The ketotarian diet is a plant-based version of the low carb, high fat keto diet.
This diet allows you to experience the benefits of both a vegetarian diet and a keto diet. It also provides some flexibility, as you can eat eggs, ghee (clarified butter), and even fish.
However, it’s restrictive and may be difficult to maintain long term.
This article reviews the ketotarian diet, including its benefits, downsides, and which foods to eat and avoid.
The ketotarian diet is a loosely vegetarian version of the popular keto diet, which is a low carb, high fat, and moderate protein eating plan.
It was popularized in the book “Ketotarian: The (Mostly) Plant-Based Plan to Burn Fat, Boost Your Energy, Crush Your Cravings, and Calm Inflammation” by Will Cole, a chiropractor and functional medicine practitioner.
Although a typical keto diet may include large amounts of meat and dairy products like cheese and heavy cream, the ketotarian diet excludes most animal products with the exception of eggs, fish, shellfish, and ghee — although these are optional.
Keto is an effective weight loss diet and highly anti-inflammatory. It may help treat type 2 diabetes and certain disorders of the brain and nervous system like epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease (
Thus, combining these diets may give you the best of both worlds.
The ketotarian diet is a mostly vegetarian version of the keto diet that also includes eggs and fish. It combines the benefits of keto and vegetarianism.
To follow the ketotarian diet, you need to restrict your daily carb intake to less than 5% of your calories. For many people, this works out to 25 grams of net carbs — total carbs minus fiber — or fewer.
In addition, you should aim to eat 70–75% of your calories from fat and 20–25% of your calories from protein.
You also need to avoid meat, including beef, chicken, and pork, as well as dairy products, such as cheese and heavy cream.
Food quality is another important part of the ketotarian diet.
According to author Will Cole, you should choose organic foods when possible and limit non-fermented soy products like tofu due to their phytoestrogen content, which is said to disrupt your hormones (
However, more research is needed to fully understand how phytoestrogens affect health, as some studies indicate they have beneficial effects, while others note that the downsides outweigh the potential benefits (
This diet also encourages you to avoid seed oils, such as corn, soybean, and vegetable oils, as they promote inflammation due to their high omega-6 fat content (
Furthermore, you should steer clear of nightshade vegetables, which include eggplants, peppers, tomatoes, and potatoes. The diet’s advocates claim that they contain substances that prevent you from properly digesting and absorbing nutrients.
Nightshades may also cause digestive issues in certain people (
On the ketotarian diet, most meals are comprised of low carb, non-nightshade vegetables with a small portion of protein and healthy fats.
The ketotarian diet is a low carb, high fat diet that excludes most animal products except eggs, ghee, and fish. It also limits soy products while promoting organic produce and fermented foods.
Little research has been done on the ketotarian diet specifically. However, keto is a very effective weight loss diet when you also restrict your calorie intake.
Being in ketosis — or burning fat for fuel instead of carbs, which happens when you severely restrict carb intake — maintains your metabolic rate, or the calories you burn at rest. It can also preserve your lean muscle mass (
One study in 89 people with excess weight and type 2 diabetes found that those on a low calorie keto diet lost more weight and had more improvements in blood sugar control than those on a standard low calorie diet (
Furthermore, vegetarian diets may also promote weight loss. In a review of studies in over 1,100 people, those on vegetarian and vegan diets lost 2–6 pounds (1–3 kg) more than those on non-vegetarian diets over 18 weeks (
Despite their greater volume, plant foods like non-starchy vegetables typically contain fewer calories than animal foods — meaning you can eat large amounts of them for a fraction of the calories found in regular portions of animal foods (
In addition, vegetarian diets are typically high in fiber, and high fiber diets have been linked to improved weight control (
Ketogenic diets, such as the ketotarian diet, are very effective for weight loss. They preserve your metabolic rate and keep you feeling full, making it easier to restrict calories.
There are numerous other benefits to the ketotarian diet. Although few specific studies exist, its benefits can be inferred from current research on both keto and vegetarian diets.
Additionally, ketosis benefits your brain and nervous system. Not only is the keto diet an effective treatment for epilepsy and other seizure disorders, but it may also help prevent and treat Alzheimer’s disease (
What’s more, the ketotarian diet may promote gut health. It’s rich in fermented foods, which can introduce more healthy bacteria to your gut, as well as fiber, which can decrease constipation and feed your healthy gut bacteria (
Finally, the diet is very nutrient dense. It includes fish, which is rich in healthy, anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats, and numerous vegetables in all different colors — ensuring that your diet is packed with various nutrients and antioxidants (
The ketotarian diet is highly anti-inflammatory and may also aid type 2 diabetes, heart health, gut health, and brain and nervous system function.
The biggest downside of the ketotarian diet is that it can be quite restrictive and difficult to follow.
To do it correctly requires extensive planning, and your options for dining out are severely limited. Additionally, it may be expensive if you aren’t used to purchasing organic foods.
Still, because it contains healthy animal foods like fish and eggs there’s little risk of nutrient deficiency, which can be a problem with other plant-based diets.
Before you start any new diet, you should consult your healthcare provider, especially if you have an underlying medical condition.
The ketotarian diet is restrictive and therefore may be difficult to follow. It may also be more expensive than other diets.
Here’s a list of the foods you should eat while following the ketotarian diet:
- Fruits: blueberries, blackberries, strawberries (although they should be limited)
- Non-starchy vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, summer squash, cabbage, lettuce, greens, Brussels sprouts, avocado, green beans, mushrooms
- Dairy: unsweetened nut milks
- Proteins: hemp seeds, flax seeds, chia seeds, natto, tempeh, spirulina, nutritional yeast, peanuts, tree nuts, hemp protein powder, peas, eggs and fish (optional)
- Fats: olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, nut butters, ghee (optional)
You can eat a variety of fruits and vegetables on the ketotarian diet, as well as several vegetarian fat and protein sources. Eggs, ghee, and fish are optional.
Conversely, here are the foods you should avoid on the ketotarian diet:
- Carbs: bread, pasta, rice, oatmeal, grits, tortillas, chips, crackers, cookies, cakes, pastries, ice cream
- Fruits: bananas, apples, oranges, grapes, mangoes, cherries, pineapples
- Starchy vegetables: sweet potatoes, corn
- Nightshades: tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, white potatoes
- Dairy: cow’s milk, ice cream, yogurt
- Proteins: meat (beef, chicken, pork), beans, chickpeas, lentils, non-fermented soy products (tofu, black soybeans), seitan
- Fats: lard, bacon fat, seed oils
You should avoid starchy carbs, high carb fruits and vegetables, nightshades like tomatoes and peppers, dairy products, meat, beans, and animal fats on the ketotarian diet.
Below is a 1-week sample menu for a ketotarian diet that includes eggs and fish.
- Breakfast: eggs cooked in avocado oil, strawberries
- Lunch: salad greens with salmon and olive oil vinaigrette
- Snack: coconut yogurt with blackberries
- Dinner: cauliflower fried “rice” with seitan
- Breakfast: coconut yogurt with blueberries
- Lunch: cold shrimp salad with avocado oil mayo and cauliflower
- Snack: celery and almond butter
- Dinner: taco-seasoned natto and mushrooms in lettuce cups
- Breakfast: smoothie made with coconut oil, almond milk, almond butter, and pea protein powder
- Lunch: egg baked in half an avocado
- Snack: macadamia nuts and blackberries
- Dinner: saag paneer made with spinach, broccoli, and nut-based, non-dairy cheese
- Breakfast: spinach and mushroom egg scramble topped with nutritional yeast
- Lunch: salad greens with tuna and avocado oil vinaigrette
- Snack: walnuts and strawberries
- Dinner: tempeh burger patty and asparagus roasted in olive oil
- Breakfast: “noatmeal” made with chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds, and almond milk, blackberries
- Lunch: hemp protein smoothie with almond butter
- Snack: half an avocado seasoned with bagel seasoning
- Dinner: grilled salmon, mashed cauliflower, and salad greens with avocado oil vinaigrette
- Breakfast: avocado toast made with keto almond flour bread
- Lunch: two-egg omelet with green beans and mushrooms
- Snack: coconut yogurt with strawberries
- Dinner: fish curry with broccoli over cauliflower rice
- Breakfast: tempeh scramble with avocado
- Lunch: cabbage slaw with tuna salad
- Snack: pea protein smoothie with almond butter
- Dinner: hempseed falafel fried in avocado oil with salad greens and olive oil vinaigrette
The 1-week ketotarian meal plan above includes eggs and fish but can be adjusted to accommodate vegetarian or vegan diets.
The ketotarian diet is a highly anti-inflammatory diet that may support weight loss, blood sugar control, heart health, and brain and nervous system function.
It is a low carb, high fat ketogenic diet that is mostly vegetarian, with the exception of eggs and fish.
Overall, the ketotarian diet is an excellent way to experience the benefits of both keto and a primarily plant-based diet.
However, because it’s restrictive it may be difficult to follow long term.