While Diulus personally benefits from a vegan keto diet, as do some of her patients, she stresses that there’s a spectrum when it comes to diets, and it may not be for you. “Some people do amazingly well on a low-fat, plant-based diet, and some people do great on a carnivore diet. It’s about figuring out what works best with your body and how you feel the best,” she says.
Registered dietitian Abby Cannon, R.D., also cautions people not to jump on the vegan keto train without thinking long and hard about why they want to do it and weighing the potential risks—because there are a few significant concerns.
“It’s very difficult to adhere to while also ensuring that you’re getting enough nutrients and not developing disordered eating habits,” says Cannon. “If you don’t consume soy products, it’s hard to ensure that you receive enough protein, given that you have to cut out whole grains and beans—staple protein sources in a vegan diet!” Like all vegan diets, vegan keto will also be deficient in vitamin B12 and potentially low in iron and other nutrients, so Cannon recommends a comprehensive multivitamin if you do try it.
Vegan keto may also be pretty hard to sustain unless you’re particularly motivated. “It’s unlikely that anyone can stick to it long term, and any rapid weight loss experienced is likely to come right back on once you return to your normal eating habits,” says Cannon, noting that many of the healthiest, longest-living people in the world eat legumes, whole grains, fruits, and starchy vegetables—all of which are a no-go on a vegan keto diet.
If there’s a medical reason for needing a ketogenic diet, the vegan keto diet might be an option, says Cannon, but it’s extremely important that when trying any restrictive diet that you do so with the support of professionals to ensure that you’re meeting your nutritional needs and doing it for the right reasons. That said, if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, or have a history of disordered eating, you should definitely pass on this diet, she says.
Additionally, your vegan keto diet may also result in side effects that are somewhat typical of all keto diets, especially ones that aren’t balanced, including a temporary but drastic upswing in cravings, moodiness, and fatigue (often called “keto flu”); too much weight loss; hair loss (especially if you’re not getting enough protein); and imbalances in electrolytes, which get flushed out when you lose water weight. To offset electrolyte imbalances, Diulus recommends increasing your sodium intake a bit and supplementing with magnesium.
And, if you’re doing everything “right” and still don’t feel good, vegan keto may just not be for you—and that’s OK. In fact, Belardo switched back to her higher-carb vegan diet after her two-week vegan keto experiment because she was losing too much weight and missed some of her favorite foods, including fruits. (Here are some signs a keto diet just isn’t working for you.)
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