Do Keto and Veggies go hand in hand? Are veggies optional on a keto diet? Is there a difference between the short term and the long term? Let’s dive deep into the importance of veggies on a keto diet! Hint: Veggies are NOT optional.
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Keto and Veggies: Are Veggies Optional?
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Someone posted asking why veggies are optional. I replied that they are most certainly not optional and where did they hear that?
She replied, “the group admins tell people that they are not required”. Sigh…. I was happy to see that most people who responded were letting the woman know that veggies are a healthy part of keto, like I did.
There was one lady who said that she follows a carnivore keto diet and therefore eats no veggies. I simply said short term, I have heard of that and don’t have an issue with it when it is short term. But for long-term optimal health? Absolutely not.
Veggies, Keto and Health
Let’s get to the important question. Are veggies optional? Not in a million years.
Some people do the carnivore diet as I mentioned. The keto carnivore diet is when you only eat animal products basically and nothing else. I’ve read the theory behind this way of eating and some of it is compelling.
One of the biggest things that is quoted all the time is about the old “traditional” Eskimo diet and how this is how they ate. And then there are studies about their health and how due to their good health overall in past studies that this must be a good diet. There are other studies that show other things related to this.
Now, I’m not saying it is bad. But what people also have to understand is that our bodies are incredibly adaptable to the environment. A diet by a people who are surviving on what their environment provides and have adapted to such an environment is different than folks in the US saying “Hey, I’m going to do the keto carnivore diet, while not working out, sitting and watching tv at night and sitting at my desk job all day”. Not how it works.
So, unless you have adapted in an environment where the availability of resources and food variety is incredibly limited, this is not a good option long term. If you choose to do it short term, whatever. Long term? Consider it carefully.
Now, for most of my audience, we have access to a huge variety of foods. Some better than others. And we have bodies that have adapted to that wide variety of food. Given that – let’s talk about veggies.
Why are veggies important?
The following nutrient information and benefits are from choosemyplate.gov.
Obviously, vegetables are an important source of nutrients such as potassium, vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, fiber, etc…
Veggies may reduce the risk of heart disease and protect against cancer just to name a few. I mean, that’s enough, right?
Let’s not forget that fiber is very helpful in dealing with constipation which is common with keto.
Now an argument against carnivore keto is that you’ll be deficient in micronutrients.
The counter-argument is that organic, grass-fed animal products actually contains a lot of micronutrients. Except for Vitamin C. The counterargument to this is that a carnivore diet leads to a reduced requirement for vitamin C.
Now, it seems like I am in support of the keto carnivore diet, right? Nope. And that is due to what I’m going to say next.
Notice I said “organic, grass-fed animal products”. What is the reality that all animal products, when that is ALL you consume, comes from organic, grass-fed sources? It is hard enough for most people to get all organic animal products when they are only a small portion of our diet.
I’ve talked about and written blog posts about the huge difference in grass-fed and conventional butter. Check out that article. Let me paraphrase quickly to just give you an example:
There are 2 basic ways cows can be fed: grass-fed and grain-fed. Which do you think is the natural diet of a cow in nature? Hopefully, you said grass!
The problem with grain-fed cows is that they are often sicker and more malnourished than their grass-fed counterparts. The studies have shown that grain-fed cows produce milk that is lower in nutrient content than grass-fed cows.
Not only that - it is more likely more to be contaminated with mold given the likelihood of grain contamination of mold. Did you know that it accumulates as well? According to Dave Asprey, who is my favorite biohacker, "60 percent of mold toxin accumulates in the casein" (The Bulletproof Diet Book, p. 166).
Grass-fed butter also is significantly higher in things like :
CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) - which has been known to reduce body fat, cancer, and cardiovascular disease.
Vitamin K2 - plays an important role in bone health and cardiovascular health.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids - this is important because there needs to exist a proper ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 acids. In older times, our natural ratio was about 1:1. In today's world - we get TONS more omega-6 fats than omega-3 fats and our ratio might be closer to 20:1! Why is this bad? Well, our bodies need BOTH fats for different reasons. But to put it simply, omega-3's have a tendency to fight inflammation and omega-6's have a tendency to induce inflammation.
Ok, so this is just butter. But you can expand this beyond butter and cows. Oh, and while I just talked about butter, all these things hold true for the beef as well.
So while organic, grass-fed animals might have more nutrients in the meat, for example, convention meat might not.
And again, unless you have unlimited resources and money, the likelihood that you can get high enough quality organic meats to get the levels of nutrients that you need is more unlikely.
Here is the deal....
- Most of us don’t live in an area where all we have access to is animal products in which case our bodies are not adapted for that eating style
- Most of us are not able to only buy organic, grass-fed meats
- Many of us are already deficient in *something* given the way we’ve probably spent most of life eating.
Many people don’t like veggies because they are accustomed to everything tasting sweet and they want that to continue on keto. Let me break the bad news – that isn’t going to happen. Now, having said that – your taste buds change and they stop wanting the sweet crap.
AND, if you get recipes from an experienced baker like myself (which I’m no professional) then you can enjoy the same desserts that you used and they taste almost the same!
Moral of the story – if you want a sustainable, healthy lifestyle – eat your veggies. If you tell me you don’t like veggies, my response will be either 1) grow up or 2) then you don’t like your health.
You all know me and my bluntness. Ok, so in all seriousness, I wouldn't respond that way, but you know what I'm saying!
Eat those veggies!
Trina Krug is a Holistic Nutritionist, Integrative Health Coach and host of the Carbless Conversations Podcast. With a Master’s Degree in Complementary and Alternative Medicine, her single mission in life is to facilitate self-healing in herself and those around her through awareness, lifestyle shifts and low-carb eating. As a current Doctor of Science student, she continues her studies in functional nutrition.