While meat, eggs, and dairy are commonly considered staples of the ketogenic diet, it is possible to reap the benefits of keto while following a vegan lifestyle as long as you acquire approximately 75% or your dairy calories from fat, 20% from protein, and 5% from carbs.
Consuming the proper balance of fats, and getting enough protein while keeping carbs low can be particularly challenging as a vegan.
In this article we will highlight the best plant-based sources of omega-3s, provide support on how to limit omega-6s and offer guidance on selecting high quality low-carb plant-based proteins.
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Best Vegan Sources of Fat & Protein
I would assume that if you are interested in vegan keto, you are more likely already vegan, and considering keto, rather than already keto and considering vegan. In either instance, the information provided below should be helpful as we will be outlining the best vegan sources of fat and protein.
While vegan keto may seem difficult at first, it is important to realize that many people that follow keto successfully do so while excluding major categories of foods including eggs, grains, dairy, and/or nightshades for various reasons, and while vegan keto does require some considerations, it is very possible.
Vegan Sources of Omega-3s
Although there are several plant based sources of fat such as nuts, avocados, coconuts, and vegetable oils, it can be challenging to maintain the proper ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats when animal sources, particularly fish, are excluded.
Omega-6s and Omega-3s are both polyunsaturated fats that are essential for proper health, however, omega-6s are largely pro-inflammatory while omega-3s are anti-inflammatory, and therefore balancing the two is recommended.
Research has confirmed that preindustrial populations consumed somewhere between a 4:1 and 1:4 ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s while today’s Standard American Diet commonly results in a 20:1 ratio. Vegan diets can potentially push this ratio even further out of balance if not done correctly.
Types of Omega-3s
Not all omega-3 fatty acids are created equal. Of the 11 types of omega-3s, the 3 most important are alpha-linoleic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexoenoic acid (DHA).
ALA is mostly found in plant foods, and is the most common omega-3 fatty acid in most diets, however it must be converted into EPA or DHA before it can be used in the body for anything other than energy.
This conversion process is highly inefficient, which is why those following vegan or vegetarian diets are often lacking in EPA and DHA.
EPA is essential for numerous physiological processes in the body, and for reducing inflammation, while DHA is necessary for proper brain development, and is an important structural component of your skin and the retinas in you eyes.
EPA and DHA are often referred to as “the marine omega-3s” because they are mostly found in fatty fish, seaweed and algae. Seaweed and algae should therefore be consumed regularly or potentially supplemented in order to get adequate amounts of EPA and DHA while following a vegan keto diet.
Best Vegan Omega-3 Supplements
- Sports Research Vegan Omega-3 softgels contain the highest concentration of DHA & EPA per serving of any other algae based supplement, and is one of the only softgel options we could find that did not contain carrageenan.
- Natures Way NutraVege Omega-3 Plant Based Liquid is the most budget friendly option for those that don’t mind the taste. This product is also carrageenan-free
Foods High in Omega-6s
Increasing your intake of omega-3s is only part of the equation, you must also reduce your consumption of omega-6s. The best way to do this is to avoid processed seed and vegetable oils, as well as the products that contain them.
In the chart below the amount of omega-6 fatty acids present in common fats and oils is highlighted in blue.
As you can see from the chart, coconut oil, palm oil (preferably non-GMO sustainably sourced only), and olive oil are relatively low in omega-6s and will be your best options on a vegan keto diet. Coconut oil and palm oil can be used for high heat cooking, while olive oil is best used cold. Check out our healthiest cooking oils chart here for more details.
For some reason avocado oil is not included in this chart, or any other charts we attempted to source. Perhaps because as an oil it is relatively new or simply just not as common. Avocado oil has a similar fatty acid profile as olive oil. It contains approximately 20% saturated fat, 70% monosaturated fat, and 10% polyunsaturated fat (9% omega-6, 1% omega-3) and is therefore another Ok option.
As a side note, a recent study in the Journal of Food Control exposed several issues associated with the freshness and purity of several avocado oil products. Of the 22 domestic and imported avocado oil samples tested, only two brands were found to be pure and still fresh by the expiration date: Chosen Foods 100% Pure Avocado Oil, and Marianne’s Avocado Oil.
QUICK RECAP – It is important to maintain a good balance of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids. Seeds and nuts are great sources of ALA, but since very little is converted to EPA or DHA, consuming adequate amounts of seaweed and algae will be beneficial. Avoiding foods high in omega-6s is also key.
Best Vegan Sources of Protein
Proteins are made of 22 amino acids, 9 of which are considered essential and must be consumed, while 13 can be created by our bodies. A protein is generally considered ‘complete’ when it contains all 9 essential amino acids in somewhat equal amounts.
Although there are a few plant-based foods that contain all 9 essential amino acids, usually one or more of these amino acids are only present in trace amounts. Consuming a blend of protein sources is therefore generally recommended.
Many plant-based protein sources, such as brown rice, soybeans, wheat, or lentils are high in carbohydrates, making it difficult to consume enough protein while keeping carbs in check. For optimal health we also recommend avoiding soy and gluten, which further limits the options available.
Even with these restrictions, there are several great plant-based protein sources including pea, hemp, chia, spirulina, and amaranth that can be combined to meet all of your protein needs.
Beyond Meat offers low carb pea protein based meat substitutes for ground beef, burgers, meatballs, sausage links and patties, and is available in several grocery stores or online directly from beyondmeat.com. Amazon, Instacart, or Fresh Direct.
Unfortunately, while Nobel Plate’s meat crumble contains only pea protein, Beyond Meat and Sophie’s Kitchen vegan meat substitutes contain several ingredients including unhealthy vegetable oils and fillers.
We were also unable to find a meat substitute that contained a blend of our top recommended vegetable protein sources, and therefore we would suggest supplementing with a plant-based protein isolate powder of some type.
QUICK RECAP – Blending a variety of foods is generally required in order to get enough quality protein while following a vegan keto diet. Pea, hemp, chia, spirulina and amaranth are the best low-carb plant-based sources of protein, and supplementing with a good vegan protein isolate blend is a great way to get enough protein without consuming unhealthy oils and fillers.
Vegan Keto Protein Smoothie
While following a 2,000 calorie keto diet, one vegan protein blend smoothie can provide more than half the daily recommended protein, along with some healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
- 16-20oz water
- 2 scoops Plant Fusion Complete Protein (vanilla)
- 1tsp chlorella
- 1tsp spirulina
- 1tbsp ground chia
- 1/4 cup mixed berries
Are you following a vegan keto lifestyle? Please consider sharing your experience by commenting below to help support others navigating a healthy keto lifestyle.
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