Many people have switched to (or are considering) a ketogenic diet for reasons that range from weight loss to disease management. At the surface level, eating a diet free from sugar and other unnecessary carbs is a great way to slash excess calories, resulting in a deficit to shed unwanted pounds. On a deeper level, eating minimal carbohydrates will put your body in a state of ketosis, allowing it to burn fat as fuel.
Health benefits of a keto diet can include:
- Weight loss
- Fat loss, especially in the abdominal area
- Disease management
- Greater feelings of satiety (aka less hunger than traditional dieting)
- Better blood profile numbers (reduced triglycerides, increased HDL, lower blood sugar)
- Improved acne
Cleaning Up Your Keto Diet
While any diet with the right balance of macronutrients can get your body into ketosis, not all keto diets will give you the same results. “Dirty” keto vs “clean” keto diets are actually quite different. For people looking for long-term health benefits as well as weight loss benefits, cleaning up your keto diet is essential.
Keto: Dirty vs. Clean
So what, exactly, are the differences between dirty and clean keto diets?
- Dirty keto, or lazy keto, is very permissive. You can eat whatever you want, as long as it meets certain carb requirements. The chosen foods are often highly processed.
- Clean keto places a greater focus on choosing nutrient-dense foods with minimal processing.
- Dirty keto is much higher in sodium, resulting in higher risk of hypertension or heart disease.
- Clean keto foods are high in needed vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients.
- A dirty keto diet can leave you lacking in fiber, magnesium, calcium, zinc, vitamin C, vitamin D, folic acid, and more.
- Dirty keto foods are higher in various additives, including sugar, which can keep your body from reaching ketosis.
- Ultimately, clean keto embraces holistic health, choosing overall well-being over a quick-and-easy approach.
Why Nutrient Density Matters
Traditionally, the macronutrients recommended for a keto diet are approximately 55% to 60% fat, 30% to 35% protein, and 5% to 10% carbohydrates. This is true for both dirty and clean keto, so the differences lie in the foods you choose in order to meet those recommendations. When you choose nutrient-dense foods, you embrace the bigger picture that the foods you consume are more than just the calories they contain.
For example, 3 large eggs cooked in olive oil with sliced zucchini will have approximately 380 calories. A large hamburger patty with a slice of American cheese will also have approximately 380 calories, but it lacks the iron, lutein, zeaxanthin, choline, and other nutrients found in the eggs and the folate, potassium, fiber, vitamin A, and B6 found in the zucchini. So you’re getting the same caloric intake without all the nutrients that are necessary for overall health.
Since white sugar contains no beneficial nutrients, it only serves to take away space in your diet for nutrient-dense foods. A clean keto diet free from added sugars will help you reap maximum health benefits.
Foods to Choose for a Clean Diet
To clean up your keto diet, choose from foods that are high in healthy fats and proteins (as well as other nutrients), such as:
- Olive oil
- Free-range eggs
- Wild-caught seafood
- Grass-fed beef
- Nuts like pecans, brazil nuts, and macadamia nuts
- Full-fat Greek yogurt or cottage cheese
- Low-carb vegetables like broccoli, spinach, bok choy, asparagus, zucchini, and mushrooms
How to Make the Switch from Dirty to Clean
Clean up your keto diet by starting with small swaps.
- Replace any added sugars with sugar-free alternatives
- Switch to keto-friendly coffee syrup and other treats to avoid going over your carb limits
- Read the labels on the foods that you buy, making sure to choose options without unnecessary additives, sugars, or other carbs
- Over time, choose more nutrient-dense, whole foods that will allow you to meet the recommended daily allowances of essential nutrients
By choosing a clean keto diet and prioritizing your health, you can let go of the foods that are working against you and become your best self.