There are a lot of complaints about the keto diet, including the fact that it is super heavy on meat. However, there is a slight variation on the keto diet that is much more friendly to lovers of plant-based foods. It’s called the ketotarian diet, and it’s a plant-based version of the keto diet.
What is the Ketotarian Diet?
The ketotarian diet is a ketogenic diet modified for vegetarians, so it does not include beef, pork, chicken, lamb or cheese. It is based on plant foods, although a true ketotarian diet also includes eggs, fish and shellfish. However, eating these animal proteins is optional.
The ketotarian diet limits carbohydrates to about 5% of an individual’s calories, which for most people is 25 grams of net carbohydrates. Net carbohydrates are determined by subtracting the total carbohydrate grams and fiber grams. In a keto diet, about 70 to 75 percent of the calories come from fat. The remaining calories, 20 to 25 percent, come from protein. For a ketotarian, this protein will come primarily from plant-centered sources. For a vegetarian, the diet will be entirely plant-based.
Foods to Eat and to Avoid on Ketotarian Diet
The Ketotarian diet is a high-fat, moderate-protein and very low-carbohydrate eating plan that eliminates meat and dairy products and focuses on plant-centered sources of fat. It also allows for some animal sources of protein and fat, including eggs, ghee and fish – although these foods are not required. If you are a vegan, you do not eat these foods on this plan; if you are a vegetarian, you can eat them if you wish.
The foods you can eat as a Ketotarian look like this:
- Non-starchy vegetables (like artichokes, asparagus, and salad greens)
- Low-fructose fruits (Cole says that include berries, lemons, and limes)
- Plant-based fats (such as nuts, seeds, coconuts, olives, vegetable oils, and avocados)
- Optional: Organic eggs, ghee, and wild-caught fish (depending on whether you’re a vegetarian or vegan)
Off the menu, however:
- Starchy vegetables (like potatoes, corn, and peas)
- High-fructose fruits (like mangoes, apples, and watermelon)
- Legumes like lentils, beans, and peanuts.
Does Ketotarian Diet Help with Weight Loss?
There is very little research on the ketotarian diet specifically. However, keto is a very effective diet for weight loss when you also restrict your calorie intake.
Being in ketosis – or burning fat instead of carbohydrates for fuel, which happens when you severely restrict your carbohydrate intake – can maintain your metabolic rate, or the number of calories you burn at rest. It can also maintain your lean muscle mass.
A study of 89 people with overweight and type 2 diabetes found that those on a low-calorie keto diet lost more weight and had more improved blood sugar control than those on a standard low-calorie diet.
In addition, a keto diet balances the hormones that play a role in your hunger and satiety levels, resulting in less hunger in a state of ketosis.
Additionally, a vegan diet may also promote weight loss. In a review of studies of more than 1,100 people, those who ate vegetarian and vegan diets lost 2-6 pounds (1-3 kg) more over 18 weeks than those who ate a non-vegetarian diet.
Despite their larger size, plant-based foods like non-starchy vegetables typically contain fewer calories than animal foods – meaning you can eat a lot of plant-based foods for a fraction of the calories of regular animal foods.
In addition, vegetarian foods are usually high in fiber, and high-fiber diets are associated with improved weight control.
Benefits of a Ketotarian Diet
The ketotarian diet is a conversion from ketosis to a vegetarian diet and therefore will combine the benefits of a ketogenic diet and a vegetarian diet. These benefits include weight control, blood sugar management, cardiovascular health, and no decrease in resting metabolic rate despite weight loss. Ketosis has also been found to benefit gut health and brain and nervous system health. These benefits are supported by several studies on ketogenic, ketotarian, vegetarian, and vegan diets.
The biggest downside to the ketotarian diet is that it can be quite strict and difficult to follow.
It takes extensive planning to do it correctly, and your options for eating out are severely limited. In addition, it can be expensive if you are not used to buying organic foods.
If you have a history of eating disorders, the ketotarian diet may not be right for you, as it may promote more restrictive eating patterns.
That said, because it contains healthy animal foods such as fish and eggs, there is little risk of nutritional deficiencies, which can be a problem with other plant-based diets.
Before you start any new diet, you should consult with your healthcare provider, especially if you have an underlying medical condition.
The Bottom Line
The ketotarian diet is a highly anti-inflammatory diet that can support weight loss, blood sugar control, heart health, and brain and nervous system function.
Overall, the ketotarian diet is an excellent way to experience the benefits of ketosis and a primarily plant-based diet.
However, because it is restrictive, it may be difficult to follow long-term.