Plant-based diet has been the talk of the town.
It’s even gained solid ground when the Netflix documentary, “The Game Changers,” dropped. The documentary is about UFC fighter James Wilks embarking on a “quest to find the optimal diet for human performance and health.”
And this optimal diet, he found, is a plant-based one.
It’s fascinating really, how a plant-based diet can improve not just sports performance, but many other aspects of our health and wellbeing. This includes gaining muscle and strength, increasing endurance, ability to run longer distances, getting and staying lean, and even having a higher libido.
Some of my friends who have seen this documentary want to try a plant-based diet, even for just one or two days in a week (Meatless Mondays, anyone?)
Image courtesy of Netflix
But those already in a diet such as a keto diet, widely known to consume a lot of meat, may be wondering – can they get the same benefits as plant-based diet provide?
Apparently, great news to our wellness buff readers: you can combine both plant-based and keto diets.
That’s right – and you can get both their benefits too.
Enter the Ketotarian diet.
KETOTARIAN: a plant-based keto diet
In his book “Ketotarian: The (Mostly) Plant-Based Plan to Burn Fat, Boost Your Energy, Crush Your Cravings, and Calm Inflammation,” Will Cole explains:
Ketotarian is a nutrient-dense diet of primarily whole, real foods, with lots of healthy plant and omega fats, clean protein, lots of non-starchy vegetables and low fructose fruits.
Essentially, ketotarian is a keto diet with a vegetarian twist. While often linked to animal foods, ketotarian turns keto diet into a series of plant-based meals.
According to Cole, the key principles of a ketotarian diet are the following: 
- Eat real food.
- Keep your carbs low.
- Keep your healthy fats high.
- If you eat a non-starchy vegetable, add some healthy fats.
- If you eat healthy fat, add some nonstarchy vegetables.
- Eat when you are hungry.
- Eat until you are satiated.
Types of ketotarian diet
Cole clarifies that ketotarian possesses a quality uncharacteristic of either plant-based or keto diet: flexibility.
With a ketotarian diet, you can tweak your lifestyle based on personal preference. In fact, you can do any of the following plant-focused approaches to achieve ketosis: 
- Vegan, the most restricted option, is fueled by fats from avocados, olives, oils, nuts, seeds, and coconut.
- Vegetarian versions, which add in organic, pasture-raised eggs and ghee; and
- Pescatarian (which Cole also calls "vegequarian"), which allows for wild-caught fish and fresh seafood as well
At the start – say in the first eight weeks – you're meant to follow any of the above diets strictly. But after that, you’re free to change it all up as you prefer. That means being able to give in to a few cravings here and there but going back to the diet after.
Cole identifies three things you can do after the first 8 weeks:
- staying in ketosis for the long haul, which is usually for those with insulin resistance or other neurological issues;
- a cyclical Ketotarian diet which includes a plant-based keto done 4 or maybe 5 days in a week, complemented with a moderate carbohydrate consumption for the rest of the week (Cole recommends this of the three due to its flexibility); and
- a seasonal Ketotarian, which follows a certain season – more keto diet in the winter and eating fresh fruits and starchy vegetables more in the summer
Benefits of going plant-based and doing keto
If you still feel like having two kinds of diet at once is too much, then read on.
While no studies talk about the benefits of doing a vegan keto diet specifically, having either diet can lead to multiple benefits to your health and wellness: 
- Lower risk of chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and certain cancers. According to an article published in 2014, studies have found that there’s a significant reduction in risk among vegans for high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes – 75% and 78%, respectively. 
- Weight reduction and control have been observed among vegans compared to those who don’t observe plant-based diets.  Specifically, vegans observed a loss of 5.5 pounds more than non-vegetarian diets, on average, in this review of 12 studies in a span of 18 weeks. 
- Keto diet’s claim to fame is its effectiveness not just in weight loss but also in blood sugar control. According to a study involving 58 obese children and teens, the keto diet can significantly reduce weight and fat mass compared to those taking a low-calorie diet. 
- Ketogenic diets also have been found to reduce heart disease risk factors, including high triglycerides, blood pressure and “bad” LDL cholesterol 
What foods can you eat… and what to avoid in a plant-based keto diet
Healthline listed down foods that you can eat on a plant-based keto diet, as follows: 
- Coconut products: Full-fat coconut milk, coconut cream, unsweetened coconut.
- Oils: Olive oil, nut oil, coconut oil, MCT oil, avocado oil.
- Nuts and seeds: Almonds, Brazil nuts, walnuts, hemp seeds, chia seeds, macadamia nuts, pumpkin seeds.
- Nut and seed butter: Peanut butter, almond butter, sunflower butter, cashew butter.
- Non-starchy vegetables: Leafy greens, Brussels sprouts, zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, mushrooms.
- Vegan protein sources: Full-fat tofu, tempeh.
- Vegan full-fat “dairy”: Coconut yogurt, vegan butter, cashew cheese, vegan cream cheese.
- Avocados: Whole avocados, guacamole.
- Berries: Blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries can be enjoyed in moderation.
- Condiments: Nutritional yeast, fresh herbs, lemon juice, salt, pepper, spices.
Meanwhile, here are the foods to avoid:
- Meat and poultry: Beef, turkey, chicken, pork.
- Dairy: Milk, butter, yogurt.
- Eggs: Egg whites and egg yolks.
- Seafood: Fish, shrimp, clams, mussels.
- Animal-based ingredients: Whey protein, honey, egg white protein.
Here are examples of foods that should be significantly reduced:
- Grains and starches: Cereal, bread, baked goods, rice, pasta, grains.
- Sugary drinks: Sweet tea, soda, juice, smoothies, sports drinks, chocolate milk.
- Sweeteners: Brown sugar, white sugar, agave, maple syrup.
- Starchy vegetables: Potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squash, beets, peas.
- Beans and legumes: Black beans, chickpeas, kidney beans.
- Fruits: All fruits should be limited. However, small portions of certain fruits like berries are allowed.
- High-carb alcoholic beverages: Beer, sweetened cocktails, wine.
- Low-fat diet foods: Low-fat foods tend to be high in added sugar.
- High-carb sauces and condiments: Barbecue sauce, sweetened salad dressings, marinades.
- Highly processed foods: Limit packaged foods and increase whole, unprocessed foods.
How to know if you’re in ketosis
Of course, the key to all these is knowing whether you’ve achieved ketosis or not.
If you want to know your ketone levels, you'll want to test for them frequently.
There are various ways of testing ketone levels. Some need to be done in a laboratory, but the others can be as practical as running to the nearest drugstore or ordering a test online.
One thing you need to know about ketones? Excess ketone bodies unused by the body go to the urine, blood, and breath.
A urine test for ketones is done by simply peeing on a strip, which reveals the level of ketones depending on the color of the strip and comparing the color to a ketone color chart.
A urine test is ideal because it can be easily found in most drugstores/pharmacies or purchased online. (Buy VALI Ketone Urinalysis Testing Strips on Amazon.) It also doesn’t cost as much as when you do a test in the lab.
Using a blood glucose meter, draw a small amount of blood by pressing your fingertip onto a lancet pen. Apply the small amount of blood on the strip to find out your ketone levels.
While this test may be more expensive than a urine test ($5-10 per strip), a blood test may be a more accurate way of determining your ketone levels.
There are breath meters available to test your ketone levels. Just breathe into it and it’ll measure the amount of acetone in your mouth.
A ketone breathalyzer may be extremely expensive (as much as $240 apiece) but you only need to purchase it once.
Results may also not be as accurate as of the other two forms of testing.
If you want to learn more about ketones and the state of ketosis, read the article “What you need to know about ketones.”
If you want to learn more, you can watch this video which includes a plant-based keto meal plan: