Do you stray away from keto because of meat?
If you said yes, then you are not alone. There are many like you out there! The good news is that you can have the best of both the keto and vegetarian worlds! Lately, I am more apt to encourage a low carb vegetarian diet instead of a keto diet! Now, that being said, I do feel like you have to be careful with a strictly vegan-based only diet because some people have an MTHFR deficiency. If you are one of these people, you will need protein from meat or eggs to be able to support specific detoxification pathways and make B12; otherwise, you could develop anemia. More on that later! Now, let’s dive in on some juicy benefits of a low carb vegetarian diet!
Benefit #1- Improved inflammation
One of the biggest reasons people choose not to go keto is meat consumption. This is a very legit reason! I cannot begin to tell you how many people think that there is nothing wrong with eating unlimited amounts of protein! I have seen people use this as an excuse to do a keto diet. If you think keto compliance is eating sausage, bacon, and other processed meats, you are sadly mistaken. A keto diet is not defined by eating unlimited amounts of protein! Even if you choose not to follow a low carb vegetarian plan, you still have to limit your meat intake!
Meat causes inflammation by activating C-reactive protein.
The first thing you need to realize is that consuming any form of meat can contribute to inflammation. I would think that limiting it in small amounts is fine, however, when you consume a lot of meat, your liver gets taxed from the digestive process. One of the most significant ways that meat consumption causes inflammation is because it elevates your C-reactive protein in your body1. A recent basic science study performed in mice demonstrated that an amino acid found in high levels in meat, methionine, increased oxidative stress, and inflammation and actually reduced heart strength, too2.
So what about those that have an MTHFR deficiency and need to eat meat as a form of a protein to prevent certain illnesses? In those cases, I would recommend that you follow more of a keto vegetarian plan versus keto vegan. If you are a keto vegetarian, you will still get protein from other sources such as cheese, eggs, or even fish if you opt for pescatarian. If you have an MTHFR deficiency, then you may have to supplement or opt for being a keto vegetarian. I would strongly recommend that you consult your health care provider on this topic!
Why is it so essential to know about an MTHFR impairment? The main reason is that methylation is the biochemical superhighway that helps with your detoxification system, brain, gut, and immune health. It turns out that choline, vitamins B9(folate), and B12 are essential for health methylation6. Where are these three nutrients found? They are found in wild-caught fish and also in eggs. So, as you can see, if you do have an MTHFR impairment, it would be better for you to be more of a keto vegetarian.
So how do you know if you have an MTHFR deficiency? The answer to this is easy; just have your health care provider order an MTHFR lab test. If you don’t want to get this done or don’t have the funds, then it is simple, make sure to incorporate eggs or fish as a source of protein into your diet. If you want to be a strict vegan, then I would definitely recommend having an MTHFR test done.
Benefit #2- Fabulous energy
Another beautiful benefit to a low carb vegetarian diet is a spike in energy. Meat contains POB’s ( Persistent Organic Pollutants), which can disrupt endocrine pathways and are linked to cancer, heart disease, hypertension, obesity, and diabetes3. If you are one of those that can’t live without meat, then at least choose organic, non-processed meat.
Meat converted to glucose
After consuming meat, your liver has to process all these toxins, so it can leave you feeling bogged down. As a result, you may feel more fatigued. Not sure if you realize this, but protein is converted into amino acids, and anything leftover can get converted into glucose4. What does glucose do? It will give you energy at first, but then you crash! Remember, your brain prefers ketones as opposed to glucose for fuel. As a result, this can lead you to feel dragged down and just blah.
A key thing to remember is that even if you choose to get your protein from fish or eggs, you should limit your protein consumption. Too much of any protein (including plant-based) will convert to glucose! For this reason, it is essential to figure out how much protein your body needs. You can figure this out by the following:
- Figure out your body fat percentage5.
- Multiply your body fat percentage by your weight. This gives the amount of your fat.
- Your lean body mass = Your weight – Your fat amount (from above).
- The amount of protein you should eat = 0.8 * Your lean body mass (in lbs)
If this calculation seems too complicated, you can calculate this an easier way with Cronometer app! I love this app because it figures everything all in for you, so you don’t have to do all the work with calculations. I am all about convenience! Figuring out your amount of protein is critical because you don’t want too much or too little. If you go under your allotment of protein, you could also lose muscle mass, which is no good either. Focus focus focus on protein! You want it just right!
Protein sources for strict vegans and vegetarians
If you are completely vegan, then you would eat protein from sources such as Tempeh or Tofu. You could also choose beans in small portions, but you would have to measure them out and record them. I don’t think you have to avoid beans if you are doing strict keto vegan! All you have to do is measure out your net carbs and as low as your total carbs equate to under 50, then your right. If you find that you do well with a higher amount of carbs, that is fine. The goal is to stay in ketosis, and if you can accomplish that with a total carb of around 60-70, then kudos to you! We all have a sweet spot; it just takes some fine-tuning.
It is very difficult to do a keto vegan diet, as most people find it is hard to limit their carbohydrate intake. The reason for this is because your protein as a Keto Vegan comes from beans, tempeh, and tofu, which will really add up your total carb allowance. You can read more about this here and also find out why I could not do Keto Vegan.
If you are a vegetarian and do eat some animal sources, this part is easy. I would consume eggs as they have a high amount of omega-3 fatty acids along with adequate protein. If you do this, you more than likely can get by if you are someone with an MTHFR deficiency. However, if you are someone with an egg allergy, then choose fish. That’s what I do! So instead of being a vegetarian, you will be known as a pescatarian. The critical thing to remember is that if you prefer fish, it must be wild-caught. Very important! If it is farm-raised, then it can contain genetically modified organisms that are dangerous.
How I get my protein while doing low carb vegetarian
I usually like to eat wild-caught salmon at least 1-2 times per week, and the other days I do only vegetables, beans, tempeh, or tofu. I choose salmon because not only is it a good source of protein, but it is also a good source of essential fats. Currently, salmon is the only non-plant protein that I eat even though I do throw in shrimp from time to time.
Benefit # 3- Easier weight loss
As mentioned in the previous section, when you go over your daily allowance of protein, your body converts that into glucose. This first gets stored in the liver, but any excess gets stored as fat! Yikes! So if you think eating all the steak you want comes for free because no carbs, think again. From now on, I want you to think, ” Too much protein equals more fat on my body.”
So you see, when you choose to consume a mostly low carb vegetarian-based type of diet, then you are by-passing the high amount of protein and are focusing on good low carb plant-based options and healthy fats. For example, when it comes to vegetables, choose lower-carb types of options such as spinach, broccoli, kale, cauliflower, etc. For healthy fats, choose avocados, nuts, and salmon also counts as good fat and a healthy protein. Please see my keto pantry post for more information on good types of vegetables, fruits, or fats.
My version of a low carb vegan diet
There are several different ways to do a low carb vegetarian diet. I tend to model my version of a low carb vegetarian/pescatarian diet from the book Ketotarian, by Dr. Will Cole. His understanding is very straightforward. Now, you may see on my blog that I do have regular meat-based keto recipes. This is mainly because I like to appeal to anyone following any type of keto diet. It is entirely up to you how often you would want to eat meat, if at all! I feel like keto is not a one size fits all; you can change it up any way you like.
Start your low carb vegetarian diet today!
I want to invite you to come along with me and start your low carb vegetarian diet today! If you have been a vegetarian for many years, it should be an easy transition for you. I highly recommend that you start off by purchasing Ketotarian by Dr. Will Cole to help facilitate the change. I also encourage you to listen to my podcasts, Keto and Energetic Wellness for you, as I feel that there is more to being healthy than the keto diet. It is also about holistic wellness and figuring out your real soul purpose on this earth! In the future, I plan on doing coaching or courses on how to implement a keto-based vegetarian diet or a healthy keto diet without processed meats. Please sign up for my email list to stay up to date with my blog and more things to come!
Cole, Will. Ketotarian: the (Mostly) Plant-Based Plan to Burn Fat, Boost Your Energy, Crush Your Cravings and Calm Inflammation. Yellow Kite, 20196