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Many people associate the high-fat keto diet with bacon, cheese, and cream. But there’s a variation that’s even more restrictive called ketotarian. This version eliminates most animal-based products and focuses on eating plant-based foods.
If you’re unfamiliar with keto, the plan is a high fat, moderate protein, and low carbohydrate diet. The goal is to enter ketosis, or fat burning mode, which occurs when your body doesn’t have enough carbs to use as energy.
Ketotarian was popularized by Will Cole, functional medicine expert and chiropractor, in his book, Ketotarian: The (Mostly) Plant-Based Plan to Burn Fat, Boost Your Energy, Crush Your Cravings, and Calm Inflammation. This version promises to deliver the weight-loss benefits of keto without eating plates full of meat and dairy, according to Cole’s website.
Here’s exactly what you need to know about this keto alternative:
What can you eat on the ketotarian diet?
This version markets itself as a mostly plant-based diet that excludes certain foods rumored to be inflammatory. Cole claims this diet is optimal for reducing your risk of chronic inflammation, which is linked to arthritis and cardiovascular diseases.
Although you can eat eggs, ghee, and fish, all other animal products are off limits. Dieters are encouraged to forego nightshade vegetables, which includes many grocery store staples:
- White potatoes
- Bell peppers
- Cayenne pepper
Some people believe certain foods—like nightshades and vegetable oils—contribute to inflammation, explains Melanie Boehmer, R.D. at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York. However, there’s scant evidence to support these claims. The few studies that do link nightshades to inflammation study quantities that exceed what anyone actually eats.
“The amounts that are consumed are obscene and not natural to what we’re consuming,” she says.
Here’s a list of recommended foods:
- Brazil nuts
- Chia seeds
- Pasture-raised eggs
- Almond butter
- Hemp hearts
- Coconut oil
- Olive oil
- Coconut cream
- Coconut meat
- Unsweetened almond milk yogurt
Is it possible to maintain ketosis?
Ketosis is maintained when you consume about 70 percent of your daily calories from fat, 20 percent from protein, and 10 percent from carbs.
To reach fat burning mode, many dieters resort to eating plates of bacon, says Boehmer.
“When we think keto the thing that comes to mind are fattier cuts of animal protein,” she tells Men’s Health.
However, she says it is possible to maintain ketosis without heavy cream, pork belly, or cheese.
Boehmer recommends including nuts or seeds with every meal to hit your macros.
“They’re calorically dense and they’re very high in fat,” she says. “They do have some carbohydrates so you have to be aware of that.”
Is ketotarian healthier than keto?
Keto is already restrictive and this approach is going to further limit what you eat, says Boehmer.
She recommends eating as much variety as you can to avoid vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
However, Boehmer likes that this plan emphasizes eating plenty of plant-based foods rather than bacon and cheese.
Can you lose weight on ketotarian?
Ultimately, you’ll shed pounds if you eat fewer calories than what your body needs to maintain its current weight, says Boehmer.
“On keto, people tend to lose weight quicker on the front end because they’re taking out the starches,” she says. “A lot of that initial weight loss is water—not fat mass. We just don’t lose fat that quickly.”
Should you try ketotarian?
Due to its restrictive nature, this diet isn’t for everyone, says Boehmer.
“If you are someone who has limited time, this is going to be challenging for you because it does involve planning,” she says.
Further, she doesn’t recommend strict diets for people who have a history of disordered eating.
Bottom line: you should find a diet that works for your lifestyle.