbohydrates, while a vegan diet eliminates all meat, dairy, and animal products.
A vegan diet doesn’t restrict macronutrients like protein, fat, and carbs, but a ketogenic diet does. Technically, no foods or food groups are off limits on keto, but you must keep your eating plan around 80 percent of daily calories from fat, 15-20 percent from protein, and less than 5 percent from carbohydrates.
Key Similarities – Keto vs Vegan
The keto diet and vegan diet share some similarities despite their differences. Both diets focus on consuming whole, natural foods and emphasize a variety of vegetables, such as leafy greens, as part of their meal plans. Additionally, both diets avoid certain processed foods and sugary drinks, promoting nutrient-dense foods.
Both diets can be beneficial in reaching weight loss goals since they encourage a reduction in the consumption of unhealthy, calorie-dense foods. The diets have also gained popularity for their potential health benefits, with studies suggesting positive results such as improved blood sugar levels and quick weight loss.
While their approaches differ significantly—keto being a high-fat, low carb diet, and vegan consisting of plant foods—they both encourage mindful eating, promoting the consumption of nutrient-rich foods to support overall well-being and healthy weight.
Both the vegan and keto diets promote the consumption of healthy fats. The vegan diet suggests using healthy fats for overall health, while the keto diet relies on fats to stay in ketosis. However, the keto diet’s high fat intake often leads people to eat lots of meat, cheese, butter, and eggs—foods not allowed on a vegan diet. Instead, both diets permit plant-based fat sources like olive oil, coconut oil, avocados, nuts, and seeds.
Protein is also encouraged on both diets, but keto followers usually get it from meat and dairy products, while vegans may find it more challenging to get enough protein as plant-based sources typically have less protein per serving. For vegans, excellent protein sources include beans, legumes, tofu, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. These foods can help maintain a balanced and nutritious vegan diet. Read more about how you can get enough protein on a vegan diet.
Vegan vs Keto – Is Either Diet Healthy?
When deciding which diet to follow, one of the crucial questions to ask is: Is it healthy?
The keto diet, like any dietary plan, has potential negative health consequences that you should consider before starting. Some of the common drawbacks of a keto diet include:
- Nutrient Deficiencies: Since the diet restricts certain food groups, such as fruits, whole grains, and legumes, there is a risk of nutritional deficiencies in essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
- Keto Flu: During the initial phase of the diet, some people may experience “keto flu,” which includes symptoms like headaches, fatigue, dizziness, and nausea.
- Digestive Issues: The diet’s high-fat content can lead to digestive problems, such as constipation and diarrhea.
- Kidney Stress: The higher protein intake on a keto diet may put extra stress on the kidneys, potentially impacting their function.
- Cholesterol and Heart Health: Some studies suggest that a keto diet might increase LDL cholesterol levels, which could raise concerns about heart health.
- Lack of Long-term Studies: The long-term effects of sustained ketosis are not fully understood, and more research is needed to assess potential health risks.
- Difficulty Sustaining: Due to its strict nature and limited food choices, some individuals may find it challenging to stick with the keto diet in the long term, leading to weight regain after stopping the diet.
While a vegan diet can be nutritionally balanced and healthy, there are potential negative health consequences that individuals should be aware of and take steps to address:
- Nutritional Deficiencies: Without careful planning, a vegan diet may lack certain essential nutrients like vitamin B12, iron, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids, and protein. Supplementation or choosing fortified foods is crucial to prevent deficiencies.
- Protein Intake: Plant-based proteins often have lower levels of certain essential amino acids compared to animal sources. Ensuring adequate protein intake from a variety of plant sources is essential.
- Bone Health: Vegan diets may be lower in calcium, impacting bone health if not compensated with calcium-rich plant foods or fortified products.
- Vitamin D Deficiency: Vegans may have a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency, as this vitamin is mainly obtained from sunlight and fortified animal products.
- Digestive Issues: A sudden increase in fiber from plant-based foods can cause digestive discomfort for some individuals, leading to bloating, gas, or diarrhea.
- Caloric Intake: A poorly planned vegan diet can be low in calories, leading to unintended weight loss results and malnourishment.
- Social Challenges: Being vegan may present social challenges, particularly when dining out or in social settings where vegan foods might be limited.
Cost of Vegan Diet vs Meat Diet
The cost of a vegan diet versus a keto diet can vary significantly based on several factors, including the location, availability of certain foods, individual food preferences, and dietary requirements. Generally, it’s difficult to make a direct comparison since both diets can be tailored to different budgets and nutritional needs. However, I can provide some general insights:
- Plant-based foods like vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds are often the main staples of a vegan diet and are typically inexpensive.
- In many cases, vegan diets can be relatively affordable, especially if you focus on whole, unprocessed foods.
- Buying in bulk and seasonal produce can help reduce costs.
- Vegan specialty products, such as vegan cheeses or meat substitutes, may be more expensive than their non-vegan counterparts.
- The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, moderate-protein, and low-carbohydrate diet, which often includes foods like meat, fish, eggs, dairy, oils, nuts, and non-starchy vegetables and these items can be more costly.
- Keto diets may be more expensive due to the higher cost of quality meats, dairy products, and certain oils.
- The need for specific food items like grass-fed or organic meats can further increase costs.
- Additionally, some keto-friendly products, like almond flour or low-carb snack options, can be pricier.
Ultimately, both diets can be adapted to various budgets. It’s important to note that making a cost-effective and nutritious diet depends on smart meal planning, being mindful of sales and discounts, and avoiding excessive processed or packaged foods in both cases. Additionally, considering long-term health benefits and individual dietary requirements is essential when choosing a diet that works best for you.
Vegan Diet vs Keto – which of these weight-loss diets is right for you?
When deciding which diet to follow, another crucial question to ask is: Can I stick with this in the long run? Will it be sustainable for me?
The keto diet might lead to quick weight loss, but if you can’t keep up with it, you’ll probably regain the weight once you stop. Your food choices matter too. For instance, a keto dinner could be a bacon-wrapped pork chop with a small portion of broccoli or a double cheeseburger without the bun.
Even if you don’t follow a plant-based or vegan diet forever, any period of eating this way can bring benefits, like reducing the risk of chronic diseases and maintaining healthy cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure levels. Some people choose a partially vegan approach, being mostly vegan at home and more flexible when dining out, although, most restaurants are very accommodating when you make a request.
A vegan diet might require you to search and try new recipes unless you want to eat salad for every meal. However, once you realize most of your family’s favorite recipes can be “veganized” cooking dinner will be a lot easier.
Another crucial question to ask yourself is “Why“? Is it for health, the environment, or personal beliefs? Are you trying to lose weight or improve a health condition like diabetes or cholesterol? Knowing your reasons can help you find the best diet for you and your goals. (Here’s a list of 125+ non food rewards for weight loss achievements.)
It’s essential to talk to your doctor first, especially if you have any medical issues or concerns about your nutrient levels. They can help you decide if going vegan or if a ketogenic diet is safe for you.
If you’re choosing a diet to lose weight, look back at what you’ve tried before and why it didn’t work. Maybe the food choices were too limiting, or you felt hungry all the time. Understanding what works for you is crucial. Talking to healthcare providers, like your doctor or health coach, can help you figure out which diet suits you best.
Consider your lifestyle too. Do you have time to cook or calculate your food’s nutrients? How often do you eat out? Preparing vegan or keto meals while traveling or eating out is doable, but it needs planning and preparation—working with a pro can help you out.
EAT TO LOSE!
Vegan diets are all about avoiding animal products for different reasons like health, the planet, or personal beliefs. On the other hand, the keto diet focuses on keeping carbs super low (less than 5% of daily calories), but it doesn’t really restrict food groups as long as they fit your carb limit.
Before picking either diet, think about why you want to do it and if it fits your lifestyle. Going vegan can have short and long-term benefits, like lowering the risk of chronic diseases and helping the environment. Some concerns vegans might lack certain nutrients like iron, omega-3s, and vitamin B12, which are mostly found in animal products. It could also be challenging to stick with unless you are very committed.
Keto is great for treating epilepsy in kids and can make you lose weight fast. But, we don’t have many long-term studies on people doing keto for a long time. Some worries include high cholesterol, not eating enough fruits and veggies, and gaining weight back. It can be tough to stick with keto over many months and years.
As with any significant dietary change, it is essential to consult with a healthcare professional to assess your health needs and determine if the keto diet is a suitable and safe weight loss diet for your specific circumstances or if you are considering a vegan diet for weight loss, it’s essential to educate yourself on proper nutrition and seek advice from a health coach or healthcare professional to ensure a well-balanced meal plan that meets all nutritional needs.
If you want more weight loss tips, check out these articles:
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Disclaimer: Please note that I am not a medical professional. The information provided on this blog is based on my personal experiences and research as a vegan recipe enthusiast. While I strive to provide accurate and up-to-date information, it is important to consult with a qualified healthcare professional or a registered dietitian before making any significant changes to your diet, especially if you have any underlying health conditions or concerns. The recipes and tips shared on this blog are meant for general informational purposes and should not be considered a substitute for professional medical advice. Always prioritize your health and well-being by seeking personalized guidance from a qualified healthcare provider.