A ketogenic lifestyle built on a steady diet of healthy good fat, nutrient-dense protein, and low carbohydrates has plenty to offer. Among the benefits, it bestows on keto devotees are an increase in mental clarity, a decrease in inflammation, radiant skin, and the leading motivator for many — weight loss.
These benefits are so appealing, in fact, that spinoffs have surfaced. Recently, two major national magazines devoted their cover stories to “shortcut” and “quick keto,” delivering tips for how to fit keto into your daily routine.
Changing a routine that feels as comfortable as a pair of well-worn shoes is hard to do. So, guidance by way of easy tips and step-by-step plans goes a long way toward helping you to make lasting changes and adopt new habits.
But when a “shortcut” approves processed cheese instead of a pure piece of cheddar; or an animal-style, fast-food burger as a suitable replacement for wholesome, grass-fed beef… it begs the question: Do the ends justify the means?
Keto has a sinister alter ego called dirty keto. Sometimes referred to as ‘lazy keto’ for its relaxed approach to quality of fat and protein, dirty keto is catching on for all the wrong reasons.
The Dirty on Dirty Keto
In the early 2000s, the Atkins program — a multi-phase diet that achieves ketosis through high-protein and a high-fat diet — was both questioned by many medical experts and revered by overweight dieters for giving a thumbs up to eat bun-less hot dogs and animal-style burgers with multiple meat patties and American cheese slices.
The Atkins diet has since changed its approach to protein and fat by recommending good fats. But dirty keto takes a cue from Atkins’ dubious past… with a green light to all forms of fat.
Fake, processed, chemically treated — dirty keto says bad fat is fair game.
What is dirty keto? The premise of the dirty keto diet is the same as ‘clean keto’, which advocates for whole, unadulterated sources of macronutrients. The goal of both keto plans is to reach ketosis, the process by which the body burns fat for energy instead of glycogen.
The end result may very well be the one you want: You will lose weight — and fast.
But introducing toxins, chemicals, and unrecognizable organisms into your system — and the host of problems they cause — is not the side effect you are expecting to improve your overall health.
Besides… isn’t the purpose of improving your lifestyle to break old habits, not keep them?
You get out what you put in. To produce clean-burning fuel that not only energizes you and burns through fat stores but also nourishes your entire cellular system, you have to feed your body clean fuel.
If you are following a ketogenic diet, you may also be exploring other aspects of the program such as protein cycling and intermittent fasting. Together, they support an optimal level of physical and mental performance and help rid your body of toxins that can be underlying factors in many age-related diseases — a cellular renewal process called autophagy.
A clean keto practice that consists of natural fats, unprocessed proteins, and organic vegetable fiber ensures that you don’t undo the work of autophagy or expose your liver to toxins.
For example, MCT oil, “healthy” fat from coconut that produces instant energy. It shoots directly to the liver where ketones are synthesized. Already in a vulnerable state from ketosis, the liver must work harder to metabolize an MCT oil that’s non-organic — meaning it’s exposed to chemicals and toxins during handling, extraction, and/or processing.
Speaking from personal experience, I know it can be difficult to eat clean 100% of the time. I am on the road a lot. I travel to different countries to experience the foods that each unique culture relies on for vibrant health, and to meet with clinicians for a scientific perspective on those ingredients.
One of my favorite daily treats, no matter on which soil I am standing, is a cappuccino, heavy cream, and MCT oil. I carry my bottle of organic MCT oil everywhere I go because unless I am home, organic cream is rarely available.
Good health is a journey filled with peaks and valleys. And I have made mistakes along the way by unintentionally allowing dirty keto to sneak its way in.
I want to share with you a few of the pitfalls that can be encountered along the way so that you can avoid them:
In The Real Skinny On Fat docu-series, Cate Shanahan, MD, a board-certified family physician who promotes the use of whole foods to fight disease, revealed that about 30% of the average diet consists of hidden bad fat. These are found in all processed foods like salad dressings, nutritional bars, and sauces just to name a couple. And while plant fats, such as canola and corn oil, are pushed as “good for cholesterol”, they are refined, chemically processed fats that supply omega-6 fatty acids… a fat you get too much of already. Opt for olive oil, avocado oil, and coconut oil to help balance your ratios.
About 80% of coconut oils are conventionally grown. But what’s conventional is not always healthy. The majority of conventionally processed oils use harsh chemicals such as hexane, to extract oil from the coconut meat, as well as to clean the oil. High heat may also be applied to eliminate bacteria, which can have the unintended consequence of reducing potency. An organic MCT oil is naturally extracted and processed without harmful chemicals like hexane. Make sure the brand you choose does not contain mycotoxins or destructive pollutants.
Conventional dairy products potentially run the risk of subjecting you to hormones, antibiotics, and toxicity, not to mention the sickening animal rights abuses that take place daily at CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations). There is mounting evidence that organic and/or pastured dairy is not only higher in those anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats and antioxidants, but also (especially cream and butter) can improve your metabolic health and strengthen your gut barrier, meaning you’ll be at less risk of leaky gut and autoimmune issues.
If you are on a keto diet, it’s critical that you use polyphenol supplements to replenish the fruit and vegetable polyphenols that you are not consuming. Many antioxidants, however, are sourced from low-quality sources that have been genetically modified and treated with pesticides. Before you buy a supplement, take time to investigate the source and methods used in production. Organic ingredients ensure the same high standards used to cultivate the ingredient apply to the supplement ingredient, too.
Last but certainly not least; I can’t stress enough the importance of digestion. Digestive enzymes are substances that help to break the different components of food down into small particles so that they can be digested and absorbed by the body. Our bodies produce different kinds of digestive enzymes naturally in the mouth, stomach, pancreas and small intestines. As you increase your fat intake on a ketogenic diet, you must have the right type and number of digestive enzymes to help you properly digest your food. Since the point of pure keto is helping to jump-start your metabolism, promote autophagy and support natural detoxification pathways, it’s essential that digestion is running smoothly.
As with all diet models, the keto diet should be rich in nutrient-dense, keto-friendly whole foods that not only promote fat-adaption but also keep you healthy and disease-free long term.