Low-Carb Vegan Diet Beginner’s Guide

by Alena

Find out how to eat a low-carb vegan diet with our beginner’s guide! See which foods to eat, recipes to try and what to expect from this diet.

Many people equate plant-based eating with high-carb vegan diets. But did you know that you can also follow a low-carb vegan diet?

Fortunately, there are so many ways to eat plant-based and just because you want to try out different macronutrient ratios or eating styles, this doesn’t mean you cannot go or stay vegan!

Let’s take a look at this eating style, its possible benefits and downsides, low-carb vegan foods to eat and delicious recipes to try!

What’s a vegan diet?

A vegan diet contains only plants like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and grains. It’s free from all animal products like meat, dairy, fish, eggs, honey and lesser-known animal-derived ingredients like gelatine.

The term vegan refers to more than just diet, though — as per definition, it’s a lifestyle that seeks to reduce animal suffering and exploitation as much as possible and practicable.

This means that vegans don’t buy cosmetic products that have been tested on animals, stay away from leather, down, fur, zoos and more!

Therefore, many vegans prefer to call their diet plant-based. We’ll use these two terms interchangeably in this article for simplicity’s sake!

What Vegans do & Don’t Eat
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What are carbs

Carbohydrates are categorized as simple or complex sugars and occur naturally in many healthy foods: grains, fruits, starchy veggies, nuts, seeds and legumes.

Generally speaking, complex carbs are digested more slowly and have a smaller effect on blood sugar. They also offer healthy fiber!

On the other hand, processed or refined carbs contain many simple sugars that are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream and can lead to weight gain, diabetes or cause other health issues.

What’s a low-carb vegan diet

A low-carb vegan diet doesn’t just refrain from all animal products, it also reduces the amount of carbs from potatoes, grains, legumes and fruits in the diet.

While it’s a bit harder to create a versatile low-carb vegan diet compared to an omnivorous one where you’re allowed to have meat, dairy and eggs, it’s certainly possible to eat very low carb as a vegan!

There is no strict definition of a low-carb diet, but anything under 100–150 grams per day is generally considered low-carb.

Following such as diet requires you to count your carbs — especially if you want to try a vegan keto diet.

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Why try a low-carb vegan diet?

There are many reasons to go vegan — including the manifold health benefits! However, studies that demonstrated positive health outcomes looked at vegan diets in general, not low-carb or low-fat vegan diets.

These well-established benefits range from lower blood pressure to lower risk for type 2 diabetes, easier weight loss, better cardiovascular health, and a reduced risk for certain cancers!

Some evidence suggests that low-carb diets, in particular, are helpful with:

  • Easier weight management
  • Lowering triglycerides and helping the heart

It’s important to note that the heart health benefits were only found in people with moderately low-carb intake who got their protein and fat from vegetable sources.

Harvard recommends “to include some fruits, vegetables, and whole grains for essential vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients” even if one is interested in a lower-carb diet.

“to include some fruits, vegetables, and whole grains for essential vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients” even if one is interested in a lower-carb diet.

When it comes to weight loss, the diet best for you is the one that achieves a caloric deficit and that you can stick with long-term. If that’s a low-carb diet — great!

Other significant benefits of a low-carb vegan diet, compared to non-vegan low-carb diets, are the reduced animal harm and environmental footprint.

For those with digestive issues, following a low fiber vegan diet can be helpful — this eating pattern is also usually lower in carbs.

Risks & downsides

Especially if you cut back on your carbs suddenly and drastically, you might experience adverse effects! Temporary side-effects can include headache, constipation and muscle cramps.

If you restrict your carb intake too much, you will get into ketosis, which may lead to fatigue, weakness and bad breath!

Research on the long-term effects of low-carb diets is limited, but recent cohort studies, that followed people for 12 and 25 years respectively, found a higher all-cause mortality in those following a low-carb diet.

But again, diet composition is crucial here! Those who replaced carbs with plant-based protein reduced their mortality risk.

To reap the most health benefits, it’s important to include at least some amount of fruits, beans and whole grains into your diet, which will provide you with essential nutrients!

Overall, a low-carb vegan diet is even more restrictive than a vegan diet and might not be sustainable long-term.

If you don’t find it enjoyable, no need to ditch veganism altogether — just transition to a well-rounded vegan diet that allows for a larger variety of foods!

Vegan Nutrition Guide
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Low-carb vegan food list

  • Leafy green vegetables
  • Avocadoes
  • Cauliflower and broccoli 
  • Eggplant and zucchini
  • Tomatoes
  • Kale
  • Cucumber
  • Bell pepper
  • Asparagus
  • Green beans
  • Mushrooms
  • Olives
  • Grapefruit
  • Berries 
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Nut and seed butter
  • Tofu and tempeh
  • Mock meats
  • Soy milk 
  • Textured vegetable protein
  • Oils
  • Vegan butter
  • Coconut products
  • Nut-based cheese
  • Dark chocolate
  • Herbs and spices

Beverages like water, coffee, tea and club soda are also parts of a low-carb diet.

While a certain amount of higher carb foods like quinoa, oats or apples can be consumed on a low-carb diet in smaller amounts, the foods mentioned above are lowest in carbs and can be eaten more freely on a low carb diet.

Low-carb vs keto

The main difference between these two diets is how many carbs you can eat. On a low-carb diet, you typically consume up to 150 grams of carbs per day.

On a keto diet, your daily carb intake is restricted to less than 50 grams to achieve ketosis! At the same time, keto diets are essentially high-fat diets that limit your protein to 20% of calories.

Low-carb diets can be higher in protein, are easier to follow and tend to have fewer side effects. Therefore, they are the better option for most people!

Definitely speak with your healthcare provider before making drastic changes to your diet.

Healthy Vegan Fats

Easy low-carb vegan recipes

Check out our vegan keto recipe collections below!

Conclusion

Low-carb vegan diets aren’t necessarily healthier than well-balanced vegan diets.

While it can make sense for some individuals to keep their carb intake lower, the evidence for this type of eating is very limited and we recommend a balanced vegan diet for most people!

Keep at least some amount of whole grains, fruits and legumes on your plate and don’t go overboard with coconut oil.

Please don’t take dieting too far and be cautious about any exaggerated benefits of low-carb diets. The healthiest diet for you is one you enjoy, that meets your nutritional needs and is suitable long-term.

But no matter if you want to consume a lower or higher carb diet, it’s important to get your plant-based protein!

Check out our recipes collections for high-protein meals, snacks, breakfast and dessert.

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Alena sitting in a cafe with a bowl of fresh plant-based food and a glass of coffee in front of her

About Alena Handwritten FontAlena Schowalter is a Certified Vegan Nutritionist who has been a vegetarian since childhood and vegan since 2012. Together with her husband, she founded nutriciously in 2015 and has been guiding thousands of people through different transition stages towards a healthy plant-based diet. She’s received training in the fields of nutrition, music therapy and social work. Alena enjoys discussions around vegan ethics, walks through nature and creating new recipes.

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