At first glance, ketogenic and vegan diets seem opposite. The ketogenic diet (or keto diet) is a high fat, low carbohydrate diet that encourages you to eat a lot of animal products and red meat.
The vegan diet completely avoids animal sources and is generally a low fat diet favoring only vegetables and other plant foods.
Despite their differences, these ketogenic and vegan diets come together on their benefits: weight loss, lower risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, and more.
Read this article to get an overview of the ketogenic vs vegan comparison and understand which diet will best help you achieve your health goals.
What is the difference between a ketogenic and vegan diet?
The ketogenic diet is a high fat, low carbohydrate diet that emphasizes fat absorption abundant from sources such as coconut oil, macadamia oil, avocado, olive oil, butter, cheese, wild fish and red meat.
Veganism is a way of eating exclusively based on products of plant origin. It generally favors green vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and starches like sweet potatoes and squash.
There are a few similarities between ketogenic and vegan diets. Both emphasize whole foods and encourage you to feed yourself with the highest quality ingredients you can find.
Plus, both diets can improve your overall health, as long as you approach them correctly.
However, these two diets work very differently.
How does the ketogenic diet work?
The ketogenic diet works by shifting your metabolism into a fat burning state called ketosis.
On a standard diet, your body uses carbohydrates as its primary source of fuel. Your digestive system breaks down carbohydrates into sugar, which passes through your small intestine and into your bloodstream. Your blood then carries the sugar to hungry cells, providing them with the fuel to run your body.
But if you stop eating carbohydrates - or reduce your carbohydrate intake to the bare minimum - your cells can no longer use sugar for fuel. After a few days (called the keto adjustment period), your body will stop trying to burn carbs and start using fat as its main source of energy.
When you burn fat for fuel, you are in ketosis.
Ketosis is the goal of the ketogenic diet, and it is responsible for most of the health benefits of keto. You will learn more about the benefits of the ketogenic diet below.
How does the vegan diet work?
Vegans eat only plant foods, many of which are high in nutrients and low in calories. Vegan diets are generally low in fat and carbohydrates and contain a diverse variety of vegetables, legumes, and whole grains.
It is possible to eat poorly as a vegan. Breads, cakes, sugary drinks and other sweet or fatty dishes can be prepared without animal products. However, most vegans focus on high-quality whole foods rich in micronutrients.
And because vegetables and other plant foods are often low in calories, vegans can eat a lot of food while still achieving their weight loss goals.
The health benefits of the ketogenic diet
Rapid weight loss
Several studies have shown that the ketogenic diet is a great choice for weight loss.
- Studies show that obese people lost an average of 15 kgs while following a ketogenic diet for six months.
- A pooled analysis from 13 studies found that a ketogenic diet was better than a low-fat diet when it came to long-term weight loss.
Ketosis suppresses hunger and makes you feel full with less food. People who follow a ketogenic diet often report that they can lose weight without going hungry, which could explain why the keto diet has better long-term weight loss results than many other diets.
Improved mental clarity
Research on the ketogenic diet and mental performance is still relatively new, but several studies have found promising results.
The keto diet can improve brain function and slow the progression of Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and other neurodegenerative diseases. Many neurodegenerative diseases alter the metabolism of glucose (sugar), cut off the fuel sources of brain cells and cause their death. The keto diet offers an alternative fuel source (ketones), which can improve brain function. Ketones are also neuroprotective.
The health benefits of the vegan diet
Vegans are generally thinner than omnivores, and several studies have shown that plant-based diets help obese people lose weight.
One of the possible reasons is that many staple vegan foods - vegetables, fruits, legumes, etc. - are low in calories, so you can eat a lot and lose weight.
If you eat a lot and are trying to lose weight, veganism may be a good choice.
Decreased risk of cardiovascular disease
Studies have shown that vegans have lower exposure to cardiovascular disease.
Vegan diets are also linked to a lower risk of blocked arteries, heart attack and stroke.
Which diet is easier?
When it comes to any diet, the most important question is, can you stick to it?
Generally, people find it difficult to diet for the long term. The best diet for you is one that you can eat for months or years.
How does the ketogenic diet compare to the vegan diet when it comes to long-term adherence?
The long-term ketogenic diet
At first glance, keto may seem like a difficult diet to follow. It's more restrictive than other low-carb diets like the Paleo Diet and Atkins - both of which allow more carbs.
However, research suggests that sticking to the keto diet is actually quite good, even for long periods of time.
One of the explanations is the effect of the ketogenic diet. Ketosis suppresses your appetite, which makes it easier to lose weight over time - you don't feel constantly hungry, even with a calorie deficit.
Also, if you have a craving for sugar, it may be easier to stop eating it altogether instead of just moderating yourself. Many people report that their cravings for sugar and carbohydrates go away after a few weeks on the ketogenic diet.
The long-term ketogenic diet
Research suggests that the vegan diet is neither easier nor more difficult to follow than other diets.
A 2015 study found that over a six-month period, people could stick to a vegan diet as easily as they could for an omnivorous diet.
If you want to go vegan, keep a few things in mind:
- Eat quality foods. Removing animal products is not enough for good health. You probably won't see results if you eat cakes, cookies, pasta, bread, burgers. Instead, focus on fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, grains, and other whole foods.
- Focus on protein. Insufficient protein intake is a common remark on a vegan diet, but if you plan your meals well, it is possible to meet your protein needs without eating animal products. Prioritize foods high in protein like beans, grains, quinoa, soybeans, and peanuts.
- Take vitamin B12. Vegans are also at risk for vitamin B12 deficiency because the vitamin is found almost exclusively in foods of animal origin. Also take Omega-3 supplements.
The conclusion ?
There is no single answer when it comes to the best diet. What matters most is finding the diet that you feel is sustainable.
The best way to find a diet that works is to experiment. Try several different diets until you find one that feels good for you and helps you reach your goals.
If you want to try a ketogenic diet, read this beginner's article to understand in detail how it works.