Clean Vs. Dirty Keto Diet: What's The Difference?

Odds are you've heard of the keto (ketogenic) diet by now. If you haven't, it's a diet that includes low carbs and high fat in the foods you consume. The purpose is to put your body in a state of ketosis, where you burn an optimum amount of fat for energy (via Healthline).


You may have not been aware, but there are now two variations of this diet: the clean keto diet and the dirty keto diet. The clean keto diet is the traditional version of the keto diet and the one that is most commonly talked about among its fans. Meanwhile, the dirty keto diet is a less restrictive version of the keto diet that is starting to enter the mainstream health world. It allows consumers a bit more freedom in their choices, per Carb Manager. While both share the same end goal, they wildly differ in the process by which you get there.

Differences between clean keto and dirty keto

The most obvious difference between clean keto and dirty keto is that the clean version prohibits the consumption of any processed foods. Meanwhile, the dirty keto diet allows some more wiggle room on this front. In detail, the clean keto has you focus on tracking your macronutrients from the foods you eat (via Bulletproof). These macros should come from mostly whole or organic foods while also avoiding processed foods. Your foods should contain healthy fats, proteins, and low carbs.


Dirty keto, on the other hand, cares less about what foods you eat as long as you get all of your macronutrients. According to U.S. News & World Report, the dirty keto version allows you to freely consume as many processed foods as you would like so long as they remain low in carbohydrates. In this version, you could continue to consume fast foods while following the carbohydrate guidelines. While it is possible that you reach ketosis on either one of the versions, there are still some health benefits that may encourage you to try one over the other.

Is clean keto or dirty keto better?

While the clean keto diet seems more restrictive and time-consuming, its focus on whole and organic foods means you'll also be receiving nutrients from good, quality ingredients. On this front, the dirty keto may also lead to higher levels of sodium that come from processed foods. Along with sodium, consumption of processed foods comes with many known health risks such as weight gain or heart disease. With less of a focus on whole foods, you wouldn't receive as many nutrients as you would receive while on the clean keto version (via Healthline). 


However, the dirty keto diet has been picked up by those who may not have as much time to curate meals but still want to track their macronutrients. While both versions of the diet can have their pros and cons, it ultimately comes down to how you approach either version and balancing their guidelines with what feels best for you.