Appendix: The healthy vegetarian keto diet

Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are considered essential, meaning you need to get them from your diet. Studies have shown that long-chain omega-3 fats reduce inflammation, a root cause of heart disease. The best source of these long-chain omega-3 PUFAs is fatty fish. However, some plants contain short-chain omega-3 PUFAs, a portion of which can be converted into long-chain PUFAs.

Here are some strategies for getting your omega-3 fats as a vegetarian:

  1. Choose eggs from chickens fed omega-3-rich diets and dairy from grass-fed cows. This way, the animals do the conversion of short-chain to long-chain omega-3’s for you.
  2. Consider supplementing with green algae, the only vegetarian source of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids.
  3. Take the advice of experts who recommend that vegetarians consume twice the recommended daily intake (RDI) for plant-based omega-3 fatty acids (known as alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA). This works out to 2.2 mg of ALA daily.

The best keto vegetarian sources of omega-3 fatty acids

  • Chia seeds: 2.5 grams of ALA and 2 grams of net carbs per Tablespoon (14 grams)
  • Hemp seeds: 3 grams of ALA and 1 gram of net carb per ounce (28 grams)
  • Walnuts: 2.5 grams of ALA and 2 grams of net carbs per ounce (28 grams)
  • Flaxseed, ground: 1.6 grams of ALA and 0 grams of net carb per Tablespoon (7 grams)

Iron

You need iron to produce new blood cells and deliver oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body. Without enough iron, you become weak and tired.

Vegetarians are at risk for iron deficiency because they avoid the best sources of iron: meat and seafood. Moreover, the iron that comes from plants isn’t absorbed as well as the iron in animal flesh.

Fortunately, you can boost the absorption of plant-based iron by including keto foods rich in vitamin C, like bell peppers, leafy greens, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and cabbage.

The RDI for iron is 18 mg for women who menstruate, 8 mg for men, and 8 mg for postmenopausal women.

The best keto vegetarian sources of iron

  • Unsweetened chocolate (100% cocoa): 5 mg iron and 4 grams of net carbs per ounce (28 grams)
  • Cooked spinach: 4 mg of iron and 1 gram of net carb per 3.5 ounces (100 grams)
  • Pumpkin seeds: 4 mg of iron and 4 grams of net carbs per ounce (28 grams)
  • Sesame seeds: 4 mg of iron and 3 grams of net carbs per ounce (28 grams)
  • Olives: 3 mg of iron and 3 grams of net carbs per 3.5 ounces (100 grams)
  • Hearts of palm: 3 mg of iron and 2 grams of net carbs per 3.5 ounces (100 grams)

Calcium

Although calcium is best known for maintaining strong bones and teeth, it’s also needed for muscle contraction and blood clotting, among other things. The RDI for calcium is 1000 mg per day for most adults.

In general, getting enough calcium isn’t any more difficult for lacto-ovo vegetarians than meat eaters. However, if you’re an ovo vegetarian, you’ll need to make a point of consuming plenty of greens and other nondairy calcium sources regularly.

The best keto vegetarian calcium sources

  • Sesame seeds: 275 mg of calcium and 3.3 grams of net carbs per ounce (28 grams)
  • Cheese: 180-200 mg of calcium and 0-1.5 grams of carbs per ounce (28 grams)
  • Greek yogurt: 180 mg of calcium and 5-7 grams of carbs per 6 ounces (170 grams)
  • Spinach, cooked: 135 of mg calcium and 1 gram net carb per 3.5 ounces (100 grams)
  • Broccoli rabe: 120 mg of calcium and 0.5 grams of net carb per 3.5 ounces (100 grams)
  • Kale, cooked: 120 mg of calcium and 3.5 grams of net carbs per 3.5 ounces (100 grams)

Calcium is also found in many other foods in smaller amounts, including most nuts, seeds, and vegetables.


Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is crucial for keeping your brain, nervous system, skin, and other organs healthy. Although it’s found in all animal products, the best sources are liver, fatty fish, and lamb. In fact, just one serving of these foods exceeds the RDI for vitamin B12 of 2.4 mcg.

On the other hand, it may be difficult to meet your B12 needs on a vegetarian diet without supplementation unless you really pay attention to your food choices.

The best keto vegetarian vitamin B12 sources

  • Eggs: 1.2 mcg vitamin of B12 and 1 gram of carb per 2 large eggs
  • Cottage cheese: 0.9 mcg vitamin of B12 and 6 grams of carbs per 6 ounces (170 grams)
  • Swiss cheese: 0.9 mcg vitamin of B12 and 1 gram of carb per ounce (28 grams)
  • Mozzarella cheese: 0.6 mcg of vitamin B12 and 0.5 grams of carb per ounce (28 grams)
  • Greek yogurt: 0.5 mcg of vitamin B12 and 5-7 grams of carbs per 6 ounces (170 grams)
  • Feta cheese: 0.5 mcg of vitamin B12 and 1 gram of carb per ounce (28 grams)
  • Other cheeses: 0.2-0.4 of mcg per vitamin B12 and 0-1.5 grams of carbs ounce (28 grams)

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is both a hormone and a vitamin. It’s needed for calcium absorption and bone health, and deficiency has been linked to cancer, depression, and other health conditions. With the exception of fatty fish, vitamin D only occurs naturally in foods in tiny amounts. Therefore, you’ll need to get a few minutes of sun exposure several times a week or take a vitamin D supplement to ensure you meet the minimum 800 IU daily requirement.


Zinc

Zinc plays important roles in immune function, converting food into energy, and wound healing. Unfortunately, most low-carb vegetarian foods don’t provide a lot of zinc. The RDI for zinc is 8 mg for adult women and 11 mg for adult men.

The best keto vegetarian zinc sources

  • Sesame seeds: 2.2 mg of zinc and 3.3 grams of net carbs per ounce (28 grams)
  • Unsweetened chocolate (100% cocoa): 2 mg of zinc and 4 grams of net carbs per ounce (28 grams)
  • Pumpkin seeds: 2.1 mg of zinc and 4 grams of net carbs per ounce (28 grams)
  • Greek yogurt: 1 mg of zinc and 5-7 grams of carbs per 6 ounces (170 grams)
  • Mushrooms, cooked: 1 mg of zinc and 3 grams of net carbs per 3.5 ounces (100 grams)
  • Spinach, cooked: 0.8 mg of zinc and 1 gram of net carb per 3.5 ounces (100 grams)
  • Flaxseed, ground: 0.6 mg of zinc and 0.2 gram of net carb per 2 Tablespoons (14 grams)

Potassium

Potassium needs sometimes increase on a keto diet, especially at the beginning. Most people need 3,000-4,700 mg per day to feel and perform their best.

Keto-friendly plant sources of potassium

    Avocado: 1,000 mg of potassium and 4 grams of net carbs per medium avocado (200 grams)
    Swiss chard, cooked: 950 mg of potassium and 3.5 grams of net carbs per cup (175 grams)
    Spinach, cooked: 840 mg of potassium and 2 grams of net carbs per cup (180 grams)
    Mushrooms, cooked: 550 mg of potassium and 5 grams of net carbs per cup (150 grams)
    Broccoli, cooked: 460 mg of potassium and 6 grams of net carbs per cup per cup (160 grams)
    Hemp seeds: 335 mg of magnesium and 1 gram of net carb per ounce (28 grams)
    Artichoke: 345 mg of potassium and 4 grams of net carbs per medium artichoke (120 grams)
    Almonds: 200 mg of potassium and 3 grams of net carbs per ounce (28 grams)


Magnesium

Magnesium is a mineral involved in hundreds of reactions in the body, and many people don’t get enough in their diet, including vegetarians. Aim for 400 mg per day in order to meet the recommended intake.

The best keto vegetarian sources of magnesium

  • Hemp seeds: 196 mg of magnesium and 1 gram of net carb per ounce (28 grams)
  • Swiss chard, cooked: 150 mg of magnesium and 2 grams of net carbs per cup (175 grams)
  • Pumpkin seeds, dried: 150 mg of magnesium and 4 grams of net carbs per ounce (28 grams)
  • Chia seeds: 95 mg of magnesium and 2 grams of net carbs per per ounce (28 grams)
  • Dark chocolate (100% cocoa): 90 mg of magnesium and 4 grams of net carbs per ounce (28 grams)
  • Almonds: 75 mg of magnesium and 3 grams of net carbs per ounce (28 grams)
  • Spinach, cooked: 75 mg of magnesium and 2 grams of net carbs per cup (180 grams)
  • Pine nuts: 70 mg of magnesium and 3 grams of net carbs per ounce (28 grams)
  • Avocado: 60 mg of magnesium and 4 grams of net carbs per medium avocado (200 grams)
  • Artichoke: 50 mg of magnesium and 4 grams of net carbs per medium artichoke (120 grams)

/Franziska Spritzler, RD

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