Nutrition Diva explains the challenges facing vegetarians and vegans who want to follow low-carb diets.
Q. I am trying to reduce the amount of carbs I eat every day. But it seems hard to reduce carbs when one is restricted to a vegetarian diet. From my basic research, most vegetarian protein sources contain a lot of carbs too. So how can a vegetarian or vegan stick to a healthy and nutritious low carb diet?
A. You’re absolutely right: Low-carb diets are much more challenging for vegans and vegetarians, precisely for the reason you’ve suggested. Most vegans rely on legumes and grains as their primary sources of protein and both of these contain a fair amount of carbohydrate along with the protein. Low-carb vegans get most of their protein from nuts, seeds, and soy (meaning that their diets are also much higher in fat.) They may also turn to processed protein powders or foods made with texturized vegetable protein. Low-carb vegetarians who consume dairy and eggs have it somewhat easier.
While it’s challenging to follow a vegan, low-carb diet, it’s certainly do-able. I’m just not sure it’s necessary. I’m convinced that most of the health benefits of a low-carb approach could be realized by cutting back on sugar, sweets, and refined carbohydrates and reducing (but not eliminating) grain-based foods. While not a low-carb diet, per se, my approach focuses on eliminating the most damaging carbs.
Grains photo from Shutterstock