I recently was listening to an interview with Dr. Toni Bark, from the Center of Disease Prevention, talking about the ketogenic diet. I had already briefly considered this diet as an option to pursue optimal health, but I had put the idea aside because it doesn’t seem sustainable long term, some claim that it’s dangerous (the Paleo Mom does a great job at providing a balanced view of the risks vs benefits of the ketogenic diet here) and I have come to believe that limiting animal products is also important for maintaining optimal health. But in the interview, Dr. Bark mentioned a few things that made me reconsider :
1- The brain functions better on ketones, which explains why this diet has been used to treat brain disorders (like autism and epilepsy). It is interesting to note that the ketogenic diet is meant to emulate a state of starvation. It originated from the discovery that fasting, which changes the body’s metabolic state, reduces and even cures epileptic seizures. This state can be replicated with a very low carbohydrate intake.
2- Inflammatory markers dissipate when a person is in ketosis (Dr. Bark personally measured it on her patients).
3- Most interesting of all, she puts her cancer patients on a plant-based ketogenic diet. I had never heard of anyone doing this before and I wanted to learn more about it. Here are the fats she promotes: coconut oil, MCT oil, hemp oil, fish oil, oil ice oil, flax oil, krill oil, hemp hearts and chia seeds. She encourages the consumption of avocados, seeds and nuts to maintain ketosis.
Now, I would like to dwell longer on the plant-based ketogenic diet. As a reminder, the ketogenic diet is high fat (70% of your daily calorie intake), moderate protein (25%) and low carb (5%). After 2 or 3 days of eating less than 20g of carbs, most people enter ketosis.
I already mentioned the fats that can be used in a ketogenic plant based diet, but what about proteins? Think nuts and seeds! You might want to activate your nuts and seeds by soaking them for a few hours before consuming them, please read this on the topic. Also, people underestimate the amount of proteins found in vegetables. Still, it would be very difficult to get enough fat and proteins without increasing slightly the amount of carbs and, although it might slow down weight loss and take longer to enter ketosis, it is advisable to increase your net carb intake to 30-40g. Clean vegan protein powders (like SunWarrior and Garden of Life RAW) will provide more proteins and green powders will be helpful to ensure enough greens in your diet (since greens will have to be temporarily reduced to attain ketosis).
I think I might give it a try, and use this page for inspiration on meal ideas. I also found a great little ebook here, but although it is a great starting point for my meal plan, it doesn’t include the macronutrients ratio for each recipe. It claims to offer a vegan keto meal plan, but the daily carb amount provided doesn’t seem reliable. For example, on day 1, the plan says 34g of carbs for the day, but my calculations dictate otherwise. Breakfast has 20g of carbs, 37g of fat and 32g of proteins. Lunch has 14g of carbs, 13g of proteins and 22g of fat. Dinner has 12g of carbs, 5g of proteins and 4g of fat. Great low carb meal plan, but not quite keto! Still a helpful starting point!