Vegan vs Keto: Which One Is Best For You

Vegan vs Keto: two opposites eating styles claiming to be the solution for weight loss and health. Can science determine if one diet is better than the other? Is one better for you? Keep reading to find the answer.

What is the Vegan Diet?

Vegan bowl
Vegan bowl

The vegan diet is a type of plant-based eating pattern consisting of plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. The diet excludes all animal sources of proteins such as meat and dairy.

This eating style became very popular after several studies in the twenty-first century demonstrated the health benefits of following a diet mainly composed of plant-based foods.

As a result, veganism has become one of the top trends in the past few years, and delicious vegan foods are easily accessible in supermarkets, restaurants, and even coffee shops. 

Position Statement of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

Appropriately planned vegetarian, including vegan, diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. These diets are appropriate for all life cycle stages, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, adolescence, older adulthood, and athletes. (1)”

Like the Academy, many reputable health professionals support this eating style.

What is the Difference Between Vegan, Vegetarian, and Plant-Based?

A plant-based, plant-forward, or vegetarian diet focuses on eating primarily foods from plants, including vegetables, nuts, seeds, oil, whole grains, legumes, and beans. People following a plant-based, may or may not eat animal products (2), but they will mostly eat plant-based foods.

Types of Plant-based Diets


People following this type of plant-based eating exclude all animal products, including beef, veal, fish, shellfish, eggs, milk, dairy products. Foods made with any of the mentioned items are also excluded; for example, vegans don’t eat cupcakes unless they are made without eggs and milk. 

More than any other type of vegetarians, vegans need to carefully plan their diets to ensure the consumption of all essential nutrients.

Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian

Sometimes referred simply as vegetarians, lacto-ovo vegetarians eat mostly plant foods but incorporate eggs, milk, and other dairy products.  As a result, the diet is easier to follow and less likely to lack essential nutrients.


Beyond plant foods, pescatarians eat fish. Pescatarians may or may not eat eggs and milk.


This diet Includes eggs, dairy products, and occasionally meat, poultry, fish, and seafood. Overall, flexitarians focus on eating plant-based foods, but the foods mentioned above are still part of their diet.

Is One Type of Plant-Based Diet Better Than the Other

Healthwise, the research points to the benefits of eating plant-based rather than one specific type of plant-based food. However, based on the restrictions, all plant-based must be carefully planned. In particular, vegans need to supplement certain vitamins and minerals.

What Foods Can You Eat in a Vegan Diet?

Protein-alternativesTofu, tempeh and seitan.
LegumesBeans, chickpeas, lentils, and peas.
Nuts and nut butterAlmonds, almond butter, peanuts, peanut butter, cashews, Brazilian nuts, and other types of nuts.
SeedsHemp, chia, flaxseeds, pumpkin, sunflower, sesame, and poppy seeds.
Plant-milks and yogurts Calcium-fortified soy, cashew, oat, almond, coconut, and other milk alternatives.
Nutritional yeastA cheese-flavored vegan protein product.
Grains and cerealsWhole grains are preferred, but there are no restrictions.
Fruits and vegetablesAny type.
FatsHealthy fats are preferred, including olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado oil.

It is important to remember that the only restriction on a vegan diet is not to eat animal products; eating nutritious foods is recommended but not required.

Vegan is not the equivalent of healthy. In fact, the healthiness of the diet depends on the composition of the diet. For example, a vegan person can have french fries and rice for dinner, which you can agree is not the healthiest meal.

Therefore, if you are following this diet for weight loss or overall health, it is essential to think about the food quality. 

What Foods Do You Need to Avoid?

In short, all animal proteins.

MeatBeef, veal, buffalo meat, pork, lamb, goat, etc.
Cured MeatsBacon, sausage, ham, etc.
Fish and seafoodSalmon, tuna, trout, mackerel, shrimp, scallops, octopus, calamari, etc.
PoultryChicken and turkey.
All eggs, and products containing eggs.
CheeseAll types of cheese.
Animal fatsButter, cream, ghee, lard, etc.
Animal-based ingredients Whey protein, casein, egg white protein, etc.

Sample meal plan




Want more delicious meal ideas? Buy my Vegan Mexican Recipes cookbook.


There are no limits on alcohol as it is not an animal product.

Guide to Transitioning to a Vegan Diet

Mushroom tacos
Mushroom tacos

Adapting to a plant-based diet does not have to be an all-or-nothing situation, you can start by making simple changes.

For example, you can begin by replacing an animal product with a plant-based alternative, such as replacing the beef in your tacos for mushrooms. The meaty texture of the mushrooms makes a good substitution for beef. In addition, you can serve the mushrooms tacos with a side of beans for more protein.

Next, after you have successfully incorporated more plant-based meals, you can start focusing on eating more vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, beans, nuts, and seeds. Later, you can make these products the center of your meals and eliminate animal protein.

The next step is to ensure that you are eating all the nutrients you need. While a vegan diet can provide you with most of the essential nutrients you need, some nutrients are challenging to find in plant-based foods.

Thus, it is important to make sure you eat plant-based foods that contain protein, calcium, iron, and zinc. It is also very likely that you will need a supplement of vitamin B-12 and a multivitamin with minerals.

Vegan Sources of Protein, Calcium, Iron, and Zinc

Vegan Protein SourcesCalcium SourcesIron SourcesZinc Sources
Black, kidney, pinto and all beansAlmondsLentilsBlack, kidney, pinto and all beans
Chia seedsBroccoliQuinoaChickpeas
Green beansCalcium-fortified soy, almond, cashew and other milk alternativesBrazil nuts
LentilsDark-green, leafy vegetablesCashews
PeasOkraPine nuts
Pumpkin seedsSpinachWalnuts
QuinoaDried fruit such as apricots, figs and prunesPumpkin seeds
SeitanSesame seedsSunflower seeds
Soy: Edamame, soy milk, tempeh, tofuTofuQuinoa


A big selling point of the vegan diet is sustainability, as it is suggested that the environmental impact of animal products can significantly exceed those in plant-based products.

A study by Oxford researchers suggests that eliminating animal products could be the “single most important” way to reduce your carbon footprint. The study also states that if we eliminate animal products from the diet, we can reduce the land use by 3.1 billion hectares (in comparison, the size of the USA is 174 million hectares) and 49.5% reduction of the emission of carbon dioxide.

However, other experts state that environmental sustainability depends on where the production occurs and the critical environmental issues in that region. For example, many lakes can be kept healthy by fishing practices, making fish eating a sustainable practice for the region. It is also important to consider that plants do not grow everywhere, and transporting foods long distances can make the diet less sustainable. 

What Is the Keto Diet?

Keto diet foods

The term ketogenic diet was created by Russel Wilder in 1921 when he used the diet to treat children with epilepsy (3). Later, the diet became famous for weight loss.

The ketogenic diet (or keto diet, for short) is distinctive from other low-carb diets because of its high-fat content and moderate protein intake. A typical breakdown of the keto diet is the following: fats (70-80%), proteins (10-20%), and very low-carbohydrate foods (5-10%) (4).

Compared to a regular diet, the distribution of macronutrients is significantly in favor of fat. In contrast, the number of carbohydrates typically consumed in this type of diet is very low, typically between 20 to 50 grams.

As a result, the body enters a metabolic state called ketosis, a state where your body burns fat instead of carbohydrates for energy, and in the process, it creates ketones, which it can use for fuel (4).

Symptoms of ketosis include thirst, dry mouth, frequent urination, and decreased hunger and appetite (5).  

What Are the Different Versions of Keto Diet?

The standard keto diet (SKD)

The macronutrients are broken down to emphasize fat intake: 70-80% fat, 10-20% protein, and 5-10% carbs. 

The cyclical ketogenic diet (CKD)

This version of keto alternates between the keto diet and refeeds days, meaning five days of strict keto diet followed by two high carb days.

The targeted ketogenic diet (TKD)

his diet allows for higher carb intake around workouts. 

High protein ketogenic diet

In this keto diet, there is a lower amount of fat and carbs to allow a higher protein intake. It is extremely limited in carbohydrates. The ratio is approximately 60% fat, 35% protein, and 5% carbs.

What Foods Can You Eat in the Keto Diet?

MeatBeef, chicken, turkey, veal, buffalo meat, etc.
Cured meatsBacon, sausage, ham, etc.
Fish and seafoodSalmon, tuna, trout, mackerel, shrimp, scallops, octopus, calamari, etc.
EggsEggs, egg products and foods made with eggs.
CheeseUnprocessed cheese like cheddar, cream, glue, and mozzarella
FatButter, cream, ghee
OilsCoconut oil, olive oil, grape-seed oil, avocado oil.
AvocadosAll types.
NutsAlmonds, Brazil nuts, walnuts, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, and others
SeedsChia, sesame, and others
VegetablesAll low carb: green leafy vegetables, tomatoes, onions, peppers, etc.
CondimentsSalt, pepper, herbs, and spices.

What Foods Do You Need to Limit in the Ketogenic Diet?

The most important aspect is to meet the macronutrient goals. In order to reach ketosis, you will need to limit sugar and carbohydrates.

Sugary FoodsCookies, ice cream, cake, candy, jam, jelly, and other preserves with added sugar, canned fruit packed in sugar, pastries, donuts, milkshakes, and some ready-to-eat cereals.
Sugary beveragesSoda, energy drinks, fruit juice, etc.
GrainsBread, rice, pasta, cereal, and all types of grains.
FruitsAll, except small portions of berries.
Beans and LegumesBlack beans, kidney beans, lentils, peas, chickpeas, and all beans and legumes.
Root vegetablesPotatoes, malanga, sweet potatoes, carrots, and others.
Condiments with added sugarBarbecue sauce, ketchup, honey mustard, teriyaki sauce, etc.
AlcoholBeer, wine, mixed drinks

Sample Meal Plan




Alcohol Consumption

No-sugar blackberry mojito
No-sugar blackberry mojito

In the keto diet, alcohol is allowed but limited to low carbohydrate beverages, including liquors like gin, tequila, rum, whiskey, and vodka, and similar. 

Equally important is mixing the alcohol with beverages low in carbohydrates, including seltzer, sugar-free tonic water, diet soda, and crystal light. 

Another option is to drink the liquor neat or on the rocks, meaning alone or on ice.

In contrast, alcoholic beverages with high carbohydrate mixers should be avoided, including margarita, bloody mary, sangria, piña colada, and drinks prepared with high carbohydrate mixers and beer.

Obviously, drinking in moderation is essential.

The Keto Flu

The keto flu describes the unpleasant side effects experienced when initiating the diet due to the lack of carbohydrates, including nausea, vomiting, headaches, fatigue, dizziness, insomnia, difficulty in exercise tolerance, and constipation.

Generally speaking, these symptoms resolve in a few days or weeks and can be minimized by drinking enough fluids and consuming enough electrolytes (4).

Vegan vs Keto

Vegan vs Keto: Which One Is Easier to Follow?

On the one hand, both diets can be flavorful and easy to prepare. Furthermore, they are both trendy and easy to follow even when eating out.

On the other hand, both diets have significant restrictions; while vegan restricts all food animal products, keto restricts most carbohydrates. 

A point in favor of the keto diet is that the diet can naturally suppress appetite due to the high fat and protein content, while the potential decrease in protein in the vegan diet could cause an increase of appetite in some people. 

In conclusion, both diets can be easy to follow, but the keto diet might make you feel satisfied sooner and might keep you from eating too much throughout the day.

Vegan Diet vs Keto for Weight Loss

Vegan and Weight Loss

A study among almost 40,000 healthy men and women aged 29-97 compared the body mass index (BMI) of vegans with meat-eaters, fish-eaters, and vegetarians. Results showed that vegans had the lowest BMI among all groups (6).

The results are similar to many other studies. In fact, in the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics position statement, it is noted that those following vegetarian and vegan diets tend to have a lower BMI (1).

However, you must be careful, as a poorly planned vegan diet can be high in calories and low in nutrients. After all, many high-calorie, high-fat foods are vegan. 

Keto and Weight Loss

For the ketogenic diet, studies show that this diet can produce rapid weight loss. Also, studies found that muscle mass and strength are preserved; and the hunger, appetite, and mood of those following the diet are not changed (7, 8).

Potentially, weight loss is due to a reduction in food cravings and early satiety, as the high-fat content of the diet can result in early satiety or filling satisfaction after smaller amounts of foods. 

At the same time, the small number of carbohydrates in the diet can result in a potential decrease in appetite-stimulating hormones (9).

Although both diets can help you lose weight, the keto diet can help you feel fuller and might be easier to lose weight in the short term.

In the long term, the vegan diet can be more sustainable, thus it might be possible to maintain the weight loss.

Vegan vs Keto: Heart Health

Overall, a well-planned vegan diet can be beneficial for heart health. For example, studies suggest that people who eat less red meat tend to have better body weight, lower systolic blood pressure, lower serum LDL levels, and better heart health and blood circulation (10). 

In addition, following a heavily plant-based diet has results in less oxidative stress and less micro-inflammation, two critical factors in heart health (11). 

The vegan diet can also reduce the risk factors for atherosclerosis, the build-up of cholesterol plaque in the walls of the arteries, which can cause heart attack, strokes, and even death

In contrast, the high fat in the ketogenic diet creates concern among experts. Let’s don’t forget that until recently, the standard treatment for heart disease was a low-fat diet. 

However, recent research by the Journal of American College of Cardiology suggests that the keto diet can protect against heart disease by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress (12).

Considering that there is not enough evidence to support the benefits of the keto diet in heart health, it is essential to talk to your physician or health care provider before committing to this diet if you have a history of heart disease. 

Vegan vs Keto Diet: Blood Sugar Levels

According to the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics position statement, the vegan diet can be beneficial in managing blood glucose levels (1), as many studies suggest that this diet can be effective in preventing and managing the disease.

For example, a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics revealed that vegans have lower risks of developing type 2 diabetes. The study showed that meat-eaters had twice the odds of developing diabetes compared to vegans and lacto-ovo vegetarians (13).

Moreover, science over the past decades shows the components of a well-planned vegan diet can reduce the risk of diabetes and improve blood sugars among people with diabetes. 

In contrast, the keto diet has fewer studies supporting its role in treating high blood sugar levels and diabetes. 

However, early studies suggest that the keto diet could be a potential game-changer in managing type 2 diabetes. Therefore, this diet could be considered an initial step for motivated patients who are obese and have elevated blood sugars. 

Because of the minimal amount of carbohydrates in the keto diet, people taking blood sugar-lowering medications must consult their health care provider before starting the diet (14). The role of these medications is to help the body process carbs; thus, if there is medication in the body but enough carbohydrates, the blood sugar can lower to a dangerous level resulting in a medical emergency with serious health consequences. 

Vegan vs Keto: Safety

Is the Vegan Diet Safe?

Experts believe that a well-planned vegan diet is safe. However, to avoid nutrition deficiencies, the vegan diet must include high-quality protein, iron, calcium, and zinc. These nutrients are found in large amounts in animal products but are not present in all plant-based foods (15). 

In addition, vegans must ensure adequate vitamin B-12 and will most likely need to take supplements, as there are barely any B-12 in any plant sources. 

This is important because a deficiency of vitamin B-12 can cause pernicious anemia, which results in mild cases that can lead to fatigue, weakness, headaches, chest pain, and weight loss. Moreover, prolonged deficiency can lead to more serious neurological symptoms, including numbness of arms and legs, muscle weakness, depression, memory loss, and dementia.

Moreover, similar to any other eating style, a vegan diet can be healthy or unhealthy depending on the type of foods chosen most of the time. 

Is the Keto Diet Safe?

The keto diet is a very restrictive diet, with a minimal amount of carbohydrates and large amounts of fat. Furthermore, it cuts back on foods high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. 

As a result, keto dieters often take fiber supplements to relieve constipation and multivitamins with minerals. Some of the most common nutrient deficiencies include selenium, magnesium, phosphorus, and vitamins B and C (16).

In the long term, the keto diet can lead to kidney stones, liver disease, and diseases related to deficiencies of vitamins and minerals. In addition, the risks of consuming such a high-fat diet in heart health are not well studied.  

Last, the keto diet is not recommended for those with the following chronic diseases (17):

  • Liver conditions
  • Pancreatic disease
  • Thyroid problems
  • Eating disorders
  • Those without gallbladder

The Vegan Keto Diet

Another possibility is to eat a combination of both eating styles, known as the vegan-keto diet, a high-fat, moderate protein, very low carbohydrate diet that excludes animal products. 

What Foods Can You Eat in the Vegan-Keto Diet?

Plant-based proteinsTofu, plant-based burgers, ground meat, and other low carbohydrate plant-based proteins
Cured meatsVegan bacon and chorizo
OilsCoconut oil, olive oil, grapeseed oil, avocado oil, MCT oil.
AvocadosAll types
NutsAlmonds, Brazil nuts, walnuts, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, and others
SeedsChia, sesame, and others
VegetablesAll low-carb vegetables: leafy greens, tomatoes, onions, peppers, etc.
CondimentsSalt, pepper, herbs, and spices.

What Foods Do You Need to Limit or Avoid in the Plant Based-Keto Diet?

The most important aspect is to meet the macronutrient goals. To reach ketosis, sugar and carbohydrate consumption must be limited; this includes all types of carbohydrates.

Animal proteinBeef, chicken, turkey, veal, buffalo meat.
Fish and seafoodSalmon, tuna, trout, mackerel, shrimp, scallops, octopus, calamari, etc.
EggsEggs, egg products and products containing eggs such as pancakes, cakes, etc.
CheeseUnprocessed cheese like cheddar, cream, glue, and mozzarella
Animal fatsButter, cream, ghee
Sugary foodsCookies, ice cream, cake, candy, etc.
Sugary beveragesSoda, energy drinks, fruit juice, etc.
GrainsBread, rice, pasta, cereal, and all types of grains.
FruitsAll, except small portions of berries.
Beans and LegumesBlack beans, kidney beans, lentils, peas, chickpeas, and all beans and legumes.
Root vegetablesPotatoes, malanga, sweet potatoes, carrots, and others.
Condiments with added sugarBarbecue sauce, ketchup, honey mustard, teriyaki sauce, etc.
AlcoholBeer, wine, mixed drinks
Animal-based ingredientsWhey protein, egg white protein

Health Benefits of the Vegan-Keto diet

There are no studies that focus on the effectiveness of the health of this diet.


The truth is that the best one is the one that works for you! Even if you could get all the top nutrition experts in a room, you will see advocates for many different eating styles. 

Thus, my professional opinion is that you review the different eating styles and choose one that works well for you. In addition, you need to know that the type of nutrition you need can change as you have your needs or lifestyle change. Many eating styles can be healthy as long as you eat all nutrients in the right amounts and feel good about it, you will be happy and healthy.

If you want to review other diets, visit our other blog posts to compare different ones, such as the plant-forward, intermittent fasting, paleo vs Mediterranean diet, paleo vs keto, and food freedom.  

Our goal is not to continue the cycle of the diet culture, but to give you tools to help you eat healthy in a sustainable manner that works for you.

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