The vegan keto diet is fairly new to the health and fitness world, so the jury is still out on its long-term effects. The best people can do is turn to forums where people share their personal experience to find out what possible drawbacks there are. Of course, blogs like Kind and Keto are also a good source of information when you first start your vegan keto journey. So, let’s get you educated! And find out if the question, “Is vegan keto unhealthy longterm?” holds any merit.
Vegan Keto Diet Advantages
Okay, before we jump into answering the question, “Is vegan keto unhealthy for you in the long run?” let’s look at the diet’s benefits.
Adopting a vegan way of eating has several benefits according to this systematic review ranging from weight loss (and keeping it off) to lowering your risk of heart disease. The same can be said for following the Ketogenic Diet. It also has a list of health benefits as long as your arm. Read more in our Keto-Approved Foods blog post, here.
Combining these two powerhouse diets will clearly double their separate health advantages.
Vegan Keto Benefits
1. Vegan Keto Reduces Diabetes and Obesity
Since you are limiting your carbohydrate intake significantly on a vegan keto diet, and sugar is a big no-no, it lowers your blood sugar levels, which decreases your chances of becoming diabetic in the future.
If you already have diabetes, a vegan keto diet can help lower and even lead to the complete elimination of insulin medication in a few weeks, according to this study.
All in all, limiting carbs and sugar while eating plant-based foods will lead to a slimming of your waistline, and maintaining that size will be easier than when following a conventional diet. A study of 164 adults on a low-carb diet found that they lost weight faster while following a vegan keto diet than on other weight-loss programs. Their metabolisms also got a good boost, which meant burning more calories – and fat – in a day.
2. Vegan Keto helps Lowers the Risk of Heart Disease
A healthy heart, what more can one ask for? With heart disease as one of the leading causes of death in the world, doing the best you can to prevent heart disease should be a top priority – and a vegan keto diet one triglyceride less at a time. Wait, triglycer-what? Triglycerides are fat molecules that are linked with heart disease. If you eat a carb-heavy diet, triglycerides increase, and with it, your chance of having a heart attack, angina or a stroke. When eating the vegan keto way, you limit your carbs to maximum 50g a day, and this drastically reduces triglycerides in your bloodstream. Low-carb combined with lots of good fats provide long-term heart health benefits, and that’s nothing to turn your nose up at!
3. Vegan Keto Improves Mental Health
Get this, your cerebral blood flow and blood-brain barrier function – both determine your cognitive capability – may be regulated by your gut. (See this article for more info on the experiment.) So, what you eat determines how focused you are and can improve your critical thinking skills. Oh, this strange and wonderful thing we call the human body. Eating a balanced, low-carb diet that is rich in good fats and moderate in proteins will keep you your witty and sharp self.
4. Vegan Keto May Help Strengthen Immune System When Battling Cancer
When it comes to cancer, prevention is better than cure; cancer treatments have a lot of side effects and negative aspects linked to it.
There is an indirect link between sugar, also dubbed ‘white death’, and cancer in that excess consumption of sugar leads to obesity, and being overweight or obese increases your risk of getting 13 different types of cancers. Read more about the link between obesity and cancer in this article from Cancer Research UK.
Since, on a vegan keto diet, you aren’t allowed to eat sugar, you will most likely lose weight consistently and keep it off, lessening your chances of getting cancer.
5. Vegan Keto Stabilizes Hormones
If you’re a woman, you are no stranger to hormones and the havoc they can play on your body; physically, psychologically, and emotionally. Luckily, while on a vegan keto diet, the ketosis will affect your hormones in a positive, shall we say calming, way. Ketosis and a ketotarian diet are explained in our Beginner’s Guide that you can read here.
- Through the elimination of sugar, insulin levels will be lowered.
- Leptin and ghrelin – the hormones that sound like gremlin names – will be regulated.
- The pituitary gland will function better, regulating progesterone in the thyroid, which will help with infertility.
6. Vegan Keto gives you Energy to Get Through the Day
Eating a lot of carbohydrates will make you feel sluggish and tired; your tummy will feel bloated; and the craving monster will be growling in your ear non-stop which will lead to you eating more carbs, kick-starting the cycle all over again. But this won’t be the case when you eat the vegan keto way – your body will rely on fats for energy which means you will have a steady fuel tank for your body to pull from during the day.
7. Vegan Keto Leads to Clearer and Healthier Skin
Sugar and carbs are known culprits when it comes to acne, add dairy to the mix, and you will sit with inflammation, which also leads to acne. But, as you should know by now, on a vegan keto diet, sugar and dairy will be cut from your diet completely, and carbs will be consumed in such limited quantities, it is hardly noteworthy. Cutting these three baddies and adding good fats, you will be looking in the mirror amazed at the smooth and supple skin you’ll have from eating the vegan keto way.
8. Vegan Keto Improves Sleep
A vegan keto diet can, according to the science boffs, help with the production of adenosine – a brain chemical that regulates sleep. And, since you will be so focused and alert during the day, you will welcome a good night’s sleep.
There you have it; some of the health benefits of a vegan keto diet. But now to answer the question of the diet’s long-term effect on your health. Let’s see what the experts say.
Vegan Keto Diet: Expert Opinion
Former President of the American College of Cardiology, Dr Kim Williams was completely against the ketogenic diet. He cited two randomized trials; one which showed a 22 percent increase of mortality, the other a 53 percent increase. His stance was quite straight-forward: don’t go on a ketogenic diet unless your weight loss is more important than your life. That was until he read an article in Lancet Public Health and added one caveat to his previous conviction – if you’re doing a ketogenic diet with plants, it is not unsafe.
“It turns out it does decrease mortality, and it does make perfect sense that if you have something like a ketogenic diet that can lower your weight, and can improve your diabetes, and where you’re not adding plaque and cholesterol, and heme iron, trimethylamine, and IGF-1 in large quantities and all of the things that happen when you’re eating an animal-based diet, that you would have a good long-term outcome.”
Okay, let’s all breathe a sigh of relief – plant-based keto is the way to go. You can watch the full interview with Dr. Kim Williams below. It’s titled “Ending the Ketogenic Diet debate, once and for all.”
An opposing view comes from Dr. Valter Longo.
“A lot of the ketogenic diets out there are artificial ones, and they impose an artificial condition, which is high animal fat and high animal protein (butter and bacon). You can very quickly go from something very good to something very bad, which doesn’t appear as very bad when you first do it.” – Dr Valter Longo
Author of the book, The Longevity Diet, and the director of the Longevity Institute at USC and the Program on Longevity and Cancer at IFOM in Milan, Dr. Valter Longo is not a fan of the traditional ketogenic diet. He believes that people tend to confuse ketogenic diets with high-protein diets and end up eating excess protein that drives pro-aging and pro-cancer genes.
He believes that when attempting the traditional ketogenic diet, you are forcing your system to do something it hasn’t evolved to do. According to Longo, it is almost guaranteed to fail, although it might be sustainable for 1-5 years, your body will eventually run into problems.
“When you introduce an environment that the body has never seen before, sooner or later it is not going to be able to function in that environment,” said Dr Valter Longo in an interview that you can watch on YouTube. It is called “Dr. Longo on fasting, longevity, and the fasting-mimicking diet.
But – and thank goodness for this but because otherwise people would run as far away from vegan keto as possible and miss out on its various health benefits – Longo promotes a vegan keto lifestyle. He actually believes that it is the best diet for longevity.
To him, the most important aspect is not to confuse the ketogenic part of the vegan keto lifestyle with high-protein intake; the perfect caloric breakdown should be 60% carbs (excluding sugars, pasta, and bread), 30% fats, and 10% protein (from vegetable sources).
“Although swapping out the animal products and meat can make the ketogenic diet slightly more challenging, it’s far from impossible to follow a vegan or vegetarian keto diet.” – Dr. Josh Axe
Dr. Axe is a clinical nutritionist with a passion for helping the world get healthier by living wholesome lifestyles. He is a vegan keto advocate but warns that although a plant-based keto diet comes with various health benefits, if planned poorly, it can increase your risk of nutritional deficiencies which will, in turn, lead to various health complications.
“I cringe when I get asked what protein I want on my salad, already heaped with beans. We have been led to believe that the more protein, the better, particularly if it is grilled chicken. New data shows that diets low in methionine, a building block of proteins, influence metabolism in mice and humans and may assist cancer therapy (in mice). What foods are low in methionine? Plant foods, of course.” – Dr Joel Kahn
Dr Joel Kahn’s blog (drjoelkahn.com) has countless information on plant-based nutrition. He lectures throughout the country about the numerous health benefits of a plant-based diet and its anti-aging properties as well as its ability to heal the body.
Dr Kahn is a vegan keto advocate, he feels an animal-based ketogenic diet that is ultra-low in carbs is not only unusual but dangerous. He especially warns against meat-only diets where vegetables are seen as nothing more but garnish. Luckily, that is not something Kind & Keto readers have to worry about – cruelty-free all the way!
Conclusion: Is Vegan Keto Unhealthy For You Long Term
Judging by the expert opinion we shared above, vegan keto is a sustainable lifestyle that can lead to a much longer and healthier life.
When it comes to the traditional ketogenic diet, the feedback does not look so rosy with doctors warning of possible negative effects on your liver and kidneys, as well as an increase in cholesterol which increases a person’s risk for heart disease.
It seems the only negative side effects of the vegan keto diet are those linked with ketosis and the general deficiencies that go hand-in-hand with veganism. Fortunately, there are ways to combat these niggling nasties.
Vegan Keto Diet Side Effects and How to Avoid Them
At first, transitioning to a vegan keto lifestyle can be a difficult process, especially if you’re a vegan who eats a lot of carbohydrates.
As your body changes from burning glucose to using fat as a fuel source, you might experience the following side-effects
- Poor concentration
- Muscle cramps
- Keto breath
- Difficulty sleeping
- Keto flu (read more on keto flu and keto breath here)
These symptoms usually only last one to two weeks, and after that, you’ll be able to save money on breath fresheners. To get through those two weeks, drink a lot of water, eat nutritionally dense foods, make sure you get enough sleep at night after you did some physical exercise during the day.
Drinking magnesium, sodium, and potassium will alleviate those muscle cramps, headaches and insomnia.
Two weeks of feeling a little icky are well worth the myriad of health benefits that you can expect when eating the vegan keto way.
But, unfortunately, the above is not the only side-effects you can expect when going vegan keto.
Deficiencies are a reality because let’s face it, plant foods don’t contain all the nutrients we need to live a healthy life. Vegetarians and vegans are prone to the following deficiencies:
- EPA and DHA (Long-chain fatty acids)
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin K2
Fortunately for the vegetarians and vegans of the world, it is easy to get the required nutrients by following some key strategies.
- Avoid junk food, fake food, overly processed foods, but opt for real foods that contain actual nutrients.
- Soak and sprout nuts and seeds. This will neutralize the mineral-bonding proteins that diminish the absorption of nutrients.
- Leafy green vegetables are your go-to for Vitamin K2.
- Sauerkraut, fermented soy, kimchi and fermented foods, in general, will increase digestion and absorption.
- Seaweed and other iodine-rich foods will keep your thyroid healthy.
- If you are feeling under the weather, drink a zinc supplement.
- Vitamin C-rich foods boost the absorption of iron. If you still feel your diet doesn’t contain enough iron, consider drinking an iron supplement.
- Drink the following supplements:
- Vegan DHA+EPA
- Vegan vitamin D3
- B vitamins, especially B12
Armed with the above information and expert opinion, you are equipped with enough knowledge to explain to your friends at dinner parties why a vegan keto diet is completely do-able, sustainable and healthy in the long-term.
Thanks For Reading… IS VEGAN KETO UNHEALTHY FOR YOU LONG TERM?
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