There’s little doubt you have seen all the traction and attention the keto diet has been getting in the last few years. At this point, you’ve probably fully wrapped your head around keto eating plans only to be suddenly confronted with the new version on everyone's lips: dirty keto.
So what is the dirty keto diet, what foods can you eat, what can't you eat, and how healthy is this new keto version? We're here to help you out with answers to your most pressing queries.
Let’s get straight to the heart of the matter…
What Is Dirty Keto?
The so-called dirty keto diet is a junk food lover's variant on the original ketogenic diet plan. Like a traditional keto diet, proponents follow a strict low-carb count per day. But unlike with regular keto, on a dirty keto plan, you can munch on whatever takes your fancy, be it junky processed foods or not, so long as the carb count is kept low.
As an example, while a "clean" keto dieter might make sure their fats for the day came from healthy sources such as coconut oil or avocado, a dirty keto dieter is content to get their fats from less healthy sources, think fried chicken or enough cheese to put France out of business.
The diet should still help with weight loss as the body switches from burning carbs for energy to burning fat once it reaches a state of ketosis. But long term, dirty keto might not be a healthy choice for many and may even negatively impact a dieter's overall health. We'll take a look at the negatives later on but for now, let's go over some dirty keto foods.
Dirty Keto Foods
Want the dirty on what you can eat on dirty keto? It's really not complicated, the rule is that you can eat whatever you like, so long as your keto macros are balanced. If that sounds tempting, you're not alone, plenty of dieters are loving dirty keto precisely because it's an indulgent way of eating that still offers serious weight loss results.
Here are some of the meals that epitomize the dirty keto movement:
As you can see, there’s a heavy focus on highly processed foods, stuff that can easily be ordered in low-carb versions when you’re out and stuff that’s fast to prepare with convenience options at home. For that reason, dirty keto has also earned itself the moniker the lazy man’s keto.
While a clean keto dieter might take the time to ensure his or her grass-fed beef pan-fried in coconut oil and served with green beans and almonds is clean and healthy, a dirty ketoer just watches the fat and carb macros and goes to town on processed foods.
Will I Lose Weight on Dirty Keto?
Surprisingly, yes, most people do lose weight on dirty keto — despite the diet’s obvious inclination towards junk food! As your body makes the switch between burning carbohydrates for energy to burning fats it enters something known as ketosis. In ketosis, the body uses fat to produce ketones, which it then uses for fuel.
To reach this metabolic state, dieters follow a strict macronutrient count:
Ketosis is a powerful tool for weight loss. So long as your dirty keto diet is low carb enough to push your body into this state and enact the necessary metabolic changes, you will lose weight. But weight loss is not everything and eating whatever processed foods you like does have a few downsides. Let’s go over those now.
Dirty Keto Downsides
Actions and consequences huh... while eating whatever the hell you like (within the macro count, of course) on a dirty keto variant sounds fun and devilishly delicious there are a few health concerns:
In recent years a large body of research has appeared which examines how our intake of dietary fats affects our bodies’ inflammatory response and immune system (1).
On dirty keto, dieters pay little regard to the source of their fats. While traditional keto is a high-fat diet anyway, the source of those fats is generally clean healthy foods. But dirty variants encompass fats from across the board. This can trigger an inflammatory response in your body.
Inflammation is also thought of as a key element in several chronic diseases, so if you’re battling any other health concerns, dirty keto is not a good choice of diet.
All those naughty foods that dirty keto dieters revel in are often packed to the brim with extra sodium, and that can be a big problem when it comes to overall health. Excess sodium can cause a whole host of issues, including, but not limited to:
Adults should eat no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day. But worryingly, the average American consumes around 3,400 milligrams every day (2). When we eat too much sodium, we put ourselves at risk, and unfortunately, many dirty keto foods are sodium-rich and nutritionally devoid.
Because this diet plan doesn't prioritize vegetables as much as a regular keto diet plan, there's a strong chance you will face micronutrient deficiencies on a dirty keto diet (even a regular keto diet if you're not careful).
Things like zinc, magnesium, folic acid, and vitamins C and K are all in healthy whole foods. You can take these as supplements, but there is evidence suggesting that the body absorbs micronutrients better when they come from foods (3).
You Are What You Eat…
In many ways our grandmothers were right, and it really hits home with this adage. If you stuff your body full of processed foods, there’s a high chance you won’t feel, or even look great. In the long term, your skin may suffer, you might retain fluids because of the excess sodium, and you might feel bloated and, well, unwell.
The best diet is the one that makes you feel good, both inside and out. Eating a nutritionally rich and varied diet is the best option. You can do this on a clean ketogenic diet while keeping your carbs low and your body in ketosis.
Having trouble sticking to your keto diet? Check out our list of meal services dedicated to keto meals.
Dirty Keto & Keto FAQs
Here’s what’s been on your mind lately and our take on the burning issues:
Traditional, aka "clean" keto, can be a very healthy way of eating. In fact, a ketogenic diet is often prescribed to help control type 2 diabetes, lower blood pressure, and help obese dieters lose weight quickly.
However, a clean keto diet requires a lot more effort than the dirty version we've looked at in this article. Note that dirty keto is not a very healthy way of eating and may even cause health issues.
It is another name for dirty keto, that is, eating a low-carb, high-fat diet but not paying much attention to how healthy the sources of fat and protein are. On a traditional ketogenic diet, proponents will favor olive oil and grass-fed beef, but a dirty ketoer might choose deep-fried chicken and processed cheese.
There are two takes on this: the first espouses eating as many calories as you like and the hell with the consequences while the second recommends sticking to a standard calorie count of around 2000 per day.
Because we all differ in our physiology, there is no universal answer to this question. If you’re unsure, check in with your health provider for diet advice and guidance.
Get ready to cheer because yes, bacon is indeed keto-friendly! But some restraint should be exercised and just because bacon is keto-friendly doesn't mean that it's good for you in excess. Foods like grass-fed beef and eggs are healthier sources of protein (and fat) on a clean keto diet.
You can eat plenty of things on a keto plan! You can enjoy the following healthy sources of fat:
And these delicious sources of protein:
Your key restriction is that only 5 percent of your daily calories should come from carbohydrates, so things like bread, rice, and pasta are out. Instead, you should get your carbohydrates from leafy green vegetables, nuts and berries, and other veggies that are keto-friendly.
That concludes our overview of the dirty keto diet. Should you follow this eating plan? No, probably not. Can you do it from time to time? Yes, of course, life would be no fun if we couldn’t indulge in a bunless burger with our friends from time to time. Just be aware that if your keto diet gets mired in the dirt for too long, your health may suffer.
The reason most people turn to this diet is convenience. But there are other ways to up the convenience factor while still retaining all the health benefits of this diet plan. Click here to read our reviews of the best keto meal delivery services.
1. Fritsche, K. (2015). The Science of Fatty Acids and Inflammation. Advances In Nutrition, 6(3), 293S-301S. https://doi.org/10.3945/an.114.006940
2. Sodium in Your Diet. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2020). Retrieved 20 August 2020, from https://www.fda.gov/food/nutrition-education-resources-materials/sodium-your-diet.
3. Ward, E. (2014). Addressing nutritional gaps with multivitamin and mineral supplements. Nutrition Journal, 13(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/1475-2891-13-72