Low Carb For Vegetarians And Vegans

Many people in this world make a deliberate decision to not eat animals, and a lot of people don't even eat animal products like milk or eggs.

You have come here because you are one of them. You also want to find out how a low carb diet can work for people like you. I have collected as much information as I could and here is what you need to know.

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Getting the best protein sources from plants



If animal proteins are out of the question (except for those vegetarians who would like to add eggs and dairy products to their diet), all you can rely on is protein from plants.

Mother nature has offered us a wide, wide world full of wonderful plants. Some of them are very sweet, others contain a lot of fibres, and the ones we are looking for now contain good protein. My personal favorites are these:


Soy products


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Soya is a great source of protein. The soybean belongs to the family of legume plants. Many legumes contain lots of protein. The best thing about this one is that it is very versatile.

Soy is used for tofu, tempeh, soy milk and other things. Tofu, for example, is not only that white substance. There are companies that produce tofu that looks like real meat - designed for people who miss the looks of meat once they turn vegetarian.

Soy has great health benefits, too. It's good for your heart. One thing to take note of is that, like other legumes, soy does have its share of carbs. It's almost a third. Regardless of that, soy is still a solid food and most vegetarians depend on it. Fat comes in with 20 per cent. Since we are talking about plant fat, you can be sure that these fats are more good than bad for you.

Nutritional information:

Carbs: 30%
Protein: 36.5%
Fat: 20%
Water, vitamins and others: 13.5%


Lentils


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Again, this type of food belongs to the broad family of legumes. Lentils are also in the subcategory called "pulse", also called "grain legume".
Lentils are small, tiny seeds. They are cooked for some time, ranging from 30 minutes for red lentils to several hours for other lentils (some also require to be watered for a night to be cooked faster).

The wonderful thing about them is that they come in many different colors and sizes and replace noodles, potatoes and rice well. There are meals and dishes out there that have lentils as the main star. If you haven't tried or heard of Dhal Makhani yet, it's an Indian dish. As you may know, many Indians are religious vegetarians and therefore have a great variety of vegetarian meals to get inspired by. Don't get fooled by the prejudice that Indian cuisine is always hot and spicy - it can be very creamy, mild, and delicious!

Lentils come in as third when it comes to protein from the legumes and nuts families (first is soy, and second is the rather rare hemp).

Although lentils sometimes have a very high amount of carbs, you should remember that half of these carbs might be fibres. Fibres are not just good for your digestion, they are also, by themselves, indigestive. This means that they can't be counted as real carbs because your body doesn't know what to do with them. So keep this in mind when you read the stats.


Nutritional information:

Carbs: 60% (30% fibres)
Protein: 26%
Fat: 1% (wow!)
Water, vitamins and others: 13%


Peanuts


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I added peanuts to this list because they are a great, convenient allrounder that you can even bring to your workplace as a snack. They don't rot, don't need preparation, and last long. Try to get unsalted peanuts since salt will make you thirsty and might increase your appetite.

On an interesting side note, we are not dealing with nuts here, as the name suggests, but with legumes again.

The carb level is very reasonable. The protein level is quite solid, with one fourth of amino acids available. If you like to cook a meal (asian meals sometimes use this ingredient), try to team it up with another protein source to get a higher overall reception of protein.

The only downside of peanuts is their high level of fat. Almost half of every peanut is pure fat. However, this does not worry me the least. I lost a lot of weight many years ago during my adolescence eating mainly peanuts. I didn't know anything about diets back then, but intuitively felt that peanuts were great. The reason they are still fantastic is that the fat will give you a lot of saturation for your stomach. No need to eat again so soon.

Nutritional information:

Carbs: 21%
Protein: 25%
Fat: 48%
Water, vitamins and others: 6%



Pumpkin seeds


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The inside of pumpkins are a nice snack, especially in autumn, when many people eat pumpkin during halloween times.

The seeds can be roasted in the oven which makes them nice and crispy.

Nutritional information:

Carbs: 15%
Protein: 30%
Fat: 49%
Water, vitamins and others: 6%




Nuts



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There are so many nuts that it's difficult to choose one for this list. Nevertheless, here are some of the most prominent ones that I believe deserve to be mentioned:

Walnut:

Being one of the healthiest in terms of fat, the walnut serves a purpose in keeping your heart in a good condition. There are studies that suggest that eating some walnuts every once in a while makes you live longer.

From a diet point of view, walnuts offer a lot. For having only above 10 per cent carbs, they certainly taste very good and therefore qualify as low carb. Fat is very high, but then again, it's good fat and you are not going to eat a whole bowl of them, are you?

Carbs: 13.5%
Protein: 15%
Fat: 65%
Water, vitamins and others: 6.5%


Brazil Nut

I honestly don't like the dry taste of this one, but I appreciate its health benefits. Not only does it have the usual good fats, it is possible the world's # 1 source of selennium! This means that it can help activate your thyroid and help burn more fat.

Carbs: 12%
Protein: 14.5%
Fat: 66.5%
Water, vitamins and others: 7%


Cashew Nut

Cashews taste really, really good. If you haven't tried one yet, do so, it might turn out to be your favorite nut. They are lower in fat than many other nuts, but with a hefty downside in the shape of extra carbs. But still, worth considering as a protein source and snack.

Carbs: 30%
Protein: 18%
Fat: 44%
Water, vitamins and others: 8%



Other great plants for a low carb diet


A vegetable or fruit does not need to contain lots of protein to be good for your diet. Secondary plant compounds, fibres, vitamins and minerals are also needed, and things should be well-balanced in your diet.

Here are some of the foods I recommend:

Avocado


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There is something unique about the avocado. Not only is it a fruit - something we rarely accept in a low carb diet - it's also a fruit with few carbs and a lot of fat. And its fat is some of the best fat to come across.

Avocado can be used even as a cream or an ingredient for a milk shake - think of soy milk mixed with avocado, for instance. When mixed with lemon juice, olive oil and sliced herbs, it can become a lovely salad dressing.

Nutritional information:

Carbs: 8.5%
Protein: 2%
Fat: 14.5%
Water, vitamins and others: 75%



Spinach



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You probably know the story behind this: A scientist centuries ago made a calculation error and gave birth to the rumour that spinach is a massive provider of iron. It even led to the creation of the cartoon hero popeye.

Many smart-alec persons try to make spinach look bad when you talk to them about it, citing the famous urban legend. Let's get this out of the way. Spinach is a solid source of iron, even without being a miracle, but its other properties are worth looking at.

For instance, spinach has only 3.6% carbs. That's very low carb. Most of that is fibre and doesn't count. Then comes the other advantage: More than 90% of even raw spinach is already water. Imagine how much water there is if you cook it!

Now think about it: 90% is water in the raw state. That means that 90% of all the spinach you eat comes out of your body without being used as energy. That's a huge amount. Spinach also has a lot of vitamins and minerals. So not only does it save you energy  give you important nutrition for a low cost, it also fills your stomach with a lot of water disguised as food! It's a big weight loss device on its own!

Nutritional information:

Carbs: 3.6%
Protein: 3%
Fat: 0.5%
Water, vitamins and others: almost 93%!




Mushrooms


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While there are many of them around, the common or button mushroom is the one you are most familiar with, also in your grocery store.

It has very little carbs, and again, a lot of what it consists of is just water. What makes mushrooms a good addition is that they are just very different in terms of structure. They taste anything but green, if you know what I mean. It's a totally different thing from ordinary green vegetables.

Nutritional information:

Carbs: 3.5%
Protein: 3%
Fat: 0.5%
Water, vitamins and others: 93%



There is much, much more




Okay, now I have covered for you quite a number of plants that are good for your vegetarian or vegan diet. But of course, there is much more to this. Basically, your rule of thumb should be that you can eat anything that's green if it isn't a fruit (with some exceptions), and you can eat any vegetable that does not have a sweet taste. Apart from that, be aware that starch products exist. They don't taste sweet at first, but contain carbs. Potatoes, rice and other such products must be out of the question for you while being a low carb vegetarian/vegan.


The power of combining foods



It goes for non-vegetarians, but it also goes for anyone and everyone: Combining different sources of protein allows synergy effects. What does this mean?

Well, it works like this: every protein source has what is called a biological value. It determines how much of the protein can be used by the body.

Sometimes, a plant has, let's say, a value of 50. You could, more or less, say that 50 per cent of the protein can only be used (this is not exactly true, but for better comprehension, let's stick with it).

Now let's say a different plant has a value of 30. Let's assume that 30 per cent can be used by your body.

Now, the math says 50 + 30 = 80. But here comes the magic. If you combine these two, a higher value actually comes up, because the amino acids, the building material of proteins, add up to each other, the chain becomes more complete because different proteins contain different levels of amino acids. Then, your body can better put them to work.

So in this case, 50 + 30 might actually become 90.

Make use of this by being creative. Eat your soy beans with mushrooms, spinach, and sprinkled nuts on top. The more variety, the better.


How to keep it low carb



The dilemma for vegetarians and vegans is that it's difficult to go as low carb as possible. A no carb diet is virtually impossible, since all foods with zero carbs are of animal origin.

Therefore, people who don't eat animal products have to resort to plants that always have some carbs. We already know that by now.

What you can do is just keep an eye on what you eat. Legumes should make up less than half of your plate (once in a while, a lovely Dhal Makhani is okay). Eat lots of soups in order to get much water into you and to fill your stomach. Eat a lot of the vegetables that are lowest in sugar, and give them the number one spot on your plate.


What else can I do to improve my diet?



Many things that go for you as a vegetarian or as a vegan also go for other people. I have posted many helpful posts on this blog, and I think that a lot of the information there might apply to you. Whenever there is a mention of animal products, just ignore that and think about how it fits into your diet if you use a substitute for an animal product.

Some things you might be interested in:

Lose weight the healthy way
A smooth transition into a low carb diet
Weight loss while sleeping
Weight loss tea
Spices for weight loss and herbs for weight loss





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