A low-carbohydrate, vegetarian, and at the same time high-protein diet is a difficult undertaking. Many vegetable protein sources such as legumes and whole grain products are rich in carbohydrates and, therefore, unsuitable for a low-carb or ketogenic diet. Nevertheless, a balanced vegetarian diet based on low carb and keto is feasible, especially if you eat eggs or dairy products. However, anyone who eats vegan and still wants to eat low-carb should make sure they have sufficient protein intake.
Before we dive into the subject, here are some scientific facts about the benefits of a low-carb diet.
the top reasons people choose to eat a low-carb diet are to improve health and lose weight. Although the pros and cons of a low-carb diet are controversially discussed in the scientific community, there is clear evidence that a low-carb diet causes fewer blood sugar fluctuations and significantly reduces food cravings. Leading doctors also point out the positive effect of weight loss and an increase in insulin sensitivity. Cholesterol and blood lipid levels often improve as well. However, it is crucial that you don’t substitute bread and pasta with sausage and butter. Even if you eat low-carb, you should still focus on whole foods of high nutritional quality. Of course, whether you gain or lose weight also depends on your energy balance.
Guidelines for a low-carb diet:
Depending on your individual goals, you can either partially or almost completely omit carbohydrates from your diet. Even if you want to lose weight, you should not aim for quick weight loss.
The different types of a low-carb or keto diet can be categorized as follows:
In order to maintain normal bodily function, our body needs a variety of amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. Of the 20 amino acids needed to build protein, we need nine essential amino acids from food sources. Suitable foods are, for example, meat, fish, shellfish, or dairy products. However, these products are only suitable for vegetarians and vegans to a limited extent or not at all.
Although plant-based foods such as beans and legumes offer rich sources of protein, their starch content makes them unsuitable for a strict low-carb diet. In order to avoid deficiencies in the course of a vegan or vegetarian diet after low-carb or keto, you have to look for plant-based carbohydrate-reduced protein sources or consume protein-rich foods such as legumes in moderation according to your daily limit. We have listed some suitable foods for you below.
Eggs are an excellent low-carb protein source. Eggs are rich in nutrients that are easily absorbed, including vitamin B12, choline, vitamin A, vitamin D, and the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin. Choosing free-range organic eggs is not only worthwhile for ethical reasons. Chickens raised in happy conditions and fed a varied diet will lay eggs with higher nutrients.
A large egg has around 6g of protein and less than 1g of carbs.
Dairy products like milk, yogurt, and cheese are low in carbohydrates and high in protein, as well as calcium and riboflavin. When shopping, please make sure to check the product labels for hidden sugar additives. The following products are particularly recommended:
Cottage cheese: about 15 g per 3 tbsp
Hard cheese (like Parmesan): approx. 10 g per 25 g
Medium Cheese (like Cheddar): 7-8g per 25g
Milk: 8 g per 1 cup
Soft cheeses (such as mozzarella and brie): 6g per 25g
Yoghurt: 8 - 12 g per 200 g
SOY PRODUCTS - from soy milk, edamame, tofu to tempeh
One of the best-known protein-rich soy products is undoubtedly soy milk.
Because manufacturing processes and ingredients can vary, be sure to check the product label when purchasing. To limit the number of carbohydrates, you should prefer unsweetened soy milk.
One serving (one cup) of unsweetened organic soy milk provides about 7g of protein and 4g of carbohydrates.
If you generally like and tolerate soy, cooked soybeans can be an ideal source of protein with relatively few carbohydrates. Soybeans are also rich in fiber, vitamin K, iron, magnesium, copper, manganese, and riboflavin, as well as phytonutrients such as genistein - a phytoestrogen from the isoflavonoid group
Edamame (fresh soybeans) is an excellent snack but is also great as a side dish or as an addition to salads.
A cup of cooked soybeans contains approximately 29g of protein and 7g of carbohydrates.
Plant-based, high-protein, low-carb meat alternatives
Tofu is also a soy product. Due to its mild taste, it absorbs all kinds of spices, flavors, and sauces well. Tofu is one of the most popular plant-based alternatives to meat and tastes great in Asian and non-Asian recipes. The soy product is rich in proteins and contains relatively few carbohydrates.
A portion of tofu (125 g) contains about 9 g of protein and only 2 to 3 g of carbohydrates, depending on the variety.
Tempeh is made from whole-cooked and fermented soybeans that are pressed into a cake. Tempeh's firm texture makes it a good meat substitute that's great for grilling or roasting. In contrast to tofu, tempeh contains significantly more protein but also carbohydrates. Therefore, tempeh should only be consumed in moderate portions.
A serving of tempeh (about 125 g) provides about 20 g of protein and 12 g of carbohydrates
Sunflower mince (Sojahackfleisch in German) is still a fairly unknown vegetable alternative to minced meat and soy products. Well-seasoned, various classic dishes can be conjured up from sunflower mince, which are not only low in carbs but also vegan and extremely rich in protein.
100 g of unprepared sunflower mince contains about 54 g of protein with just 12 g of carbohydrates - a real protein bomb
Seitan is a true all-rounder in terms of taste, which is made from wheat gluten and is therefore often referred to as wheat meat or sham duck. Seitan is also high in protein and low in carbohydrates.
Depending on the brand, 100 g of seitan offers up to 75 g of protein with 14 g of carbohydrates.
Nuts & Seeds
Nuts, plant seeds, and nut butter are excellent sources of vegetable protein to enrich the daily protein intake. They are best as a snack, topping, or spread but should not be used as a primary source of protein due to their high-fat content.
In order to make the nuts easier to digest, they should ideally be soaked in water for a few hours beforehand. Nuts, seeds, and nut butter provide a healthy protein boost with relatively few carbohydrates but with high-fat content.
For example, 25 grams of almonds provides 6 grams of protein and 5 grams of carbohydrates
Vegetable protein powders
In the supermarket, you can now find a diverse range of protein powders based on different ingredients such as e.g., milk proteins, rice, hemp, soya, peas, etc. We generally recommend using mixed powders sparingly. Because these often contain ingredients such as sugar, artificial flavors, thickeners, etc. Instead of the ready-to-use shake mixes, you can easily make your own protein shake, for example, by using pure almond protein and mixing it with low-carb fruits such as blueberries. Protein powders can be an ideal complement to a low-carb vegetarian diet but should never be used as the primary source of protein.
Depending on the supplier, 100 g of almond protein powder contains around 50 g of protein and around 5 g of carbohydrates