Why are we asking if plant-based protein is keto? I guess a better question would be, “Which plant-based proteins meet keto standards?” So I’m gonna answer this in a simple way, and leave you guys with an awesome list of the best quality, keto-friendly, plant-based proteins you can get.
First off, how do we tell which plant-based protein alternatives are perfect for a keto diet system? We have to look at each type of plant-based protein and compare the net carbs to the protein. If the carbs are higher, not keto. But if the protein is higher than the carbs (and the carbs are still quite low) then we can call it keto.
Spoiler alert: Nuts and seeds are the best plant-based proteins for keto. Why? Cos the net carbs are really low (with the exception of cashews and pistachios) but they’re super high in fat. So not only are nuts and seeds proteins, they are also fat bombs!
Other plant-based proteins, like beans and greens, have protein values but the carbs are too high for them to be called keto proteins.
Even if you’re already a vegan keto veteran you should still read this cos there are so many products now that cater to us. I don’t even think the term vegan keto existed a few years ago (better check up on that). But nowadays we have superb substitutes for dairy and a whole galaxy crammed full of vegan keto SNACKS!! That’s right! And thanks to plant-based proteins that are keto, like nuts and seeds, we can be “junk” food fiends these days.
We have a whole article on vegan keto snacks that are high in fat, high in protein, and low in carbs. Just remember to check the sugar and sodium levels on these products. Read the snack guide here.
As long as you are getting your net carbs, proteins, and fat percentages right you’ll be feeling the benefits of this eating system. So once we sort the keto vegan proteins from the other plant-based proteins your creative foodie juices can get flowing!
To skip the text and move straight to the plant-based proteins that are keto, scroll down to, “Enter The Plant-Based Proteins”.
How Much Protein Do We Need Every Day?
There are many factors that can change how much protein an individual needs per day. People following a regular high-carb diet usually aim for 35% of their daily calories to be made up of protein.
On a keto diet, this changes to around 20%. You want to aim for 70% fats, 20% protein, and 10% carbs. Some people will cut carbs completely and go for 80% fats and 20% protein. This is also known as the 4:1 protocol. Other people go for a 3:1 protocol which equates to 75% fat and 25% protein.
So how do you work out what 20% of protein looks like? You calculate the amount by using body weight. Work on 0.8g-1g of protein per 1kg bodyweight. And if you work in pounds it is roughly 0.5 g protein per pound. (Some people will say 0.8g per kg others say 1.2 -1.5g of protein per kg.) It will also depend on how active you are. When you’re training to build muscle your protein intake will need to be higher.
This calculation is very loose. But I just want to set a baseline for when we start comparing our plant-based proteins. Now the problem comes in when you get a plant-based food that is low in fat but equal in carbs and protein. This kind of ratio is not going to work for a keto diet. So let’s move on to what the best choices of protein are. Fortunately, many high-fat foods, like nuts and seeds, contain small amounts of protein and almost no carbs.
A Balanced Eating Plan Is Easy To Achieve
Nuts and seeds are the best sources of plant-based proteins. So they are definitely keto. I’m not going to talk about packaged vegetarian products that are high in protein, the focus here is on proteins in our whole foods and their keto-friendly fat count.
What about berries?
We know fruit is not a good keto ingredient because of the high sugar. And fruits are not considered proteins, even though some will contain small amounts. Berries are the exception and can be used liberally in a keto vegan diet. They are so loaded with antioxidants and phytonutrients that they are considered “superfoods”. Superfoods are generally nutrient-dense and crammed with antioxidants and phytonutrients.
A very general guideline is 1 cup of berries contains 1-2g of protein. Thanks to the high fiber, the net carb value becomes irrelevant. This qualifies them as a perfect keto ingredient, but not a plant-based protein.
Berries have many nutritional and healing properties. Stick with fresh or frozen, never dried. Because when dried, the sugar count soars through the roof. This is why we don’t feature goji berries. They are the highest in protein, but only when fresh. If you guys know where to get fresh goji berries – give us a shout out, please!
Greens and Beans: Lots of Fiber, No Fat
Greens are vital because they also bring loads of nutrients and more fiber, they are highly digestible and do contain protein to varying degrees. Our favorite greens come mainly from the cruciferous family, low in carbs, zero fat, loads of water, vitamins, and phytonutrients.
Strictly speaking, this group is not naturally keto, like nuts and seeds, because the fat content is low to zero. And the protein value is usually too low to be classed as a protein. So as a stand-alone, these veggies won’t be considered keto plant-based proteins. But we need them for their high fiber. They are also crammed with essential vitamins and minerals, like potassium, magnesium, manganese, calcium, and iron.
Fresh beans (before the beans dry out) and green beans are high in water and have small amounts of carbs, followed by protein. A very rough guide shows that beans, in general, are 65-70% water, 25% carbs, and 5% protein. Even bean sprouts show similar values. So beans are not considered keto proteins either.
Nor are mushrooms or any of the plants from the onion family.
It’s also good to remember that even plants with a small amount of protein are beneficial because it’s the protein that is providing the amino acids into the system (our bodies).
Enter The Plant-Based Keto Proteins
The nuts and seeds are the heroes of this article. And of the vegan keto diet. These are THE plant-based proteins that are keto. I got these values from myfooddata.com. The values are based on single servings of 28g. If you don’t have a scale, 28g is a small handful of nuts, usually between 5-12 nuts, except for pine nuts (more) and coconuts (obvs!) Peanuts are included even though they’re from the bean family (legumes).
Nuts and seeds are considered high in protein, generally low-carb, and high fat with a few exceptions. Let’s jump right in.
Inside Info on Nuts and Seeds
|Nuts & Seeds||Protein||Fat||Net Carbs||Carbs||Fiber|
And there you have it, in a nutshell, pun intended!
What is the Bio-Availability of Proteins in Nuts and Seeds?
For those of you unfamiliar with this term, bio-availability refers to how much of the nutrients (including protein) get absorbed and used by your body. Say you have 30g of protein with a meal and that protein is highly bio-available, then your body will absorb a large portion of that 30g. If it’s low, it will either take much longer to digest or only a small percentage is available.
Hemp seeds take first prize for bio-availability! Hands down. Hemp seeds are little protein miracles and of all the proteins in the world, the protein in hemp seeds is the most bio-available. They contain a protein called edestin. And this protein is responsible for getting 66% of the protein in a portion of hemp seeds into our system. It is the most digestible protein of all. And hemp seed oil contains omega 3, 6, AND 9 fatty acids!
Making nutrients more available is a very interesting aspect of health, especially if you are one of those people who can’t resist “studying” what you eat (guilty a charged!) I found this article from NutsforLife, it includes a few studies on the topic. We also have a cool blog post on why nuts need to be activated. Read that here.
Pump Up the Keto-Friendly Plant-Based Protein
To boost protein levels you can include smoothies in your diet. Vegetarians can use whey protein which has 100% bio-availability. Compare this to peanuts, which have 49%. Hemp has 66%. Protein powders, green juices, and smoothies are great for adding additional nutrients (and protein) to your ketotarian diet.