Which is the More Popular Vegan vs. Keto?
Between vegan and keto, which eating plan will work best for your weight loss goals? This is a question that plagues most people who are looking for a new meal plan to help them shed a couple of extra pounds. The keto diet and veganism are among the most popular eating plans today. They have been praised by thousands of people who all claim to have seen drastic changes to their weight loss, weight maintenance, and overall health. With such great reviews on each meal plan, it can be quite daunting to choose between the two. To help you make an educated decision, in this article, we are going to look into keto vs. vegan health benefits, weight loss results, longevity, and determine which is healthier one of the two.
It is hard to say which between vegan vs. keto is more popular. These two eating plans have been around for so many years, and each has its own set of followers who claim that it is the best meal plan that they have ever tried. Irrespective of this tug of war between the vegan and keto diet, it is important to note that there is no specific diet that guarantees weight loss.
The secret to weight loss lies in multiple different factors which include, but are not limited to, a healthier change in dietary habits, doing cardio exercises, portion control, lifting weights/strength training, drinking more water, counting your calories, and consistency in your weight loss journey (1).
Vegan Diet vs. Keto Diet: What is the Difference?
Vegan vs. keto: to best determine which of these two eating plans would be best for you, first, you must understand the definitions of each and what foods you can and cannot consume on either diet.
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What is a Vegan Eating Plan?
A vegan diet is part of a veganism lifestyle, which is a philosophy and way of living that seeks to exclude, as much as possible, all forms of exploitation and cruelty to animals for food, clothing, or any other purposes. In line with the above reasoning, a vegan diet is a plant-based diet that excludes all animal products, including meat, dairy, and eggs (9). People who follow a vegan lifestyle and/or diet do it for:
1. Ethical reasons – They are against the inhumane killing of animals for food or clothing as well as the use of animals in labs for product testing.
2. Environmental reasons – According to PETA, the production and processing of animal products contribute majorly to climate change. The processing of animals and animal products leads to the emission of greenhouse gases such as carbon monoxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. These three gases are to blame for the majority of climate change effects that the world is currently going through (13).
3. Health reasons – A vegan eating plan can be highly nutritious, can reduce the risk of chronic diseases, and aid in weight loss.
What Foods do Vegans Avoid?
There are over seven variations of the vegan eating plan, but as stated above, they all involve the avoidance of the consumption of all animal products. The foods that vegans avoid include (28):
- Meat – This includes beef, pork, lamb, veal, as well as poultry meat from chicken, duck, turkey, and quail, among others.
- Fish and other seafood – This includes salmon, tuna, lobster, shrimp, tilapia, crab, and mackerel, etc.
- Dairy – This includes milk, yogurt, cheese, butter, cream, ice cream, etc.
- Eggs – This is not just from chicken, but also all other birds like turkeys, ducks, and quails.
- Honey and other bee products
- All other animal-based products – Such as whey, casein, lactose, egg white albumen, gelatin, cochineal or carmine, isinglass, shellac, L-cysteine, animal-derived vitamin D3, and fish-derived omega-3 fatty acids
What Foods Can Vegans Eat?
As stated above, vegans live on a plant-based diet. This means that their everyday meals include fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds and nut butter, legumes and lentils, plant-based milk and yogurt (preferably fortified with calcium), whole-wheat and whole grains, sprouted and fermented plant foods, tofu, tempeh, and seitan, among others.
What is a Ketogenic Meal Plan?
Unlike the vegan diet that avoids animal proteins, the keto diet does no such thing. The standard ketogenic eating plan is a high-fat, adequate-protein, and very low-carbohydrate eating plan. It involves drastically reducing your carb intake while increasing your fats to replace the said carbohydrates.
Other than the standard keto diet that we have all heard about, there are six more variations of it that differ slightly- in one way or another – from the original. Such examples include (30):
1. Very-low-carb-keto (VLCKD)
This is not a variation, but rather a different name for the original keto eating plan. All keto diets are very low in carbohydrates.
2. Well Formulated Ketogenic Diet (WFKD)
This variation was created by Steve Phinney. Followers of this variation must have their fats, carbs, and proteins calculated to the letter to ensure that they are ingesting the right number of macros to help them reach ketosis easily.
3. MCT Ketogenic Diet
The MCT variation relies on the use of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) to provide much of the fat content required for the diet. These MCTs are found in coconut oil and are available as MCT oil and MCT emulsion liquids.
4. Calorie Restricted Ketogenic Diet
As the name suggests, on this version, you will follow the recommended standard keto diet, however, you will be required to eat fewer calories than you usually do.
5. Cyclical Ketogenic Diet (CKD)
It is also known as carb-loading keto and is intended to be used by athletes and bodybuilders to help them replenish their glycogen levels. It involves consuming a normal keto diet on 5 days of the week and eating more carbs on the other 2 days.
6. Targeted Ketogenic Diet (TKD)
Unlike the standard keto diet, anyone following the TKD only consumes carbs around workout times or on the days when they exercise.
7. High Protein Keto Diet (HPKD)
The standard keto diet typically contains 70% to 75% fat, 20% protein, and about 5% to 10% carbohydrates. On the other hand, an HPKD involves 35% protein, 60% fat, and 5% carbohydrates.
What Foods Should You Avoid on a Keto Diet?
As stated, keto is a very-low-carb diet, which means that foods high in carbohydrates should be avoided. It includes legumes and lentils, drinks with added sugar, starchy vegetables, all fruit except berries, sugar-free and low-fat products, unhealthy fats, and some condiments (25).
Foods that are allowed in the keto diet include red meat and poultry, cheese, avocados, butter and cream, nuts and seeds, healthy oils, leafy greens, and other low-carb veggies, eggs, and oily, fatty fish (2).
Vegan vs. Keto: What is Healthier?
When it comes to keto vs. vegan health benefits, both eating plans have been praised for offering impressive changes to people’s health. However, does one diet offer more changes than the other? Between vegan and keto, which one has more advantages and fewer disadvantages? Below is a comparison between these two popular weight-loss diets.
Apart from weight loss, one of the most important factors of a diet is how it affects your heart and its ability to function. So in vegan vs. keto, which is healthier for your heart? When it comes to how the keto diet affects your heart, the research is quite sparse, and what is available has been termed as controversial.
While some say that the keto diet can reduce cardiovascular diseases risk factors like body fat, HDL cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and blood sugar (25), others believe that the ketogenic eating plan may, in the long run, put you at an even higher risk of these illnesses (18). So what do clinical trials and study say about the keto diet and heart health? The results from both animals and humans remain divided (12).
In some cases, in human beings, this eating plan has led to a reduction in total cholesterol increase in HDL cholesterol levels, a decrease in triglycerides levels, and LDL cholesterol levels – all great factors for your heart health. On the other hand, some studies recorded a positive reduction of LDL cholesterol levels in just 3 months to a year, while others only showed a significant increase in bad cholesterol levels in the body (12). It is possible that the type of fat predominantly consumed while on a keto diet may make a difference in terms of heart health, but more research is needed to fully understand these effects.
How Does the Vegan Diet Affect Your Heart?
Unlike keto that has conflicting results on its effects on the heart and its health, veganism and other plant-based diets have all received great reviews on the matter. A study conducted from 1987 to 2016 revealed that people who eat a more plant-based diet have a 16% lower risk of cardiovascular disease and are 31%-32% less likely to die from cardiovascular disease (21). Since a vegan diet avoids animal foods, fruit juices, refined grains, and dairies, it significantly lowers your risk for heart disease (26).
Lower the risk of cancer
The vegan vs. keto debate agrees on the fact that both diets may reduce the risk of cancer in human beings.
A systematic review published in 2017 revealed that while eating a vegetarian eating plan may reduce your risk of cancer by 8%, eating a vegan diet offers even more protection by reducing this risk by 15% (32). This has been linked to the fact that vegans do not consume animal products, including fish, dairy, or eggs (14).
On the other hand, a calorically restricted ketogenic eating plan is currently being used to treat brain cancer and slow tumor growth (23). It is believed that its ability to regulate blood sugar levels induces metabolic oxidative stress in cancer cells, which could help make the cells more sensitive to treatments like chemotherapy and radiation (15).
In the battle between vegan vs. keto for brain health benefits, the keto diet seems to give better results than veganism does.
Epilepsy is a neurological disorder in which brain activity becomes abnormal, causing seizures or periods of unusual behavior, sensations, and sometimes loss of awareness. The keto diet has long been used to treat epilepsy in children (24), and it can also be used for adults. The eating plan helps reduce the number or severity of seizures and may have other positive effects (16).
As for the vegan diet, vegans have been warned that this eating plan could lead to nutrient deficiencies, which may lead to several psychiatric disorders (27).
Lower the risk of type 2 diabetes
Again, on the vegan vs. keto tug of war, both eating plans tie on their benefits against type 2 diabetes. A review published in 2019 revealed that veganism can lower the risk of type 2 diabetes. This was linked to eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and legumes (6).
A comparative study done in 2005 showed that the keto diet improved insulin sensitivity by up to 75% in a small group of obese patients with type 2 diabetes (11). Another study done in 2005 on the ketogenic diet in overweight patients with type 2 diabetes revealed that 7 out of 21 study participants stopped using all diabetes medications (5).
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Vegan vs. Keto Weight Loss: How Does Each Diet Affect Your Weight Loss?
In this section of vegan vs. keto, we are going to look into how each eating plan works for weight loss, how good they are, and how much weight you can lose on either diet.
How Does the Keto Diet Work for Weight Loss?
Eating a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet forces your body into using fat as fuel for your body. Ordinarily, the body uses blood sugar, a.k.a. blood glucose that comes from carbohydrates such as grains, legumes, vegetables, and fruits, which it uses as fuel (22). Without carbs, the body turns to the process known as ketosis (19), where the body burns the fat that is then turned to ketones (fuel produced from the liver), which gives the body energy. This is what leads to weight loss on a keto diet.
How Good is the Vegan Diet for Weight Loss?
Like the ketogenic diet, eating on a vegan meal plan can lead to weight loss. A controlled trial published in 2015 compared the weight loss results in vegan, vegetarian, semi-vegetarian, and omnivorous diets. After 6 months, the results showed all those who ate on a vegan diet lost the most amount of weight (8). It is suspected that the vegan diet leads to weight loss because it reduces the high number of calories you normally consume and provides you with high-fiber alternatives that are low in calories and keep you fuller longer (7).
Vegan vs. Keto: How Much Weight Can You Lose on either Diet?
As we stated in the beginning, weight loss does not solely rely on dieting alone, and since everyone’s weight, height, genetic makeup, and environmental factors are different, it can be hard to determine the exact amount of weight you can lose on either diet.
Despite all this, you can be assured that you can lose weight on either the vegan (3) or keto diet (4). However, remember that gradual weight loss of 1 to 2 pounds a week is recommended rather than the rapid weight loss that many of us desire (20). Please note that while the keto diet does lead to weight loss, the process tends to only last for 6 months to a year before it plateaus (12).
Vegan vs. Keto: Longevity; Which One Can You Do Long-term?
While the keto diet has multiple health benefits relating to weight loss, epilepsy, controlling blood sugar, and others, it is not recommended as a long-term diet. This is because a ketogenic diet leads to high consumption of red meat and other fatty, processed, and salty foods that are notoriously unhealthy. Also, research on the long-term effects of this diet has not been fully explored, thus it is better not to risk it.
As for the vegan diet, this eating plan and other plant-based diets are generally considered to be good long-term eating plans. Some even claim that men and women who eat more plant-based foods live 9.5 and 6.1 years longer, respectively, compared to anyone who eats meat (10). However, veganism is not a perfect diet either, as it can lead to nutritional deficiencies of vitamin B12, calcium, iron, and zinc (31).
The Bottom Line: Vegan vs. Keto Diet, Which One Should You Choose?
As we have seen above, neither of these two diets can be considered as the ultimate best eating plan for weight loss, longevity, or health benefits. For all their advantages, they also come with some disadvantages that can lead to illness and even death. We suggest that you, instead, try a well-balanced calorie deficit diet. Not only will a well-balanced meal plan provide your body with the above-mentioned health benefits, but it will also provide your body with all the nutrients that it needs, thus preventing you from falling ill.
However, if you are insistent on trying either one of these diets, please first consult your doctor or dietitian before attempting. They will help you make an informed decision on the best diet for you and can help prevent any nutritional deficiencies and other problems with each eating plan.
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This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any medical conditions. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
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