In the past two years or so, there has been one diet planting its flag on the planet of fitness and weight loss:
The Ketogenic diet.
What is the “keto” diet?
It’s basically a diet that heavily restricts carbohydrate consumption, and replaces them with fat, plus moderate amounts of protein.
No fruits, no grains, no high-carb plant foods (such as potatoes).
This “trains” the body’s metabolism to burn fat instead of carbs.
This metabolic state is called “ketosis“.
While I am by no means a huge fan of “fad diets”, this one caught my interest, especially since my partner in crime owns a sugar-free chocolate company. (I’ll link his website here for anyone who’s interested)
The idea of a low-carbohydrate, zero-sugar diet sounded like a great idea for anyone (me) struggling with a sugar addiction, Candida, brain fog, digestive issues or some other sugar-related problem.
I was already aware of the issues that sugar can cause on the human body, but there had never been a label for a diet free of this addictive, drug-like edible substance until now.
It was the first fad diet I’d heard of that didn’t sound like it was complete hogwash invented by some “nutrition guru” who was being channeled by demons of incorrect food restriction.
Until I started scrolling through some of the “keto” hashtags on Instagram.
I soon found out that most of the people who were following this ketogenic diet were eating primarily, if not entirely, animal products… and I don’t mean grass-fed, pasture-raised, organic meat from their local butcher.
I’m talking big name meat and dairy companies – factory farmed, antibiotic-filled, hormone-laden, GMO grain-fed animal products that, in my opinion, shouldn’t ever be on the table of any health conscious individual, even in small quantities.
Some of these people were actually eating entire sticks of butter.
Let that one sink in.
I could cite dozens of articles on why eating these types of animal products this frequently can cause all types of health issues from arthritis to heart disease, but it only takes a quick google search to see for yourself.
Chances are, if you’re reading this, you’re either already well versed in the plant-based diet, or – at the very least – have heard it buzzing around the mouths of hipsters for the past few years. (No shade to hipsters. Love y’all.)
I’m not saying everyone who’s following the ketogenic diet is doing it wrong, but I became increasingly weary the further I scrolled.
While many of these folks did seem to be successfully losing extra weight, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a healthy way to eat – if you catch my drift.
When I see plate after plate full of pink, brown & varied shades of beige, I become a tad alarmed.
(In case you’re wondering, it is totally possible – often encouraged – to follow a ketogenic diet without a totally carnivore-based eating style. Even popular keto diet gurus like Thomas DeLauer have talked about this.)
Now of course, I do have a small bias:
I’m an ethical “bee-gan” (I do indulge in the occasional teaspoon of raw organic honey) and have been for years.
That being said, I do believe that for some, animal products such as eggs or raw dairy can be tremendously healing – when eaten under the right circumstances, from the right sources, and in the right quantities.
Bias disclaimer aside, let’s get to the part where I decide to try keto on a vegan diet!
To give you a bit of backstory on why I wanted to give this a shot, I’ve been struggling with a little bit (lol) of a sugar addiction, as well as Candida Albicans overgrowth for the past two years or so.
I figured that the ketogenic diet was the perfect experiment for my situation.
Day one was easy peasy. I felt pretty normal. I’ve always steered clear of most grains and processed sugars, so it felt like a relatively normal day of eating.
After only two days of cutting out all sugars and severely cutting my carbs, I felt pretty great.
Around day three, my sugar cravings were in full effect. I was desperate for sugar – any kind of sugar.
I was using loads of stevia and eating a ton of sugar-free desserts to satisfy the “sweet flavor” side of my addiction.
But alas, the stubborn bacteria in my tummy knew the difference between stevia and maple syrup, and I had a hard time feeling satisfied from my keto treats – though they were delicious.
I would desperately try to make up any excuse for why I should have that vegan, gluten-free cookie at the grocery store, or why having just a teaspoon of honey in my tea was perfectly acceptable.
Speaking of tea, here’s some “tea” that might peak your interest:
According to NIH (National Institutes of Health) microorganisms actually outnumber your human cells 10:1.
“Ok Mackenna, that’s kind of creepy, but what does that have to do with the ketogenic diet?”
Well, if you’ve heard the phrase “you are what you eat”, you already know!
The microorganisms and bacteria living in your body get hungry too.
And if you’ve been feeding them sugar and carbohydrates for any length of time, that’s what they want.
To get a little sci-fi on you, they actually tell you what you want. If you’re harboring bacteria that crave processed foods and sugars, that’s what they’re going to communicate to your brain.
I’ll link a study for you on this here.
So, around day five was when I stopped seriously craving sugar.
Did it still sound good?
But it was surprisingly easy to avoid.
Around week two – yes, it took me that long – I didn’t even think about sugar. A nightly cup of unsweetened herbal tea with almond milk did the trick for me, and I felt comforted and satiated from it.
Week two was also when I started noticing serious changes in my skin.
When I was eating a higher carbohydrate diet, I would break out in bi-weekly rashes all over my face and mouth, and had acne frequently.
After cutting out sugar and carbs for two weeks, my skin was much more even-toned, and my acne decreased significantly.
My digestion was better than it had been in months, I had more energy and I felt like I could eat only savory foods for the rest of my life and be totally stoked about it.
Of course, all good things must come to an end. (Not really, but I tell myself that to feel better about my lack of self-control in certain situations.)
I broke my keto vegan diet on week five when the holidays rolled around….
And it wasn’t even that satisfying.
But of course, the carb cravings immediately returned with a vengeance after my holiday indulgences.
I have since regained my strength and willpower and am excited to say that I’m currently back on my favorite diet of all time: The Raw Food diet.
I’ll write about why I love raw food so much another time, and my experience eating only uncooked plants.
But I digress.
If someone were to ask if I recommend the vegan keto diet, I would say absolutely. It’s a great way to introduce yourself to new recipes, help cleanse the body, kickstart your body into healing from sugar-related illnesses, re-set your metabolism to burn fat, and kick cravings right in the butt.
It really helped me re-gain control over my body, gave me glowing skin, more energy and better sleep.
Here’s what I did to help keep me on track and make the vegan keto diet a little easier:
- I ate loads of fat. I mean LOADS. I was pouring cold-pressed olive oil, pumpkin seed oil, coconut and MCT oil on all my meals, chowing down on raw nuts and seeds, and having as much avocado and high-fat, raw, sugar-free vegan cheesecake as I wanted. Hehe.
- I made keto vegan desserts to satisfy my sweet tooth throughout the week. There are tons of recipes online for delicious keto vegan desserts, and I have some awesome ones as well. (Of course they’re awesome, I made them. *wink*)
- I made sure to eat a wide array of nutrient-dense, fiber-rich vegetables – particularly hearty greens like kale.
- I ate larger meals, and tried not to snack throughout the day. I usually opted to fast through breakfast with an MCT oil drink of some kind (usually a matcha latte).
- I drank several large almond milk matcha lattes per day. (I wouldn’t recommend this much caffeine, but I am a serious matcha addict. If hot drinks comfort you as well, I would recommend opting for a keto hot cocoa or hot herbal tea later in the day).
So there you have it!
My final thoughts on the keto vegan diet?
Totally doable, but if you aren’t already vegan or keto, I would say try one or the other for a month or two first, to dip a metaphorical toe in the water of diet theories.
As far as sustainability goes, I would give this diet a 7/10.
I love that it’s zero sugar, and that it’s a multi-use tool for more than just weight loss.
I do think, especially for vegans, that eating complex carbohydrates like sweet potatoes, buckwheat, quinoa, and certain fruits now and then can help to keep things varied, balanced and interesting.
I want to end this off by saying that I don’t necessarily think any ONE diet is going to work for everyone.
But if you want to give the vegan keto diet a shot, I would encourage you to do so!*
And if it doesn’t work for you, it definitely isn’t the only road to feeling amazing in the magical home you call your body.
Peace & healing,
xoxo – Mackenna
*As always, speak to your healthcare professional before embarking on any rather restrictive diet journey.