The ketogenic diet started to kick off in popularity in the last couple of years, primarily because of its easy rules. Basically, it’s all about eating more fat and fewer carbs to force the body into a metabolic state of ketosis, where it burns fat instead of glucose for energy.
Because it’s less restricting than other diets, many people have turned to keto as their choice of diet regime for weight loss. Its widespread use has also emerged different variations of keto to suit the dieter’s unique lifestyle choices. Among them are clean keto, dirty keto, and speed keto.
In this article, we focus on clean keto, uncovering what it is, its benefits, and how you can eat clean on a ketogenic diet.
Clean keto is a subset of the ketogenic diet that focuses on clean eating or consuming foods that are in their natural state. These include meat, poultry, fish and seafood foods like sushi, non-starchy vegetables and fruits, eggs, dairy, and healthy oils.
The opposite of clean keto is dirty keto, in which you do not consider the quality of the food consumed. Instead of eating only clean and natural food items, dirty keto dieters still consume highly processed food and fast food.
Both clean keto and dirty keto follow the traditional keto diet in terms of macronutrient count — 70-80% fat, 20-30% protein, and 5% carbohydrates. Clean keto meets its daily macros and gets nutrients from natural, fresh, and unprocessed food. In contrast, dirty keto consumes anything as long as it fits within the daily macros.
Because clean keto focuses on eating clean and high-quality food, practitioners argue that it has significant benefits over dirty keto and is more sustainable for long-term health and weight loss.
The gut microbiome, which comprises the bacteria, viruses, fungi, and archaea in the digestive tract, affects many aspects of a person’s health. According to research, it may play a role in a healthy metabolic system, as well as increased resistance to immune diseases and disorders.
The reason dirty keto is looked down on by nutrition experts is its reliance on processed food, which proponents claim is notorious for its harmful effects on the gut. Processed food contains additives, such as artificial sweeteners, food colorants, and emulsifiers, all of which may contribute to a variety of health problems.
In research that studies the impact of food additives on gut homeostasis, it was found that the Western diet, characterized by highly processed food, was more susceptible to intestinal and systemic immune-inflammatory disorders.
Opting for a clean keto diet regime eliminates the consumption of processed food, which, according to practitioners, may help support optimal gut health and, ultimately, reduce the risk of health issues.
Modern food processing affects the nutritional quality of food, causing losses in essential vitamins and minerals. Some studies indicate that processed foods are inferior to foods in their natural state because they contain fewer micronutrients like fiber and protein. Oftentimes, they also have a higher salt content.
In comparison, foods in their natural state and have not been processed (or if so, minimally), retain most of the nutrients your body needs to thrive. Proponents argue that the clean keto diet allows you to get the right amounts of essential nutrients, such as:
With clean keto, supporters claim you can better maximize your consumption of these vital nutrients, supplying your body with what it needs to function optimally with every food you eat.
One of the reasons the ketogenic diet is popular is its ability to help some people lose fat and shed weight fast.
Both clean and dirty keto are able to result in quick weight loss, but clean practitioners claim that one is more sustainable than the other.
Fans of clean keto claim that dirty keto isn’t conducive to long-term fat loss.
Proponents argue that you may be able to lose a couple of pounds in a short period of time but will be susceptible to getting that weight back in the long run.
Clean keto, on the other hand, promises long-term weight loss. Advocates say it helps achieve lasting results because it changes the quality of your diet.
Clean keto encourages the consumption of whole foods, which, studies suggest, regulates calorie intake and is more satiating than highly processed foods.
They also have a lower glycemic index, reducing the risk of raising blood glucose levels. While whole foods are less flavorful and visually appealing than ultra-processed foods, this comes with the benefit of preventing you from overindulging and eating more than you need to meet your daily macros.
Ultimately, the priority of a clean keto diet is to promote long-term health and sustainable weight loss.
If we’ve convinced you to transition to a cleaner keto diet, here are our top tips to help you ditch processed food and opt for more natural and healthier alternatives.
Meat and dairy are both staples in the ketogenic diet. When observing clean keto, nutrition experts say that processed meats and dairy should be avoided because they cause inflammation in the gut, aren’t as filling, and contain fewer nutrients than natural and organic options.
Instead, proponents suggest that clean keto dieters should choose grass-fed and organic meat and dairy, which contain more micronutrients and healthier saturated fat. Grass-fed beef, for example, has 5 times more omega 3 and higher levels of vitamins A and E and digestive enzymes than grain-fed beef.
If you prefer to source your fats and protein from fish, wild-caught fish is 25% richer in vitamin D and omega 3 compared to farm-raised fish.
Similarly, grass-fed and organic dairy is also healthier than grain-fed options. Grass-fed cows produce nutrient-dense dairy with higher levels of conjugated linoleic acid, an omega 6 that reduces inflammation and boosts metabolism.
Sugar is a simple carbohydrate that is found in many of the foods we eat, which means it’s something to avoid when observing the ketogenic diet.
Most keto dieters say they opt for sugar-free products, but most of these contain artificial sweeteners such as sucralose, aspartame, and saccharin — all of which are known for their harmful effects on the body, especially the gut.
Artificial sweeteners kill gut-friendly bacteria and disrupt the balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut microbiome. According to studies, this can lead to an increased risk of developing diseases like obesity, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.
Research concludes that removing artificial sweeteners from your diet not only is beneficial for weight loss but also for your gut and blood sugar. But that doesn’t mean you can’t sweeten your drinks or desserts at all.
Nutrition practitioners say there are natural, clean keto options that are gut-friendly and low glycemic, such as monk fruit sweetener or stevia.
Processed food, like a burger patty from a fast-food chain or pre-packed bacon, may pass as keto-friendly.
While they will be able to help you meet your daily macros without fail, these ultra-processed options are, experts say, short on essential micronutrients but rich in harmful ingredients like sodium, additives, and chemical preservatives.
To transition to a clean keto diet, you need to say goodbye to processed foods and hello to whole foods.
Nutritionists suggest swapping out your favorite fast food menu items with natural and fresh options, like grass-fed meat and nitrate-free bacon.
They say the safest option is to make your meals yourself so you can watch the ingredients you put in and make sure they support your clean keto diet.
Fat comprises the highest percentage of your daily macros on a keto diet. 70-80% of your daily calories should come from fat-rich foods, which traditionally can be anything from meat to dairy.
However, experts say that the clean keto diet doesn’t source fat from just about anywhere. Instead, it focuses on healthy sources of fat, such as polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats.
According to studies, these healthy fats help reduce inflammation in the body, which ultimately decreases your risk of developing heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.
Nutritionists point to these healthy fats as good to consume on a clean keto diet:
Practitioners also warn keto dieters to avoid trans fats at all costs. These are highly processed and are known to increase bad LCL cholesterol while decreasing good LDL cholesterol, which can lead to heart attack or stroke.
They also say to stay away from processed vegetable and industrial seed oils, such as canola oil, corn oil, cottonseed oil, soybean oil, and sunflower oil as they make you susceptible to chronic inflammation.
It’s a common misconception that the ketogenic diet only allows the consumption of meat. But that’s not the case. In fact, clean keto practitioners encourage you to add more non-starchy vegetables to your diet so you can supply your body with vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
Fiber is especially important in the ketogenic diet to prevent constipation and improve digestion. It also increases satiety, keeping you full for longer. In fact, research shows that adequate fiber consumption decreases your daily food intake by 22% and keeps your blood sugar levels stable. This, in turn, helps you avoid cravings and encourages weight loss.
When choosing veggies to incorporate in your clean keto diet, nutritionists advise you to opt for low-carb, high-fiber vegetables like:
It may be tempting to prefer dirty keto, also called lazy keto, over clean keto because it pays less attention to the quality of the food consumed. That means you can simply buy a burger from the nearest fast food chain, remove the buns, and you have yourself a meal.
However, experts say that with dirty keto’s unhealthy nature and lack of weight loss sustainability, it pays to do the extra work required to observe a clean keto diet.
So you can control what you’re eating, cooking your meals at home is conducive to a cleaner diet and healthier lifestyle. The good news is you don’t have to wake up early to prepare your meals for the day. Meal prepping offers a time-saving and productive option.
To start, plan when you’ll go grocery shopping and what meals you’ll be making for the week. Cook your clean keto dishes at your most convenient time and store them in the fridge for later.
There are plenty of easy, clean, keto-friendly recipes you can try, like Egg Marsala Scramble for breakfast, Keto Chicken Nuggets for lunch, Keto Onion Rings for snacks, and Keto Kale Pesto Salad for dinner.
The ketogenic diet is known to leave you feeling hungry, which means you’re more likely to have cravings in between meals, so having some clean keto snack options ready for you in your pantry can really save the day.
You can purchase these online, in your local grocery store, or prepare them yourself beforehand. If you don’t mind a little bit of preparation, nutritionists suggest eating hard-boiled eggs, veggie sticks, cheese slices, tuna and lettuce wraps, or nuts in between meals.
The key to staying consistent in a clean keto diet is having a well-stocked fridge. Practitioners say that when you fill your fridge with healthy and fresh foods, you’re less likely to be tempted to turn to unhealthy fast food options.
Make it a point to keep your fridge stocked with a variety of keto meat options, low-carb vegetables and fruits, nuts, and keto-friendly dips and seasoning. Be as diverse as you need so you can maximize your protein intake and enjoy something different every day.
While you’re stocking your fridge, you can also start throwing out unhealthy foods and snacks like processed meat and dairy, sugary drinks, and desserts.
Eliminating all food temptations will allow you to make wiser and healthier diet choices.
Whether you want to shed weight fast and keep it off or you’re looking to fuel your athletic endurance, practitioners advocate for a strict, clean keto diet. Results may vary depending on your ability to commit to the strict regime, but if you’re looking for a dietary option that focuses on natural, organic whole foods, a clean keto diet might just be the ticket for you.