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Vegan Ketogenic Diet | Your Ultimate Guide

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Find out everything you need to know about the vegan ketogenic diet, from exactly how it works, how to carry it out, which foods to eat and which to avoid (hint: it’s not as many as you’d think).

The vegan diet is continuing to soar in popularity – from slimming down and improving health to lowering our carbon footprint and helping the planet – there are lots of reasons people are committing to a vegan lifestyle. But at the same time, the ketogenic diet is fast becoming one of the most popular weight-loss methods.

Is it possible to be vegan and on the ketogenic at the same time? And if so, how? We’re here to give you the facts.

You’ll find in this article:

What is the ketogenic diet?

How much carbs, protein and fat?

The science: How does the ketogenic diet work?

How does the ketogenic diet help with weight loss?

The vegan ketogenic diet

Protein sources

Fat sources

Carbohydrates: What to eat and what not to eat


What is the Ketogenic Diet?

The ketogenic diet (or simply the ‘keto diet’) was design in the early 1900s to control seizures in epileptic children, but it’s now claimed a spot as one of the most popular weight-loss diets of our time.

It’s based on having a very low-carbohydrate, high-fat, moderate-protein diet, in order to bring the body into a metabolic state of ‘ketosis’ – which means the body is using fat as its primary source of energy.

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How Much Carbs, Protein & Fat?

The most common macronutrient split (i.e. protein, carbs, and fat) for both the ketogenic diet and the vegan ketogenic diet is:

  • Approximately 10% of the diet should come from carbohydrates;

  • Approximately 30% of the diet should come from protein;

  • Approximately 60% of the diet should come from fat.

Vegan ketogenic diet

Most people find it easiest to use a nutrition-tracking app to track their protein, carbohydrate and fat intake to ensure they’re eating the right food. You can easily eat more carbohydrates than you’re supposed to on the keto diet without realising, throwing your body back out of ketosis – so it’s important to track your food.

The ketogenic diet isn’t considered as a permanent diet, however. Researchers have deemed it safe for between a few weeks up to a number of months. This is because there hasn’t been any very long-term research into its effects on the body, so there is no formal advice.

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The Science: How Does the Ketogenic Diet Work?

The ketogenic diet and the vegan ketogenic diet aren’t any different to each other when it comes to how they work in the body. The vegan ketogenic diet simply uses protein, carbohydrates and fat that aren’t derived from animal products.

Here’s what happens in the body when it’s being fed a ketogenic diet:

  • After 3-4 days of being on a very low-carbohydrate diet (less than 20g per day), the body’s carbohydrate reserves become insufficient to supply glucose to the central nervous system. At this point, the central nervous system requires an alternative energy source.

  • In the absence of carbohydrates, most tissues can use free fatty acids for energy, but the brain can’t, so it needs a different type of fuel. Ketone bodies are a by-product of incomplete breakdown of free fatty acids in the liver, and serve as a fat-derived fuel for the brain.

  • When the brain is using ketone bodies as its primary source of energy, the body is said to be in a metabolic state of ‘ketosis’ (not to be confused with ketoacidosis or diabetic ketosis, which are dangerous). The amount of ketone bodies in the blood serves as an indication of ketosis.

  • Even though the body is relying on fat for energy, blood glucose remains stables during ketosis. During the first few days of being on a ketogenic diet, the body is mostly breaking down amino acids from protein and creating glucose.

  • As the days continue, the contribution of glucose from fats increases and the contribution from amino acids decreases (the amount depends on levels of fat tissue in the body).

  • When the body is in a calorie-deficit (i.e. it’s using more calories than it’s expending), the ketogenic diet has been suggested to use more body fat stores than a regular diet in a calorie-deficit as it’s in a fat-burning state.

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How Does the Ketogenic Diet Help With Weight Loss?

While it seems to be clear that the ketogenic diet can help with weight loss, it isn’t yet clear whether it’s more effective than other diets, as research shows conflicting results.

A recent large scientific review of the ketogenic diet compared with a low-fat diet found that the ketogenic diet did produce 0.91kg more weight loss than a low fat diet1.

Scientists are still unsure how exactly the ketogenic diet can help with weight loss, but there are a few theories. Here they are in order of likelihood:

1. Appetite reduction as protein is more satiating, appetite control hormones have changed, and ketone bodies suppress appetite;

2. Reduction of lipogenesis (formation of fat) and increased lipolysis (breakdown of fats);

3. Metabolism becoming more efficient in fat-burning;

4. More calories used by the body from using fat and protein as energy.

The Vegan Ketogenic Diet

But what about vegans who want to try out the ketogenic diet? It can seem hard to find the right sources of plant-based sources of fat and protein amongst all the cheese and bacon that’s typically recommended for the ketogenic diet! Plus, lots of plant-based protein sources also contain a fair amount of carbs, which isn’t allowed.

However, the vegan ketogenic diet doesn’t have to be as restrictive as you might think. There are certainly a few food groups that aren’t permitted, but there’s still plenty on the menu.

We’ve compiled a list of commonly consumed protein, fat and low-carbohydrate foods that you can eat on the vegan ketogenic diet.

Protein Sources for the Vegan Keto Diet

Protein is seen as the most challenging nutrient while on the vegan ketogenic diet as lots of plant-based protein sources are also high in carbs, but it doesn’t have to be difficult getting protein in.

✖ Limit these higher-carb plant-based protein sources:

  • Baked beans
  • Lentils
  • Chickpeas
  • Peas
  • Black-eyed peas
  • Runner beans
  • Broad beans
  • Kidney beans, butter beans, haricots, cannellini beans, flageolet beans, pinto beans and borlotti beans

✔ You can eat these lower-carb plant-based protein sources:

vegan keto protein

*The above nutritional information is sourced from European food labels, which means the fibre has already been subtracted from the carbohydrates to get a net carbohydrate value.

Plant-Based Protein Powders

You can easily supplement your protein intake with plant-based protein powders, which are all very low in carbohydrates and are an affordable, convenient way to boost your protein consumption.

✔ Commonly consumed plant-based protein powders:

vegan keto protein powders

*The above nutritional information is sourced from European food labels, which means the fibre has already been subtracted from the carbohydrates to get a net carbohydrate value.

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Fat Sources for the Vegan Keto Diet

There are plenty of plant-based sources of fat to choose from, which are often actually much healthier than some animal-based sources of fat like cheese and fatty meats such as bacon and sausages.

✔ You can eat these sources of plant-based fats:

vegan ketogenic diet fat

*The above nutritional information is sourced from European food labels, which means the fibre has already been subtracted from the carbohydrates to get a net carbohydrate value.

Carbohydrates: What to eat and what not to eat

There are a few foods you’ll have to strictly limit on the vegan ketogenic diet that are high in carbohydrates.

✖ Limit these non-vegetable high-carb foods:

Low-Carb Vegetables & Fruits for the Vegan Keto Diet

Vegetables and fruits can be high in carbohydrates, especially if they’re grown underground.

✖ Limit these higher-carb vegetables:

  • Potatoes
  • Squash
  • Corn
  • Pulses (lentils, peas, beans)
  • Pumpkin
  • Carrots
  • Onions
  • Beetroot

✔ You can eat these lower-carbohydrate vegetables:

vegan keto vegetables*The above nutritional information is sourced from European food labels, which means the fibre has already been subtracted from the carbohydrates to get a net carbohydrate value.

Many fruits are high in carbohydrates and should be avoided or limited while on the ketogenic diet, but the following fruits are lower in carbohydrates:

  • Raspberries
  • Blackberries
  • Strawberries
  • Cantaloupe melon
  • Coconut meat
  • Lemons and limes
  • Plums


Although vegan diets generally contain lots of vitamins and minerals, there are a few that the vegan diet can fall short on. As the vegan ketogenic diet restricts even more foods than a vegan diet alone, you may want to think about supplementing your diet.

Here are some commonly recommended supplements for people following the vegan ketogenic diet:


Take Home Message

With a little forward planning, the vegan ketogenic diet doesn’t have to be a challenge. There are plenty of foods you can eat and enjoy, but just remember to get the right nutrients in to fuel your body and keep it working the way it should!


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Our articles should be used for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to be taken as medical advice. If you’re concerned, consult a health professional before taking dietary supplements or introducing any major changes to your diet.

Reading Time: 7 minutes

1. Bueno, N. B., de Melo, I. S. V., de Oliveira, S. L., & da Rocha Ataide, T. (2013). Very-low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet v. low-fat diet for long-term weight loss: a meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. British Journal of Nutrition110(7), 1178-1187.

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Jennifer Blow

Jennifer Blow

Editor & Qualified Nutritionist

Jennifer Blow is our UKVRN Registered Associate Nutritionist – the UK’s register of competent and qualified nutrition professionals. She has a Bachelor’s of Science in Nutritional Science and a Master’s of Science by Research in Nutrition, and now specialises in the use of sports supplements for health and fitness, underpinned by evidence-based research.

Jennifer has been quoted or mentioned as a nutritionist in major online publications including Vogue, Elle, and Grazia, for her expertise in nutritional science for exercise and healthy living.

Her experience spans from working with the NHS on dietary intervention trials, to specific scientific research into omega-3 fatty acid supplementation and also the effect of fast foods on health, which she has presented at the annual Nutrition Society Conference. Jennifer is involved in many continuing professional development events to ensure her practise remains at the highest level. Find out more about Jennifer’s experience here.

In her spare time, Jennifer loves hill walking and cycling, and in her posts you’ll see that she loves proving healthy eating doesn’t mean a lifetime of hunger.

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