Dirty Vs. Clean Keto: What You Should Know

The ketogenic diet has been popular for its fast weight loss effects and has been growing in popularity from its ability to reverse different medical issues like heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

There are two ways you can go about this diet, and they both differ in eating habits. You have dirty keto and clean keto, but you may not know the differences between the two.

We’ll take a look at clean vs. dirty keto to help you decide which one is better for you to follow.

Clean Keto

Clean keto follows the traditional ketogenic diet with a focus on clean, whole foods like healthy fats from nuts and avocados, protein from eggs and meat, and non-starchy vegetables like leafy greens. 

The idea is that by sticking to these ingredients only — in particular avoiding processed foods or refined sugars — you’ll be on the right track to achieve your weight loss goals.

On clean keto, the diet will consist of 50 grams of carbs per day, a moderate amount of protein around 20%, and about 75% of your calories coming from healthy fats

By limiting your carb intake to such low levels, it allows your body to enter into a metabolic state of ketosis. Instead of burning carbs for energy, your body will burn fat as its new source of fuel. 

This has been shown to have many health benefits, including:

  • Weight loss
  • Improved fasting blood sugar
  • Lower triglycerides
  • Better cholesterol levels
  • Reduced hypertension

By restricting carbohydrates and processed sugar, it helps keep insulin levels low while your body uses fatty acids and ketones as energy. (1)

When trying clean keto, you’re mainly going to be eating high-quality sources of food, like grass-fed beef, eggs from free-range chickens, wild-caught fish, vegetables low in carbs, and other high-quality oils.

Since you’re restricting carbs like on a standard ketogenic diet, foods like pasta, grains, potatoes, bread, and most fruits are not allowed unless you can fit them into less than your 50-gram allotment for the day.

Related: Fruits You Can Eat On Keto

Processed food is also out of the question. Not only is it unhealthy, but they’re filled with carbs (sugar) and should be avoided on your diet. 

You want to keep your carbs under control so that you can enter into ketosis and stay in that state as long as you can. You don’t want a sugar spike to kick you out if you can avoid it.

Dirty Keto

While dirty keto still follows the same principles as clean keto, the sources of food are not as clean. Even though it still restricts carbs and is high in fat, anything really goes in terms of food choices as long as it fits within the keto parameters. 

Let’s get into dirty keto and how the food choices will differ when on this version of the ketogenic diet.

Lazy Keto

Lazy keto and dirty keto are the same thing because they’re the lazier or less strict version of keto. 

On dirty keto, processed food is fine as long as it’s low-carb and high-fat. This is more popular among people first starting the ketogenic diet or those that don’t want to meal-prep.

As an example, someone doing dirty keto would go to a fast-food restaurant and order a double cheeseburger with bacon and avocado without the bun. While yes, technically, that’s still keto, processed food usually has other ingredients that should only be consumed in moderation.

These meals tend to be processed and high in sodium, trans fat, and almost non-existent micronutrients. Too much of these foods can cause:

  • Heart disease (2)
  • Increased blood pressure (3)
  • Weight gain
  • Type 2 diabetes

Micronutrient Deficiencies

As mentioned above, consuming too many meals that fall under the lazy keto diet will lack the vitamins and minerals our body needs.

Calcium, magnesium, vitamin C, D, K, zinc, and folic acid are not often found in food that is highly processed. You get the benefit of these added micronutrients when you eat wholesome, healthy food.

Yes, you can use supplementation, but studies have shown that getting these micronutrients from whole food is used by your body much better than through daily vitamin pills. (4)

Dirty & Clean Keto Differences

So, the clean and dirty versions of keto have similar macronutrients, but the food choices can drastically differ.

On clean keto, you’re focusing on healthy whole food choices, where on dirty keto, you allow most of your diet to come from convenience foods.

While the dirty keto diet still sticks to the rules of the ketogenic diet, you should really limit the consumption of processed food in your diet. It will be better for your body in both the short and long term.

Food Choices For Clean Keto

There are plenty of food choices you can eat when doing the clean version of keto that are easy to prep and can curb your appetite by keeping you fuller longer.

A few examples of food choices are:

  • Protein sources that are also high in fat, such as grass-fed beef, salmon, tuna, eggs, and full-fat Greek yogurt.
  • Veggies that are low in carbs like broccoli, spinach, brussels sprouts, kale, string beans, cauliflower, and celery.
  • Fruits that are low in carbs such as avocados, strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries.
  • Healthy nuts, nut butters, and seeds such as almonds, walnuts, pecans, flax seeds, chia seeds, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds.
  • Healthy oils like avocado, coconut, MCT, olive, and sesame.
  • Grass-fed butter or ghee


The ketogenic diet has a multitude of health benefits from its low-carb, high-fat, and moderate-protein approach to eating. 

Both clean and dirty keto can work in your favor to achieve your fat loss goals, dirty keto comes at a price due to the processed nature of the foods being consumed.

It’s best to go the healthier route if you’re going to try the keto diet and be strict with the good wholesome foods you’re putting in your body. Your mind will be clearer, and you’ll be able to perform better overall.

Categorized as Diet

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