You hear about clean eating all the time, especially since you’ve started the keto diet.
Yet what if we told you that clean eating isn’t the only way to cut carbs and stay in ketosis? There’s such a diet called dirty keto that can achieve the same goals. What is dirty keto?
A dirty keto diet is one in which you eat more packaged and processed foods that are low-carb and high-fat. These foods are often heavy in additives, sugar, and sodium and thus should be enjoyed sparingly, such as on a cheat day.
This is the first you’re hearing of dirty keto and you’d love to learn more. You’ve come to the right place.
Ahead, we’ll further discuss dirty keto, including what you should eat on this diet, if there are any benefits, and whether dirty keto is a good choice for you.
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What Is Dirty Keto?
The keto diet itself is pretty broad. You only have to reduce carbs (five percent a day), maintain protein (20 percent), and increase fat (75 percent), and there are lots of ways to do that. One such way is on the dirty keto diet, which is also referred to as lazy keto. That name alone should tell you what this diet is all about.
Dirty keto foods are the opposite of clean foods. For example, if you’re enjoying processed protein or salami for lunch, that’s dirty keto. The same is true of eating processed ingredients like oils as well as artificial sweeteners.
When you’re eating clean on keto–which many people just call the keto diet–you’re prioritizing high-quality whole foods that are nutritionally rich.
You avoid starchy vegetables since they’re carb-heavy, but your diet is based around lots of other veggies. You eat olive oil but dodge processed oils. You prefer your seafood wild-caught, your eggs free-range, and your beef grass-fed.
The dirty keto diet is nutritionally poor since it’s so overly processed. On top of that, the quantities of sugar and salt you consume are far higher than someone following clean keto diet rules.
What Can You Eat on the Dirty Keto Diet?
So what kinds of foods would you eat if you were trying dirty keto? The rules are far more relaxed. Here are some examples:
Who Is the Dirty Keto Diet for?
You’re admittedly intrigued by dirty keto. What kind of keto dieters choose to eat this way? We’re glad you asked!
Those New to the Keto Diet
The word “diet” can be enough to detract some people from trying keto despite its myriad of benefits. Yet as soon as you tell someone they can be on a diet and still eat cheeseburgers (sans the bun, of course) and drink milkshakes, they’re going to be all aboard.
Maybe they’ll stick with dirty keto or they’ll move on to clean keto, but either way, they’re on the diet.
Those Who Don’t Have a Lot of Time for Meal Prep
Once you learn what you can and can’t eat on keto, you can start prepping your meals for the week ahead. This makes lunchtime and dinnertime so much more convenient because everything is already tucked into containers waiting for you to cook or microwave it.
Yet the time you gain back throughout the week is lost over the weekend as you prep seven days’ worth of food. For some keto dieters, they simply don’t have the time or inclination to do meal prep like this.
Dirty keto allows them to stay in ketosis without the time and effort of meal prep. That’s not to say you can’t meal prep dirty keto meals, but it’s less common.
Those Who Need Dietary Flexibility
Perhaps you decided to start keto after having a child, but your house and life are crazier than ever. Your other kids are picky about what they eat, and if they protest enough, your dinner plans can change on a dime.
Maybe you have a job that requires you to travel a lot. You’d love to have the time to prepare a home-cooked meal, but it’s just not a luxury you get all that often.
For these types of people, clean keto is very difficult to maintain.
The flexibility of dirty keto is appealing since the diet is so forgiving and accommodating. Plus, even picky eaters like children should want to eat most of the foods on the dirty keto diet, which you cannot say about clean-eating keto!
Those Who Get Bored of Clean Eating
Clean eating is undoubtedly healthy, but after a while, doing well for your health can get kind of boring. You’d love to sink your teeth into something a little sinful, even if it’s just one meal or snack per day. If so, dirty keto is perfect for you.
Does the Dirty Keto Diet Have Any Benefits?
If you fit into one of the above groups, you should definitely check out this list of dirty keto benefits.
It’s Easy to Do
It’s like we said before, for those who don’t have a lot of time for meal prep, getting started on a diet can be tough. The eating restrictions can also scare some people away.
As long as you count your macros, you could go pull up to a drive-thru tonight, order yourself a filling meal, and technically still be on the keto diet.
It’s just dirty keto. For those who have tried other non-keto diets before but with limited success, that feeling of nailing your diet can motivate them to stay on track.
You Get to Eat Lots of the Foods You Love
Any dieter lives for cheat days, or those anything-goes, no-rules kind of days where you eat what your heart desires. Some keto dieters even eat more carbs than the recommended five percent on their cheat days, but they only do this once, maybe twice a week.
Dirty keto is like cheat days all the time. This can prevent you from scheduling the kind of cheat days where you go on carb overload and potentially derail your progress (as you’re not in ketosis once you consume more than five percent of carbs per day).
It’s also nice to not hear “no” so much. You may crave ice cream to the high heavens when it’s off-limits on your diet. Once you’re allowed to eat ice cream, you might indulge at first, but then you’ll eat it only when you want to.
Sometimes being told that yes, you can have that so-called naughty food is all it takes to demystify it.
In other words, a dirty keto diet could become something like a cleaner diet with time.
You Stay in Ketosis and Could Lose Weight
The best part about dirty keto by far is how your body maintains a state of ketosis provided you watch your macros. You could even lose weight on dirty keto by eating strategically.
Weight loss occurs when the number of calories you burn is more than what you consume, so you’ll have to track calories as well as macros on dirty keto. That’s something a clean keto diet doesn’t require, admittedly.
What Are the Downsides of the Dirty Keto Diet?
The dirty keto diet may sound almost too good to be true, and that’s because it could be. Here are some very real negative effects of eating processed food and junk day in and day out.
Increased Cancer Risk
Lots of dirty keto foods contain nitrosamine–a type of unhealthy organic compound–including cheese, bacon, and cured meats. This 2006 study from the World Journal of Gastroenterology reviewed 20 years of case studies to conclude that eating high quantities of nitrosamine likely increases your risk of gastric cancer and possibly oseophageal cancer as well.
Reduced Heart Health
You only have one heart, so you must take care of it. Eating processed, sugary, and salty foods is not the way to do that. Trans fatty acids, monosodium glutamate or MSG, and other additives can do a number on your heart.
This 2014 publication of the Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences focused on trans fatty acids specifically, which the researchers say raises your LDL cholesterol and reduces HDL cholesterol. If you need the reminder, HDL cholesterol is the good stuff and LDL cholesterol is the bad stuff. Untreated high cholesterol can lead to stroke, heart attack, and even heart disease.
Other Health Risks
As if that wasn’t enough, those additives and all the sugar in processed foods could be responsible for the onset of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and even obesity.
Clean keto foods are nutrient-dense. Besides the fat and protein content, you don’t have to wonder if you’re eating sufficient vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. On the dirty keto diet, that question should be top-of-mind. You’re much more likely to lack micronutrients such as folic acid, zinc, magnesium, calcium, and vitamins K, D, and C.
Folate deficiencies can cause mouth sores and fatigue. A lack of zinc can affect your appetite, make you lose hair, cause sexual impotence, and reduce your immunity. When you don’t ingest enough magnesium, you may have a lot of nausea and vomiting.
The deficiency can worsen to cause coronary spasms, seizures, and muscle contractions.
Not getting enough calcium?
You have to worry about thinner skin, slow-growing hair, and weak, brittle fingernails. Vitamin deficiencies can affect your mood, lead to strange skin bumps, cause sudden dandruff, and make your gums bleed. None of this is fun stuff.
Should You Go on the Dirty Keto Diet?
The dirty keto diet sounds like total food freedom, and it can be, but you also realize it’s not the best thing for your health. Does dirty keto have any room in your current diet?
When you feel like giving yourself a meal prep break or you want a cheat day, eating dirty keto is perfectly fine. You might do this once a week or even once a month if you’re really trying to lose weight.
Dirty keto is a type of diet in which sugary, processed foods rule and clean foods fall by the wayside. You’re still following a low-carb, high-fat diet, but not in the most healthful way.
Unsurprisingly, eating nothing but dirty keto foods puts your heart at risk, increases your chances of getting cancer, and can lead to nutrient deficiencies.
The old rule of everything in moderation definitely applies to dirty keto!