Picture this: one diet includes steak, eggs, and butter while the other utilizes beans, tofu, and quinoa. Can you think of more opposite eating styles? Such is the case with keto and vegan diets!
Keto and vegan diets are very different with few similarities, which we’ll review in depth in this article. To summarize, some of the biggest differences are:
- The types of proteins allowed
- Types of foods avoided
- Macronutrient distribution (e.g. low carb vs. not restricting carbs)
- Intention of the diets
We’ll also discuss the pros and cons of both diets so you can decide if one of them is better suited for you than the other!
Keto diet basics
A ketogenic diet (keto for short) is a very low-carbohydrate diet. The goal of following a keto diet is to restrict carbohydrates (carbs – a nutrient found in grains, fruits, vegetables, and sweeteners) so much that your body enters a state called ketosis. Being in ketosis allows your body to burn more fat for fuel instead of carbs, which is its preferred source of energy.
Keto diets are high in fat with around 70-80% of your total calories coming from fat. This means you’d eat a minimum of around 155 grams of fat per day for a 2,000-calorie diet. Keto diets are high in fat because the metabolic breakdown of fats produces ketones, an alternative source of fuel besides carbs.
Carbohydrate intake on keto diets is typically below 50 grams per day, but it can be as low as fewer than 20 grams per day for some keto dieters. (For perspective, one slice of wheat bread contains 12 grams of carbs.)
What about a vegan diet?
A vegan diet avoids all animal byproducts, including meat, eggs, and dairy products. Most vegans also avoid honey and products that contain gelatin, which is usually derived from pig or cow bones.
It’s important to note that only around 0.5% of the United States population follows a vegan diet, and that a vegan diet can be different from a vegetarian diet. In a vegetarian diet, people avoid meat but often eat dairy products and/or eggs (though there are a few types of vegetarian diets).
People generally choose to follow a vegan diet for health and/or ethical reasons. Unlike a keto diet, a vegan diet doesn’t restrict or have any goals for nutrients like carbs. Instead, the main goal is to obtain all of your nutritional needs from plant-based foods.
Some of the nutrients that can potentially be deficient in a vegan diet if it’s not well-planned or balanced include:
- Energy (calories)
- Iron (a mineral that helps build a protein called hemoglobin in your red blood cells)
- Vitamin B12
Keto vs. vegan diet – major differences
A keto and a vegan diet don’t have much in common, which we’ll illustrate in this comparison!
|Keto diet||Vegan diet|
|Restricts carbs/has goals for macronutrients||Yes; fat is restricted with goals for fat and protein||No|
|Avoids all animal products||No; animal products are often an integral part of a keto diet to meet calorie and fat needs (meat, butter, etc.)||Yes|
|Allows sweeteners||No; most sweeteners are avoided and only very low-carb sweeteners/artificial sweeteners are allowed||Yes, except honey|
|Potential nutrient deficiencies||Not generally, but fiber intake could potentially be low since grains and fruit are avoided||Energy, protein, iron, vitamin B12, calcium|
|Intention||Usually for weight loss, but also for potential health benefits||Health and/or ethical reasons|
Can you follow a vegan keto diet?
Now that you know the differences between keto vs. vegan, you might be wondering – is there such a thing as a vegan keto diet?
While it’s technically possible to follow a vegan keto diet, it would be a very restrictive diet since both diets are considered restrictive on their own. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible, though.
Most vegans utilize beans and lentils to help meet protein and iron needs, which aren’t generally eaten on keto because of their higher carb content. That means that you’d need to obtain your protein solely from nuts, seeds, and tofu and keep your fat intake high with foods like coconut oil and avocados.
In addition, vegans can utilize higher-nutrient grains for nutrients like calcium, iron, and protein, which aren’t allowed on a keto diet.
Which is better – a keto or vegan diet?
Keto and vegan diets tend to have very different intentions, so you’d need to choose the one that most aligns with your health goals, lifestyle, and preferences.
Outside of your preferences, there is more scientific evidence of the known benefits of following a plant-based diet compared to a keto diet. A vegan diet, while restrictive, is more likely to be a more balanced diet compared to a keto diet, which is one of its potential advantages.
Speaking of pros and cons of vegan vs. keto:
|Vegan diet||-Might be better for cardiovascular health (lower in saturated fat, can higher in fiber and antioxidants)|
-Can be higher in fiber compared to a keto diet
-Long-term studies on the benefits of plant-based diets are established
|-Can be deficient in nutrients like iron, vitamin B12, and calcium if it’s not well-planned|
-Not necessarily low-carb, which some people prefer for weight loss and other health reasons
|Keto diet||-Low-carb diet can be beneficial for high blood sugar levels (diabetes)|
-Can be better for weight loss in some cases (vegan diets aren’t intended to be used solely for weight loss)
|-Very high in fat, which might be problematic for some people with heart disease|
-Long-term safety and benefits are less well-known than plant-based diets
If you’re already following a keto diet, adding another restriction (like being vegan) might make you lose more weight. Keep in mind that most people follow vegan diets for health and ethical reasons, not necessarily for weight loss.
While keto diets are popular for weight loss, vegan diets have the potential to be more well-balanced while being beneficial for your overall health. The long-term safety and benefits of vegan/plant-based diets are better established by scientific studies compared to keto diets, too.