Low Carb Vegan: Is Plant-based Keto Possible?

woman eating plant based low carb in the kitchenShort answer: Yes. Anyone can go keto, including vegans. It might be a lot harder to stay vegan, but they can certainly go keto. Nothing stopping them. The more the merrier.

Jokes aside. Can someone go keto while remaining vegan?

That’s a tougher problem. Not intractable. But real tough.

Why is it so hard?

#LettuceCelebrate 2021! Get your goals off the ground with one of our exciting choose-your-own-adventure challenges. Learn more here.

Protein Considerations for Low Carb Vegans

For one, the most protein-rich vegan foods also happen to be relatively high in carbohydrates — the very macronutrient you need to limit on keto. You could load up on a complex blend of legumes and rice to obtain adequate protein containing all the essential amino acids, but you’d end up overdoing it on carbohydrates and knocking yourself out of ketosis. Protein is extremely important and harder to obtain on a normal vegan diet. It’s even harder on a keto vegan diet.

Can I Get Enough Protein With Nuts?

The easiest vegan sources of fat and protein — nuts and seeds — aren’t meant to be staple foods for humans. No one should base their diet on nuts for a few reasons.

  • Excessive omega-6. Most nuts are very high in linoleic acid, the omega-6 fat that most modern people consume too much of already. This will throw your omega-3 to omega-6 ratio out of whack.
  • Excessive calories. Nowadays, it’s easy to plow through large quantities of nuts. The ability to consume entire sackfuls of nuts in a single sitting without having to remove the shells (or even in nut butters) is a modern aberration, one we’re not really prepared as an organism to regulate.
  • Carbs. When you start getting into the “several handful” range, the carb content of nuts adds up. It’s not enough carbs to disrupt a normal eater, but it can ruin ketosis.
  • Anti-nutrients. Nuts and seeds can’t run from predators, so they employ biological warfare to dissuade animals from eating them, manufacturing anti-nutrient compounds that impair nutrient absorption. This isn’t a deal breaker. We’ve adapted to many of these compounds, and I even think it’s likely that some of these anti-nutrients, like phytate, offer hormetic benefits in smaller doses. But if you’re eating enough almonds to satisfy your protein requirements, you’re overdoing it.

(And yes, in certain parts of the year, the Hadza of East Africa consume the bulk of their calories from the mongongo nut,1 but you’re not Hadza. It’s a different genetic situation, a different lifestyle, a different microbiome. The Hadza also eat thousands of calories of wild honey each day when it’s available. Probably not a great idea if you’re mindful of your carbs.)

Successfully implementing a vegan keto diet requires the resolution of those two main problems. You need complete protein without all the carbs that beans entail, and you need a reliable source of fat without all the omega-6 fatty acids nuts and seeds entail.

Protein Options for a Plant-based Keto Diet

First, I’m going to lay out some protein options that are not vegan, but sometimes work with a portion of plant-based eaters’ personal philosophy. If that doesn’t work for you, keep reading, because I’ll offer vegan protein options as well. 

1. Consider eating eggs from a trusted source (even your own chickens)

You can usually ask people in your community and find a local source of pastured chicken eggs. Most hobby farmers consider their hens members of the family, and give their birds a pretty great life. Go see for yourself, then if this works with your ethics, buy some eggs.

Heck, why not take the plunge and raise your own chickens? If you have the space, do it. You know yourself. You know you’ll do it without cruelty. You’ll give them a good, happy life. You won’t “cull” the non-producers.

A regular intake of pastured eggs will give you most of the nutrients you’re missing out on as a keto vegan, like choline, omega-3s, iron, and zinc, not to mention high quality animal protein.

If you’re worried about the whole eggs and heart disease myth, know that it’s exactly that—a myth. Evidence suggests that any relationship between egg consumption and health issues stems from “a dietary pattern often accompanying high egg intake and/or the cluster of other risk factors in people with high egg consumption,” not the eggs themselves.2

2. Consider trying an ostrovegan diet

What is an ostrovegan diet?

An ostrovegan diet involves eating a primarily vegan diet along with bivalves, like oysters, mussles, and clams. Most evidence suggests that bivalves have no central nervous system capable of registering pain and are not mobile, and that the farming practices used to grow them are environmentally friendly.3

They’re incredibly nutrient-dense with many of the nutrients vegans miss out on. Oysters in particular will give you all the zinc and iron you need, plus a good amount of omega-3. Mussels are loaded with protein, omega-3s, and micronutrients.

If this works with your ethics, consider donning the title of “keto ostrovegan.” If anything, it sounds cool.

3. You’ll probably need some protein powders

Low-carb plant foods dense with protein just don’t really exist. And even though claims have floated around here and there, broccoli doesn’t actually have more protein than steak. Protein powders that extract the protein from plant sources and leave behind most of the fat and carbohydrates, however, do exist.

The obvious animal-based choices like whey or egg are out. The best bet seems to be a mix of rice, pea, and hemp protein powders.

Rice Protein Powder

Rice protein powder is almost complete with all the essential amino acids (those we can’t manufacture in our bodies and must get from outside sources), but it’s low in lysine. Rice protein powder did perform admirably compared to whey protein in one study4 among weight lifting adults, but they weren’t on vegan diets, and the rest of their diets probably contained plenty of animal protein to make up for any missing amino acids.

Pea Protein Powder

Pea protein powder has plenty of lysine to make up for what’s missing in rice protein.

Hemp Protein

Hemp protein is complete and usually comes with a nice dose of micronutrients, including magnesium, prebiotic fiber, and omega-3s, but it’s lower in protein than rice and pea protein powder, so I wouldn’t rely exclusively on it.

This article is a more detailed breakdown of your protein powder options.

Fats and the Vegan Keto Diet

For the fat, you have many options that aren’t excessively high in omega-6 fats.

  • Avocado and avocado oil. These are mostly monounsaturated fat. I hear there’s a pretty great vegan ranch dressing made with avocado oil on the market.
  • Coconut. An excellent source of healthy saturated fat, coconut and its constituents like coconut oil and coconut butter are essentials for the vegan-keto pantry. A spoonful of coconut butter is one of my go-to snacks, and it’s totally keto-friendly.
  • Olives and olive oil. This is mostly monounsaturated fat. Just make sure you’re buying an olive oil you trust.
  • Macadamia nuts. Again, mostly monounsaturated. Great for snacks.
  • Hemp seeds. Fairly high in omega-6, but hemp seeds are balanced with a large dose of omega-3 and some of the omega-6 is anti-inflammatory GLA. The complete protein, prebiotic fiber, and loads of magnesium don’t hurt either.
  • Red palm oil. Palm oil gets a bad rap, as most Southeast Asian palm production impedes on dwindling orangutan habitats. The majority of red palm oil — the unrefined version higher in micronutrients — comes from sustainable palm farms that don’t impact orangutan populations. Mostly saturated fat.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t eat almonds, cashews, pecans, walnuts, and all the other ones higher in omega-6. Eat nuts (and seeds) of all kinds, just not to the exclusion of everything else. There is such a thing as too many nuts, as I explained earlier.

Supplementing on a Plant-based Keto Diet

There are some nutrients that are either not present in plant sources, not in a form that your body can use, or not available in quantities that your body needs. Work with a doctor or dietician here, and ask about supplementing the following.

  • Choline: The higher your fat intake, the more choline your liver needs to process it all. Choline is most abundant in animal foods that you aren’t eating, like liver and egg yolks. A good vegan source of choline is sunflower lecithin.
  • Creatine: Creatine monohydrate is cheap, safe, and effective. You should take it, because you’re not getting it from your food; the best sources of creatine are red meat and fish. Far more than a “weight lifting supplement,” creatine has been shown to improve both muscular and cognitive function in vegetarians.5
  • Carnosine: Not many know about carnosine. It’s another meat-based nutrient that improves mood, enhances endurance, and serves as a brain antioxidant. Though we can make it in our bodies, studies show that vegans and vegetarians have fairly low levels6 and supplementation can help.
  • Taurine: Taurine is similar to carnosine—though it’s not essential (we make it, just probably not enough), it appears only in animal foods and plays a major yet under-appreciated role in preventing death and disease.7
  • B12: You just need B12. There’s no way around it, unless you don’t mind your central nervous system going haywire. Don’t assume you’re replete in B12 unless you’ve taken the latest assays, which are more sensitive than normal serum B12 tests. Normal serum tests tend to show that 52% of vegans and 7% of vegetarians are deficient.8 According to the newer, more sensitive tests, 92% of vegans and 77% of vegetarians have low levels of the active form of vitamin B12.9 Don’t take a chance with this stuff; it’s critical.
  • Algal oil: Since you can’t take fish oil, and you don’t want to rely on inefficient elongation of ALA into the more effective omega-3s DHA and EPA, you should take algal or krill oil. Algae is where most marine life gets its DHA and EPA. It’s totally vegan-friendly, and studies show it improves blood lipids10 and increases blood levels of EPA.11

Those are the big things to worry about. Once you’ve them all squared away, the rest is easy: just eat delicious whole plant foods.

Hope you like avocados and coconut.

You’d better eat tons of non-starchy vegetables: leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, and other above-ground vegetables.

Eat mushrooms. They aren’t meat, but you can treat them like it.

You can even eat fruit, so long as you choose the lower-sugar ones and moderate your intake. Berries are perfect. Watermelon and cantaloupe are surprisingly low in sugar.

Incorporate seaweed into your life. Kelp in your soups, nori sheets as snacks. Great source of minerals like iodine.

Can you be a perfectly healthy whole-foods vegan keto dieter? Yes, but it takes a lot of planning. If you make a few concessions, include a few supplements, and accept that vegan purity is neither necessary nor desirable (particularly for keto eating), you can get very good results.

If you have any questions about any of this, don’t hesitate to ask down below in the comment section. I’ll do my best to address them in a later post.

Thanks for reading, everyone!

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

103 thoughts on “Low Carb Vegan: Is Plant-based Keto Possible?”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. This is so valuable! I gradually transitioned from vegan to paleo/primal, and then that just kind of turned in what I call borderline keto. Nothing tracked or measured. But this was a long, very gradual transition. Pastured eggs were the first thing I added. And I can honestly say that being vegan opened my eggs to some pretty amazing foods, like hemp seed, green drinks (I started out heavy on the fruit, now they are hardcore green) and coconut and red palm oil. It’s great to see there are so many vegan protein powders out now, but I know when I tried pea protein I broke out horribly.

  2. Hey Mark last weekend when I went to my local health food store I saw your picture on the cover of your quarterly magazine I somehow did not know existed, very cool!

  3. I have a question. How likely is it that you can do vegan and gluten free especially when traveling? I have celiac and I can hardly eat in a restaurant and I eat everything. I have to always ask a million questions in restaurants. Being healthy is important to me but I don’t want to do keto either. I like all Foods..

    1. Hi, Nancy. I’m also Celiac and ate vegan for years. (I’m doing the Autoimmune Protocol right now, so meat is not something I can refuse.) When you are contemplating restaurant eating, sometimes you just have to fall back on salads. You still need to explain Celiac so you don’t end up with a beautiful salad ruined by croutons. Another possibility is a big plate of grilled or steamed veggies. Yeah, I know, you get tired of going out and ordering salads, but it is better than staying home. I don’t understand why you are asking Mark this particular question, though. For Celiac questions, you should go to the Celiac Foundation or a Celiac site.

      1. Good idea Kathy! I’ll look into it on a Celiac site. I just was curious about Mark’s opinion on it. Being Vegan is a choice but I have to be Celiac so I don’t know if I can do both. It may make it extra hard.

    2. Hey Nancy, I’m gluten-free (allergic) and am mostly vegan (eat pastured eggs), formerly paleo/primal. It’s actually not that difficult IMO! Idk where you live, but here in Colorado there are plenty of options at every restaurant, even if it means sticking to veggies, as said by the other poster. I’m not keto (tried it when I ate animal products and did not like results at all), and I realize it would be much more difficult to do that along with veg and gluten-free. If you’re traveling, you can bring lots of snacks with you if need be, like nuts, olives, avocados, etc. Hope that helps!

  4. Thanks mark. I have chickens and try to buy locally and humanely raised meat. As a former vegan (been on keto for 5 years as I became pre diabetic), I still want more dining choices in this area. Will buy the cookbook that you reference. Again thanks.

    1. Humanely raised. First world problems. Whatever gave you the idea that animals needed to be treated like humans?

      1. Common decency Joshua? Humanely does not mean “like humans.” It means without excessive cruelty. They have nerves, they have brains, they suffer if treated cruelly. They are not inanimate objects that don’t suffer. This from a hunter/fisherman who kills for food. As humanely as possible.

      2. I hope you’re joking. The definition of “humane” is having or showing compassion. Even if you do not care at all how animals are treated, the effect of how they are mistreated impacts not only how the meat tastes, but how healthy it is to eat.

      3. There’s a difference between giving a chicken the right to vote and deciding things which have an emotional and rational life, no matter how limited, ought not to be used for food. (I am not a vegan, but I get it.)

        1. Sorry, auto correct ? I was asking @bamboosmith about them becoming pre-diabetic being a vegan. I would like to know their story.

  5. The world needs more vegan-minded people… they are some of the most caring, compassionate, principle centered people with a genuine desire to do good. Unfortunately, it’s a way of life that’s just not aligned with our evolutionary history, nor our modern day physiology.

    That said, if you’re gonna do it, please heed Mark’s advice. In addition to this supplement list, vegans will also need to “supplement” with legitimate vitamin A (as in retinol; not beta carotene). Many people believe that they can get enough of this from their fruits and veggies—simply put, they can’t! Fruits and vegetables are high in a family of phytonutrients called carotenoids (e.g. beta-carotene). Because of this, many people (and websites alike), believe that these foods provide vitamin A; however, they do not. The body must convert these compounds into vitamin A; but in humans, this process is inefficient and hardly takes place.

    1. Beautiful words regarding vegans, LK; and from my experience, you are absolutely right. Unfortunately vegans are not quite in line with my ideas for eating and nutrition either …. but I certainly respect their choices. Great post 🙂

    2. Thank you for these kind words! I find most paleo/primal types like to make fun of vegans (as I did when I was paleo/primal), but changing my diet and lifestyle to be vegan-centered has been an enlightening experience, and I honestly have the best health I’ve had (though I felt great on paleo/primal too). I think the veg and paleo camps have much more in common than they sometimes realize, and that we could all work well together.

    3. I am all for protecting animals, and hate the cruelty that goes on, however I am always mindful that virtue signallng is quite a different thing to genuine caring and compassion, something sadly I have seen a lot of. It is Ironic I guess that sociopaths are the masters of virtue signalling.

  6. Doesn’t sound ideal. For one thing, I doubt that a vegan on a keto diet would ever get enough to eat. Non-starchy veggies are healthful but have no satiating power. That has to come from animal protein and fat. Secondly, I doubt that a vegan-keto diet (an oxymoron, really) would be sustainable for very long, for the same reasons. Trying to survive on an extremely limited, calorie-deficient diet while trying to make up the deficit with a handful of supplements isn’t a healthy way to live.

    My suggestion, for whatever it’s worth, would be this: If you are doing well on a vegan/vegetarian diet, if you’re healthy, energetic, sleeping well, and all the rest, then stick with what works for you and forget about keto. On the other hand, if you’re overweight or otherwise unhealthy and really, REALLY want to try the keto diet, then you should commit 100 percent to doing it as it’s meant to be done, which means eating animal protein.

    1. Agree 100%. I feel like if you are choosing to go that restrictive – to the point that it really cannot be sustainably healthy – then there is probably something disordered going on.

    2. It’s entirely possible to manage. It’s a bit of a mental shift, the same way going keto in the first place is a mental shift. And you don’t need all the supplements Mark lists- a lot of them are nice but not necessary. You do need Calcium, which he missed, but which you can get from calcium fortified almond milk.

      Honestly, it was horrifically stressful the first few weeks trying to sort it out, but once I added in bivalves, tofu, and eggs, it turned into a nice, simple routine.

      Oh! Peanut powder. High protein, delicious.

      1. Then it’s not really a true vegan diet anymore, but close. When I was a vegan it was unheard of to consume eggs or bivalves, but whatever works and is something a person can live with physically and emotionally is great. I’m now doing a ketogenic diet, but may have to go even lower carb because of some seeming allergic reactions to some plant foods and I’ve had to cut out ALL dairy now. I hate having to give up the small amount of hard cheese I could tolerate before, but now my body is telling me it has to go, too. :/

  7. The movie/video The Magic Pill about Ketogenic diet has a moving and eloquent commentary by an ex-vegan. Worth hearing her anxiety and then revelations about the “perceived” ethical dilemmas and how she learned to truly embrace nature.

    1. Jolinda, thanks for the heads up. The parts with Lierre Keith and Joel Salatin were really outstanding. Never heard of this documentary.

    1. Mark mentioned adding eggs, which are great sources of Vit D, K2, and A. If I’m not mistaken tempeh (and natto? is that what it’s called?) are also great sources of various forms of Vit K, and they are usually vegan staples, so K should be covered nicely. I imagine oysters and bivalves would be the biggest concession to get past mentally, but if they accept the reasoning (immobile with no central nervous system, so not something that’s suffering or feeling pain), this seems like a solid nutritional plan.

  8. Vegetarianism is an intentional decision to be sub-optimal and agreeing to join in a daily struggle to get up to par on a sub-par diet. It is a religion not a diet.

    1. Yes. All you have to do is talk to Buddhist monks about this. Often they are aware they are making that choice to the possible determent of their health.

    2. Vegans do experience bone density issues, but also have vastly reduced levels of heart disease… So, there’s some science saying it’s a good idea. And humans are excellent at engineering our diets to suit ourselves. Are you saying we simply can’t figure out, given the vast resources at our disposal, a way to have both options nutrition and allow folks their ethical decision not to kill? The tradition of deciding against killing to live is fairly old and respectable…

    3. re·pet·i·tive

      containing or characterized by repetition, especially when unnecessary or tiresome.

  9. Anyone who is vegan would nsved do a keto diet. I’d like to see the inside of these ketos bodies in 10 years. Like the Atkins diet you will lose weight but that doesn’t show the whole picture. I’m sorry any diet that encourages you to eat bacon (a level one carcinogen) and butter is not a diet you should be falling. Another fad diet. You can be a healthy vegan without giving up your ethical beliefs and saving the planet.
    I do HIIT work ours times a week and have never been strong since becoming vegan. And my blood work was great according to my doctor. Only supplement I needed to add was vitamin D which the majority of meat and non meaters eat. Could any of you flesh eating people go inside a slaughterhouse and watch animals being beat and slaughtered while screaming…yes that is what happens in slaughterhouses. The cow don’t care if they were humanely raised if they are going to thr same slaughterhouse. Would you eat cats or dogs!??

    1. Although your comment needs considerable editing and is therefore hard to follow, I do get the point. No, I wouldn’t go to a slaughterhouse for all the reasons you list. No, I don’t eat cats and dogs. I don’t hunt either, although I have no problem with people who hunt for food. However, I think trophy hunting is about as low a form of entertainment as exists. I also draw the line at eating baby animals, and I don’t actually LIKE it that adult animals are killed so I can eat meat. I realize that you will see these things as half measures–which they admittedly are–but the reality is that I feel and function much better on a diet that includes animal protein. That isn’t something I can just blow off.

      1. Hello Shary,

        Is that really the reality? Have you tried a plant-based diet for at least 21 days? I tried it thinking I would shrivel up and die from not eating meat, something I grew up thinking was a necessity, and now almost 3 years later the only thing I regret is not trying it sooner.

        You can still practice keto as well, if you want.

        If your worried about eating babies (veal I imagine? That’s a product of the dairy industry by the way) you might want to consider that all the animals we consume are slaughtered waaay before their natural age.

        https://goo.gl/images/SJymzg <shows the average slaughter age of animals.

        If you can't hunt or visit the slaughter house yourself why are you comfortable paying someone to do it for you?

        1. As a matter of fact, yes, I have, Stephen. Didn’t work for me.

          1. Hey Shary,

            Happy you at least tried, most people who argue against a plant based diet have never even tried what they argue against.

            What didn’t work for you? The inconveniences? There is only like one medical condition that may require meat, multiple sclerosis, otherwise everything else comes from plants. All protein comes from plants, all of it.

            At first it can be difficult to eat enough, many become famished, have headaches and bowel issues the first weeks as your gut-flora (among other things) adjusts.
            The vegan diet is not just the Standard American diet minus meat and dairy, its it own food pyramid with all the necessary and all recommended nutrients you need (that many Americans are deficient in) – different studies say 40-90% of Americans are deficient in B12 so saying 77% vegans are is not surprising. The nutrients in a plant-based diet are more dense, they are more bioavailable and they come free of harmful side affects that meat and dairy cause.

            https://www.reddit.com/r/vegan/wiki/dieteticorgs All the major dietetics and health organizations in the world agree that vegan and vegetarian diets are just as healthy as omnivorous diets, example:

            Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
            •It is the position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that appropriately planned vegetarian, including vegan, diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits for the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. These diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, adolescence, older adulthood, and for athletes.

            Best wishes

    2. Cats and dogs are not bred and raised as food , Korea being a cultural exception. Slaughter operations are unpleasant. Especially porcine and cervid facilites. Pigs know what fate awaits them and deer don’t go down without a fight. Modern society benefits by being many levels removed from the task of sacrificing animals for survival. A task best left to professionals. Yes flesh eaters should be aware of and respect this process like our ancestors have for centuries. Implying flesh eaters eat pets is a pointless analogy especially when every animal lover I know and respect feeds their pets the best animal flesh money can buy.

      1. Hello Jack,

        You don’t know animal lovers, you know pet lovers.


        Being raised for something doesn’t make it right or justifiable. Look at slavery, Sea world, child labor, monkeys picking coconuts, or animal testing.

        It’s cultural learning what we see as food and what we don’t. https://youtu.be/ao2GL3NAWQU (this video explains Carnism.)

        Google the Yulin dog festival.

        Our ancestors didn’t forcibly bred, raise, and slaughter 65 billion, with a B, land animals (95 billion including sea life) every year. 95% of beef comes from factory farms. We aren’t respecting them or any process except our own greed (corporate greed and personal).

        These professional people you speak of include workers underpaid wearing diapers because they are limited breaks that suffer from PTSD due to their jobs involving slaughtering gentle animals. https://www.mercyforanimals.org/slaughterhouse-workers-have-ptsd-from-killing (this article explains it but feel free to Google for more psychological damage)

    3. I’m a former vegan who followed a perfect vegan diet and got very sick from it. Three of my friends did as well. There is NO one-size-fits-all way of eating. The problem with your argument is that you lump all meat eaters into a group and assume all of them don’t care about the sources of their proteins, or don’t care about animals in general. Some of us meat eaters purchase from local family farms owned by people who care for their animals quite compassionately throughout their entire lives. There is one local farmer I know who drives hundreds of miles to another state when it’s time for the animals to be slaughtered because he couldn’t find a compassionate enough slaughter facility nearby. Everything that lives will die eventually. Animals in the wild die horrible painful deaths every day, in many ways. The animals on my friend’s farm live good lives. Don’t assume all meat eaters hate animals or don’t care about them, or vegan eating is healthier than all other diets and good for everyone on the planet. Why do some vegans feel they have to disdain others, assume much, and never stop lecturing about their supposed superior way of eating? No one is stopping you from eating vegan. I admire your compassion for animals. And if you are inclined to open your mind to other points of view, perhaps read The Vegetarian Myth.

      1. Hello Suzan,

        About the Vegetarian Myth – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oMuxgAbHgJA is a good place to start regarding that piece of work (that cites Wikipedia 5 times).

        I am sorry to hear you and your 3 friends all became so sick trying a plant-based diet. Considering the likelihood that you all 4 actually have one of the very-few medical complications (like multiple sclerosis) with not getting meat I think it is more likely you’all we’re just not eating properly. The fact that all 4 of you got sick, very sick, makes it even more likely.

        At first it can be difficult to eat enough, many become famished, have headaches and bowel issues the first weeks as your gut-flora (among other things) adjusts.
        The vegan diet is not just the Standard American diet minus meat and dairy, its it own food pyramid with all the necessary and all recommended nutrients you need (that many Americans are deficient in) – different studies say 40-90% of Americans are deficient in B12 so saying 77% vegans are is not surprising. The nutrients in a plant-based diet are more dense, they are more bioavailable and they come free of harmful side affects that meat and dairy cause.

        https://www.reddit.com/r/vegan/wiki/dieteticorgs All the major dietetics and health organizations in the world agree that vegan and vegetarian diets are just as healthy as omnivorous diets, example:

        Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
        •It is the position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that appropriately planned vegetarian, including vegan, diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits for the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. These diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, adolescence, older adulthood, and for athletes.

        As for your friends farm, grass fed and local beef is not sustainable – there’s a reason crappy factory farms exist- they are efficient, use less resources, take less time and produce more product (while causing suffering obviously, but environmentally speaking they are better then grass-fed).
        Not everyone can live like you, most can’t, so it isn’t really something you can advocate. https://www.beefmagazine.com/agenda/what-s-more-sustainable-grain-fed-or-grass-fed-beef

        Veganism is a way of living that seeks to exclude, as far as possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing and any other purpose – it is not a diet.

        You can be a vegan on a keto diet or you can be a vegan that eats Oreos, Pringles and washes it down with vodka all day – all plant-based. Veganism is about animals, not yourself.

        The reason we have to “disdain others, assume much, and never stop lecturing about their supposed superior way of eating” is because animals are voiceless and someone needs to speak for the 65 billion land animals, 95 total animals including sea life, that are bred and slaughtered every year for an unnecessary practice. YouTube Earthings.

        1. The three friends I mentioned were all from different areas of the country, their illnesses happened at different times, and each one of them was very careful about their diet and ate the proper foods. (One was a nutritionist.) As for me, I’ve always been bit of a fanatic about nutrition, so yes, I researched it first, and then ate a nutritionally dense vegan diet, then I did vegetarian, then macrobiotic, after that traditional eating (Weston Price) and finally, Paleo, in an effort to improve my health. My health is the best it’s ever been since going Paleo. After thirty-five years of doing food/nutrition research, my conclusion is that there is no one-size-fits-all diet for every human on the planet. I do what works for me. You can do what works for you. You have your reasons and research, and I have mine. I won’t convince you that my way is right, and vice-versa. We’ll just have to agree to disagree on this matter, and move on. 🙂

          1. Hey Suzan,

            Not to be rude to you or your friend but Nutritionist doesn’t mean much, you should have consulted a Dietitian if you got ill from eating a healthy diet. Many states allow individuals to practice as nutritionists without any previous education, training or work experience. Registered dietitians are required to complete a formal education program that results in at least a baccalaureate degree. This program must be approved by the Dietetics’ Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) and include a practical component performed in a career-related site.

            I’m glad your health is the best it’s ever been but it doesn’t mean you can’t be just as healthy on plant based. I don’t think every major dietetics and health organizations in the world is wrong afterall. https://www.reddit.com/r/vegan/wiki/dieteticorgs

            You didn’t mention how you got ill, your symptoms or anything, but literally everything can be found in or comes directly from plants. Animal protein is not necessary today in 2018, we aren’t cavemen (again, unless you have multiple sclerosis in some cases).

            I ate meat and dairy for 30 years, you can try to convince me your way is right, I’ve changed before, but the evidence lead me the way I am. “What works best” for you is killing the planet, along with 65 billion land animals every year, and your suggestion to “move on” won’t fix that. Eat like you live here, we don’t all have our own private bubble planet to live on.



            Make sure your research isn’t funded by the same industry that sells the products, like the most recent egg study was. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tOFZZKVm4Oo

            You didn’t reply back about the Vegetarian Myth myth, did you watch the video? Thoughts?

          2. Instead of consulting a dietitian or a nutritionist, she should have consulted with some anonymous vegetarian zealot on the internet (*:eyeroll)

  10. I’ve been vegan keto for 2 years (vegan for 12) and I would love to help you better understand how vegans can go keto while staying healthy (and vegan!!!!)

  11. Thank you but some of us do not want to give up our vegan diet as you suggest. Some of us have strong convictions in ethics, environment, and house. I have followed a complete plant diet for 41 years and most of that has been as a cardiologist with amazing results. I am not adding animal products like eggs. Others don’t need to. There are already examples of vegan keto diet. Dr. David Jenkins has the eco-Atkins diet. Dr. Valter Longo has the fasting mimicking diet program, both do not add eggs or shellfish. Both have more peer reviewed data than animal keto diets. Dr Carrie Diulus does a great job teaching it without eggs or mussels Choline? Check your TMAO level and platelet clotting function.

    1. Joel,
      Both Paul Jaminet and Chris Masterjohn wrote extensive, detailed rebuttals to the idea that TMAO is an issue (both of whom seem quite knowledgeable and who pro-actively examine both side of an argument). I have an open mind and just want to be healthy so I would be interested if you can point to a point-by-point counter argument. Also, my understanding is that lack of choline is more likely to be an issue for most people than an excess of it. Thanks.

    2. Dr. Kahn I have just recently been introduced to your work and am very much enjoying it. For ethical and environmental reasons I changed my diet from years of paleo/primal to plant-based (I do still eat the occasional pastured egg). On the nutrition front, I have now become confused though, as I hear very conflicting information on both sides. I’m a pre-med student and hope to help my future patients as much as possible, and fully believe in the power of food to heal. I do not believe that any animal products from factory farms are healthful, though I’m not sure of the exact harm in eating occasional organic and pastured meat or eggs, or bivalves (though I do not eat any meat/bivalves whatsoever anymore). I’d be curious on your take of the grass-fed vs factory-farmed meats, just for general knowledge, though I know I can’t ever ethically go back to eating any kind of meat or dairy.
      Thank you for all that you do! I’m a fan of both you and Mark.

  12. I know soy gets a bad rap, but that’s mostly baseless. Incorporating tofy and tempeh into your vegan keto routine can help.

    Nutritional yeast is a b- vitamin supplement full of protein which is *delicious* and goes on everything.

    I don’t do gluten, but lots of wheat gluten stuff is out there, high protein sub for meat.

    Calcium supplementation is also important –
    a bit of almond milk daily with added calcium usually gives you enough.

  13. What not everyone knows is that chickens will cannibalize their own eggs. This is an important practice that returns vital nutrients to their system lost with egg production. Making an egg is a serious endeavor involving an extreme loss of calcium and pressure on the hen’s body.

    This is part of why hens in the egg industry die so early. In addition, taking a hens egg away sends the signal to her body to make a replacement. So the more eggs we take away the more she’ll produce, thus continually depleting her body.

    Today chickens are bred to lay 250 eggs a year when their wild counterparts lay 12. This isn’t healthy or fun for them, they are prone to health disorders that are extremely painful and deadly.

    Half of all chicks born are male. If you have your own hens who you love and care for, they had brothers. When you bought the females, built into the price was literally a disposal fee for the males. And again, this isn’t just a factory farm issue – anyone who purchases hens pays for culling the males.

    As for B12, it is not just a vegan concern. If you are over age 50, the Institute of Medicine recommends that you get extra B12 from a supplement, since you may not be able to absorb enough of the vitamin through foods. A standard multivitamin should do the trick. A standard multivitamin delivers 6 micrograms, more than enough to cover the average body’s daily need.

    You can easily be vegan and follow keto, if you want.

    1. Thank you Stephan! Great info and you r educating us. I’m a vegetarian and waffle back n forth on eggs… now after reading this I’m giving them up…

      1. Hello Carole,

        I am absolutely excited that you found this information and made that decision! There are alternatives today for eating (the Vegan egg https://followyourheart.com/veganegg/), or baking (apple sauce, bananas, aqua faba, egg replacers) that you do not need to contribute to animal agriculture. If you interested in keto it is still entirely possible, as this article discusses (somewhat).

        There are protein-rich foods that are not animal-based, as all protein comes from plants. I’ll repeat that – ALL protein comes from plants. Eating animals is just eating recycled protein condensed – it helped us evolve sure, but most of us live within 5 miles of 3 grocery stores stocked full of shelves of veggies year-round.

        Chickens purr like cats when petted but are possibly the most abused animal on the planet. How their flesh and reproductive products taste is not a justification for that. A desperation to eat their eggs without consideration of how it affects them is perversion.

        Best wishes, thank you for any reduction you accomplish.

    2. Chickens are omnivores. They will often eat their own eggs, shell included. They will also eat meat (even chicken!) if offered. Responsible chicken owners will offer them oyster shell to give them back the calcium they have lost through egg production, or will crush eggshells to feed back. As you note, today’s hens are bred to lay more eggs (as cows are bred to produce more milk). For such hens, laying more eggs is not necessarily a hardship, provided that they are given the building blocks needed to produce those eggs, and remain healthy. Just as we humans need the building blocks to remain healthy. My little flock of hens helps provide those building blocks for me and my family, and I do what I can to assure that they are also provided what they need.

      1. Hello Una,

        You are correct, chickens are omnivores – and yes, the shell is the best part (for the chicken) – many owners make “scrambled” eggs with the shell included to give back to their rescued battery chickens. Note I said rescued battery chickens, not hens bought specifically to lay eggs.

        Humans are also omnivores, we can eat eggs and dairy, but we do not require it. While having “a little flock” of hens is nice, it does not mean you need to exploit them, although you will hear a lot of anecdotes about individual hens that keep pumping out eggs until they are 5 or 6 years old, the general consensus is that 3 years old is usually the beginning of the end for consistent egg laying. You can call it Henopause.

        A well-kept backyard hen, protected from hawks, raccoons and Fido, can easily live to be 8 or 10 years old, and ages of twice that are not unheard of. But how many people actually continue to feed the animal after it stops producing eggs? Just because you might does not mean it is sustainable or possible for the entire world, so is not an answer.

        If a chicken starts laying at 6 months old and has essentially stopped laying by 4 years old, and lives naturally to be 8, a backyard chicken keeper is looking at 3.5 years of egg production time, and 4.5 years of Pets Without Benefits time. That’d be 351 pounds of feed going to a hen that isn’t making eggs!

        Current, local prices for the layer rations fed to hens is $28 per 40 pound bag, or $.70 a pound. At those prices, it costs $245.70 to maintain a hen into theoretical old age and natural demise while you aren’t getting any eggs. You have a whole flock – how many die of old age?

        Also remember again that for every female hen you have, a male useless non-egg laying chick was culled. If you didn’t do it, the person you bought your egg-laying hen from did.

        A single egg contains as much dietary cholesterol as an 8oz steak. Your body produces all the cholesterol it needs on it’s own, a plant-based vegan diet consists of absolutely zero dietary cholesterol at all.


        Only one way of eating has ever been proven to reverse heart disease in the majority of patients: a diet centered around whole plant foods. Plant-based diet intervention groups have reported greater diet satisfaction than control groups, as well as improved digestion, increased energy, and better sleep, and significant improvement in their physical functioning, general health, vitality, and mental health. Studies have shown plant-based eating can improve not only body weight, blood sugar levels, and ability to control cholesterol, but also emotional states, including depression, anxiety, fatigue, sense of well-being, and daily functioning.

        1. My oldest Buff Orpington hen lived to be 12 years old. She laid an egg almost every day except in the coldest winter months (when most hens stop laying). She was killed by a fox, so nature had its way in the long run. And yes, my hens are kept until they die of natural causes. During the summer, no feed is necessary if pastured. They forage for insects primarily and will eat a few plants and seeds along the way. What you are also missing in your post is that cholesterol is not associated with heart disease any longer (please read recent studies). We are omnivores and yes, we do require eating that way to be healthy. You can choose to be vegan, but do not propose that you or anyone else can be healthier because of it. Some vegans are healthier than those that eat the typical SAD, but compared to omnivorous whole food eaters, I highly doubt it. There is no evidence beyond the tiny biased studies done by vegan researchers to show your point, but there is substantial evidence to show the opposite.

          1. Hello LBD,

            I am very happy to hear that your chickens live a full life, even if killed by natural causes like predators. Hopefully they have protection from this fox now!

            I’m not going to get into the health issue (https://www.reddit.com/r/vegan/wiki/dieteticorgs if you want to), veganism is a way of living without exploiting animals – it is not a diet. My last statement was about whole-food plant-based diets, vegans can be fat and eat Oreos all day and wash it down with vodka. Or vegans can be on a keto diet, if you want.

            Your situation sounds amazing – but unfortunately it is rare and uncommon.
            For most people that live in a city or suburb, you have a big problem: chicken quotas. Your non-laying hens are taking up your legal urban chicken quota which could be filled with younger, laying hens, and you are stuck. Don’t even mention roosters, who’d want those. You can’t just keep adding to your flock indefinitely when you live on 1/12th of an acre in Seattle. So now you are a Backyard Chicken Keeper without any Backyard Eggs.

            Let’s discuss where nearly all chicks are born: in hatcheries. When people buy chicks (not saying you are), they are directly and financially supporting hatcheries who are responsible for a whole host of staggeringly cruel practices. Their most egregious offense is the maceration (grinding up alive) and suffocation of billions of baby male chicks — 6 billion globally every year. Even if your buying local when you bought the females, built into the price was literally a disposal fee for the males.

            Chickens bred for egg laying lay their entire body weight in eggs every 24 to 30 days (during prime laying period). The weight of each egg, in proportion to the weight of the hen, is comparable to the weight of a human newborn, and anyone who has observed a hen straining and pushing to lay an egg for hours (I assume you have @LBD) can easily liken this to a human mother going through labor. The fact is that these birds are irreparably harmed by the selective breeding that has forced them to lay an unnatural and unhealthy number of eggs, 250 to 300, resulting in a host of painful and life-threatening reproductive diseases and premature death.

            The reason we perceive only chicken eggs as edible, and don’t insist on collecting the eggs of other species, is cultural conditioning. Breeding hens into existence in order to control their bodies and take the eggs that belong to them has become a socially acceptable practice. What it comes down to is whether we want to benefit from the results of their exploitation any longer.

            Again I applaud your situation and wish it could be the norm, but we have an expanding population with shrinking resources and something that isn’t possible for many, or most, isn’t something to advocate.

    3. So for a hobby farmer who cares about the animals in their own right, leaving *some* of the eggs should be an easy solution, yes? And the information from Una also suggests that this isn’t by any means a deal-breaker and chickens can be raised to provide eggs while still being healthy and stress-free.

      1. Hi JTB,


        That article will perhaps summarize better if your interested.

        Diseases such as Histoplasmosis, salmonella, farmer’s lung, bird flu and staph infections are all associated with being around chickens, risks to humans also.

        While the female egg laying hens may be able to enjoy a reasonable life, remember that for every egg-laying hen you see another male chick was culled.

        The real question isn’t, “what’s wrong with cage-free eggs?”, it’s “can I live a happy, healthy life without eggs?”. What it comes down to is whether we want to benefit from the results of their exploitation any longer.

        1. I suppose the sticking point then is whether or not owning them and essentially keeping them as pets can be considered exploitation. At this point, I’m not yet persuaded that it does. That could change in the future; my views on many subjects have changed over the years but for now, I’ve noticed enough benefits from adding egg yolks (the most important being significant mental health benefits) that I’m not inclined to stop eating them as long as they can be obtained from a humane source.

          As for salmonella and other diseases, I recall people getting sick from contaminated lettuce some years back. All foods have risk. The risk associated with chickens/eggs seems as low as the risk associated with eating vegetables. I don’t take this (consuming animal products) lightly, though, and I do carefully source most of my food. Thanks for your response.

  14. Mark, some bivalves do swim, and some have eyes. Some are capable of producing an electric shock. These are surprisingly complex animals that definitely have a nervous system.

  15. Thanks so much Mark!

    I’m vegan & keto so this has been a great read.

    Just a quick question, what do you think of Sacha Inchi powder as a protein source?


    1. I’ve encountered overweight vegans and with the heavy carb intake, I’m sure they’re as at-risk for type 2 diabetes as anyone else. Keto is a good method for resolving both issues. And, honestly, I know some people go keto permanently but I doubt that’s necessary (and maybe not even beneficial) for most people. Having the option to go keto from time to time is hugely beneficial, though.

  16. Hi Mark, I’m Peter. I wish you well and respect your work. This is a great resource and I’m grateful for the thought you have put into merging two healthy diets that have recently become fads (and therefore are worth discussing in public). From a few years experience of going in and out of a combined vegan/keto diet for performance, you have covered most of your bases. I recommend you add a few basic grocery items to the list, and a general explanation of how macronutrient ratios work and the relevance of a cyclic ketogenic diet which incorporates carbs usually around dinnertime up to 100 g. Cyclic keto has shown to help maintain hormone levels in specific groups that may benefit from ketosis such as those with autoimmune conditions. As a variation of cyclic keto, you can be standard beans+rice vegan by intermittent fasting 16+ hours a day. In addition, the whole point of the keto diet is to mimick the fasting state of autophagy, where you reap the benefits of cellular upcycling – simply put, by fasting you enter ketosis no matter what. A few notes on whole food vegan high-protein, low-carb ingredients to add, chia seeds (3g/tbsp) (nutritionally similar to hemp seeds), nutritional yeast (4g/tbsp) and spirulina (6g/tbsp) all are ridiculously high in protein, and dark leafy vegetables like spinach and kale provide a supplemental amount of protein (4-5g/cup). Personally, I feel like your supplement recommendations are more than necessary, B12 is the only essential nutrient on the list which you can get from moringa/spirulina. Jack LaLanne, fitness legend, is famous for having eaten 5 cups of raw vegetables every day for over 50 years. Anecdotally, horses, bulls and gorillas are prime examples of muscled “vegan” animals (though not keto) – they all eat leaves. One bonus drink to help digest (all that keto fat or whatever you decide to ingest) is hot ginger tea with lemon. If you like this information and would like to collaborate, I am building a community @Neurogood and welcome your advice. Thank you Mark for your time (and savor those carbs in your Apple), Peter Fettis

    1. Hi Peter
      That’s exactly what I’m doing, by incorporating beans, tofu and tempeh while being on a vegan ketogenic diet. Please keep me posted about your blog. And for all the paleo people out there, I totally respect your decision about your diet, you should take a glimpse of a new movie that’s coming out called “The Game Changers”.
      In best health


  17. Quite a nice blog. Full of information regarding keto and vegan diets. After reading this one can easily understand what should eat and why. Keto diet are very beneficial because it supports a healthy and active lifestyle and provide efficient amount of energy to our body to sustain long periods of activity. By following this diet one can easily be fit and healthy.

  18. Really appreciate how open minded you are Mark.

    As a vegan for religious reasons whose interested in optimising my health I always feel welcome on your site.

    Is there much added benefit to fermented/sprouted vegan protein powders?

    Also as the poster above mentioned, what about Sacha Inchi Protein?


  19. I LOVE that you mentionned the bivalves. I have been telling vegans for years that clams are just the same as carrots. They sit in the ground, waiting to be pulled out and eaten.

  20. The link for b12 links to a cyanocobalamin product, this is not a good one.

  21. The link for b12 links to a cyanocobalamin product. This is not a good one. Should be methylcobalamin, the sublingual aspect is good though.

  22. “The Hadza also eat thousands of calories of wild honey each day when it’s available. You lining up to do that, too?”
    Yes, please!

  23. I’m glad to see you talking about vegan keto options. Even thought I do not follow or promote it, it’s nice for those interested to have a source to refer to. Also, B12 is crucial (another great point you make). I actually just wrote an article related to B12 that those interested might find helpful on my website plantbasedscotty.com. I modeled my website after yours Mark!

  24. You sound sadistic and wtf why no FLAX or imagination.. too old?

  25. No need for Vegans to go keto, as stacked up against the myriad of other health issues they will/have developed it would be a lower priority.

  26. Thank you very much for this article. I am really happy I found your website, it changed my life. Just thought you’d like to know :p

      1. I clicked on the egg/cvd relationship study. Their final conclusion states one can safely consume up to 7 eggs per week. I eat 2-3 per day. Do I need to worry or cut back?

        1. I would both worry and cut back, yes.

          Salmonella concerns aside, experts suggest that eating even one egg a day may exceed the safe upper limit for cholesterol intake in terms of cardiovascular disease risk. Dietary cholesterol may also contribute to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, and cholesterol consumption was found to be a strong predictor of cirrhosis and liver cancer.

          Compared with men who rarely eat eggs, men eating even less than one egg a day appear to have twice the risk of prostate cancer progression. And, men who consume two and a half or more eggs per week—basically an egg every three days—may have an 81 percent increased risk of dying from prostate cancer.


          You can do keto without eggs, or meat and dairy, just fine, if you want.

        2. Hey Peter,

          I forgot to mention, the study you clicked and asked about eggs, you may not have seen this if you just read the abstract:

          “NRWG and AA initiated the review. The literature search was performed by NRWG, reviewed and discussed by all authors. All authors contributed to the content and NRWG collected the individual contributions and drafted the manuscript; all authors critically reviewed and endorsed the final manuscript.

          The work of NRWG has been funded by the Danish Egg Association.”

          Conflict of interest? The Egg association is saying eggs are ok. Remember when big tobacco funded tobacco research?

  27. Almost vegan here (I eat oysters)

    A vegan keto + oyster diet has been fantastic for my health. I have a severe autoimmune disease and find the low acid nature of a vegan keto with lots of veg is very healing.

    Thanks for the post, & I would certainly encourage vegans to consider the oyster as a food source, it’s a very sustainable product especially if farmed with care.

    Would love an article delving deeper into this mighty bivalve to sway those vegans considering it even more.

    The ethical and nutritional value are incredible.

  28. This is a great article, some really good tips that I will send to my vegetarian partner. Thankfully he eats plenty of pastured eggs and organic cheese, and has made concessions to supplement with fish oil and fish collagen, but those supplement ideas are really handy!

  29. Seems a bit strange way to answer.

    NO a vegan cannot stay Vegan if he wants to do Keto may be closer to your answer as Vegans do not want to eat meat so your assertion that they can go Keto and would have to eat meat is a contradiction.

  30. What a cool post. It briefly describes how a vegan man can follow the Keto diets. I think that after reading this post no one should have any doubt about the question can a vegan go Keto?

  31. I just watched a documentary on Netflix called Game Changer. World-class athletes that have gone vegan with their diet. After watching it makes you want to go Vegan which contradicts the Keto diet. have you seen the documentary and what are your thoughts?

  32. Hi mark what about tofu on a keto vegan diet? The organic one I buy is 8 percent fat with less than one carb per hundred gram

  33. My daughter became a vegetarian at 16. Although she never excluded eggs or cheese. At 25 she added shellfish/shrimp to her diet. She’s found a happy road for her – healthy and no flesh animal (as she calls it). A transition over time. It’s way too many carbs for me, but everyone should do what works for them, trying different things as she did.

  34. Hi Mark, I’m interested in a keto plan applicable to a strict vegan diet. Do you have such a plan? Thank you