The keto diet is all about achieving ketosis, a state in which your body burns fat for fuel instead of carbohydrates. But there’s more than one way to get there. Some people follow a “clean” keto diet, which focuses on whole, minimally processed foods and limits unhealthy fats. Others follow a “dirty” keto diet, which allows for processed foods and more unhealthy fats. So, what are the differences between so-called clean and dirty keto, and why does it matter? Let’s get into it.
What Is Clean Keto?
The clean keto diet is a variation of the popular ketogenic diet that focuses on eating clean, minimally processed foods. This means avoiding processed meats, sugary drinks, and refined carbs while emphasizing whole, nutrient-dense foods.
Along with the components of your diet, clean keto emphasizes the quality of the foods you eat. This means choosing pasture-raised meats, wild-caught fish, and organic produce whenever possible.
The clean keto diet is based on the same principles as the standard ketogenic diet: by restricting carbs and focusing on healthy fats, it’s thought that you can direct your body to burn fat for fuel instead of sugar. This process, called ketosis, is claimed to lead to a number of potential health benefits, including weight loss, improved mental clarity, and decreased inflammation (1).
What Is Dirty Keto?
Dirty keto, on the other hand, is a less rigid version of the diet that allows for more flexibility in food choices. While dirty keto still focuses on eating mostly fat and very few carbs, it doesn’t restrict you from certain types of foods like clean keto does.
This means that you could technically follow a dirty keto diet while eating processed meats, artificial sweeteners, and highly processed carbs, as long as you stay within your daily carb limit.
While dirty keto may be easier to follow in the short-term, it’s not necessarily the best option for long-term health. The quality of the foods you eat on a dirty keto diet can have a negative impact on your health, both in the short and long term.
Why Does It Matter?
The quality of your food choices matters for two reasons: First, because it can impact your health; and second, because it can impact the environment.
For your health, it’s thought to be better to choose nutrient-dense, minimally processed foods whenever possible. These foods are more likely to be rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that can protect your body against disease (3).
Highly processed foods, on the other hand, are often high in unhealthy ingredients like unhealthy fats and added sugars. These substances can increase your risk for obesity, heart disease, and other chronic health conditions (4).
When it comes to the environment, the way our food is produced has a huge impact. By choosing clean keto foods, you can do your part to reduce your environmental impact. pasture-raised meats, wild-caught fish, and organic fruits and vegetables are all said to be produced in a way that’s more sustainable for the planet.
How Fast Can You Lose Weight With Clean Keto?
Clean keto can be an effective way to lose weight, but the rate at which you lose weight will depend on a number of factors.
These include your starting weight, your diet, and your activity level. Generally speaking, those who are overweight or obese will lose weight more quickly than those who are already close to a healthy weight.
Additionally, those who are more active will burn more calories and lose weight at a faster rate than those who are sedentary.
That said, a clean keto diet may be beneficial for weight loss in the following ways:
Clean keto emphasizes whole, minimally processed foods that are rich in fiber. Fiber is a nutrient that helps keep you feeling full and satisfied after meals, which can help you eat less and lose weight (2).
The healthy fats found in avocados, olive oil, nuts, and seeds are an important part of the clean keto diet. These fats help promote satiety and may also help improve your metabolism (5).
Restricts Processed Foods
By restricting consumption of ultra processed foods, clean keto helps you avoid empty calories that can sabotage your weight loss efforts.
In general, you can expect to lose 1-2 pounds per week on a clean keto diet with a calorie deficit (1). However, those who are overweight or obese may lose weight more quickly, while those who are already close to a healthy weight may lose weight slowly.
Clean Keto Food List: Eat These
If you’re following this diet, you’ll need to stick to a strict list of “clean” keto foods in order to stay in ketosis and reap all the potential benefits of this low-carb, high-fat diet. Below is a comprehensive list of the cleanest keto foods that you should be eating on a daily basis.
- Grass-fed beef
- Organic chicken
- Wild-caught fish
- Full-fat dairy
- Coconut oil
- Olive oil
- Avocado oil
- Nuts and nut butters
- Leafy greens
- Cruciferous vegetables
- Fruits: berries, lemons, limes
- Legumes: green peas
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Dirty Keto Food List: Avoid These Foods If You Want To Stay In Ketosis
Just because a food is low-carb doesn’t mean it’s “clean” and will help you stay in ketosis. In fact, there are many “dirty” keto foods that you should avoid if you want to remain in a state of ketosis and reap all the potential benefits of this diet.
Here are some dirty keto foods to avoid:
- Processed meats (bacon, sausage, deli meats, etc.)
- Processed cheeses (cheddar, mozzarella, American cheese, etc.)
- Refined oils (canola oil, soybean oil, vegetable oil, etc.)
- Artificial sweeteners (sucralose, aspartame, saccharin, etc.)
- Diet sodas
- Low-carb junk foods (chips, cookies, cakes, etc.)
How Do I Start Clean Keto?
If you’re interested in starting clean keto, there are a few things you can do to get started.
Step 1: Gradually Phase Out Processed Foods
Start by eliminating the obviously unhealthy items in your diet, such as sugary drinks, fast food, and processed snacks. Then, begin to cut back on other processed foods that might not be as obvious, such as breads, cereals, and pastas.
Step 2: Read Ingredient Labels
When you’re grocery shopping, take the time to read the ingredient labels on the food you’re buying. Look for items that are made with whole, unprocessed ingredients. The fewer ingredients on the label, the better.
Step 3: Cook At Home More Often
One of the best ways to eat clean keto is to cook at home more often. This way, you have complete control over the ingredients that are going into your food.
Step 4: Make Friends With Healthy Fats
Healthy fats are an important part of the clean keto diet. Include healthy fats in your meals and snacks to help you feel satiated and satisfied. Good sources of healthy fats include avocados, olive oil, nuts, and seeds.
Step 5: Buy Seasonal Or Frozen Produce
If you’re having trouble finding fresh, unprocessed foods, frozen or seasonal produce can be a good option. These items are typically less expensive and just as healthy as their fresh counterparts.
Step 6: Curb Cravings With Keto-Friendly Snacks
If you find yourself snacking more often on a clean keto diet, be sure to choose healthy, keto-friendly snacks. Good options include hard-boiled eggs, nuts, seeds, and full-fat dairy.
Step 7: Drink Plenty Of Water
Staying hydrated is important on any diet, but it’s especially important on a low-carb diet like keto. Be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay hydrated and avoid feelings of fatigue.
Step 8: Get Enough Sleep
Getting enough sleep is important for overall health, but it’s also necessary for keeping your energy levels up on a keto diet. Be sure to get at least 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night.
Step 9: Exercise Regularly
Regular exercise is a great way to improve your health, no matter what diet you’re following. On a clean keto diet, exercise can help boost your energy levels and speed up the fat-burning process.
The Bottom Line
Clean keto is a version of the ketogenic diet that emphasizes whole, minimally processed foods. Dirty keto, on the other hand, is the less strict version of the keto diet that doesn’t restrict certain types of foods.
While dirty keto may be easier to follow in the short-term, it’s not necessarily the best option for long-term health. The kind of the foods you eat on a dirty keto diet can have a negative impact on your health, both in the short and long term.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Diet Review: Ketogenic Diet for Weight Loss (n.d., harvard.edu)
- Fiber Intake Predicts Weight Loss and Dietary Adherence in Adults Consuming Calorie-Restricted Diets: The POUNDS Lost (Preventing Overweight Using Novel Dietary Strategies) Study (2019, pubmed.gov)
- How Can I Eat More Nutrient-Dense Foods? (2021, heart.org)
- New evidence links ultra-processed foods with a range of health risks (2019, bmj.com)
- NIH study finds cutting dietary fat reduces body fat more than cutting carbs (2015, nih.gov)
- The Potential Health Benefits of the Ketogenic Diet: A Narrative Review (2021, nih.gov)