The vegetarian diet is one of the best out there for weight loss; research has even found that it’s twice as effective at reducing body weight than traditional low-carb diets. But as trendy diets pop up, vegetarians may want to expand their horizons. That’s how the vegetarian keto diet, a variation of the super-popular ketogenic diet, started drawing attention.
The goal of a traditional keto diet is to speed up weight loss through fat burning. It’s done by following a meal plan that’s high in fat, very low in carbs, and moderate in terms of protein, says Vandana Sheth, R.D.N., spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Those ratios mean your diet should break down to approximately 80 percent fat, less than 5 percent carbs, and 15 to 20 percent protein.
The strategy can be a successful one: According to research published in the journal Diabetes & Metabolic Syndrome: Clinical Research & Reviews, the keto diet may burn 10 times as much fat as other diets. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best option for everyone—including vegetarians. (Look at how the keto diet transformed Jen Widerstrom’s body.)
Should Vegetarians Try the Keto Diet?
Despite the vegetarian diet’s links to weight loss, it is possible for vegetarians to be overweight. That’s because vegetarian diets, with their focus on fruits and vegetables, tend to be more carb-heavy and fat-deficient than other diets. Science has shown that overloading on carbs and sugars can lead to weight gain, and considering protein’s positive effects on satiety and metabolism, skimping on the nutrient can also cause pounds to pile on.
So if a high-carb, low-fat vegetarian diet isn’t helping you hit your weight-loss goals, switching to a vegetarian keto diet, which prioritizes fats and proteins while restricting carbs, could be the jump start your system needs. (You can even try these vegetarian keto recipes.)
“We know that reducing your carbs to a very low percentage of your daily calories can stimulate ketosis, [which is] when your brain and body begins to run on ketones (aka fat) rather than carbs for fuel,” says Abbey Sharp, R.D. And that stands true whether you eat animal products or not. “Ketosis has been shown to help promote weight loss because it helps suppress your hunger hormones and therefore your appetite, while also promoting substantial water loss to reduce bloating,” she adds. (Check out the results of one woman’s keto diet weight-loss program.)