Clean Keto and Why It’s Important
By Flex Keto
After almost 6 years of living a low carb lifestyle, we have tried and tested pretty much every approach to ketogenic dieting. From strict carb counting, to a more laissez faire (“lazy” keto) approach, with varying levels of success. There are amazing benefits derived from going keto, but by far the most effective blueprint for managing weight and improving health is Clean Keto!
Clean Keto is an approach to low carb where you pay just as much attention to food quality as the macronutrients they contain. A diet is much more than the sum of its macro’s, so as important as F70:P25:C5 might be, the inputs (or food) that get you there are just as crucial. So by choosing the right foods from the right sources, not only will you stay in a fat burning state, but you will also enjoy the nourishment that allow you to thrive.
Now don’t get us wrong, you will likely still lose weight by taking the “if it fits my macros” approach, but this is a short-sighted way of thinking and it is this sort of thing that got us into trouble with calorie counting! The body isn’t just a mathematical equation that needs to check out each day, it is a complex eco-system that reacts to foods that we eat. And quality is king!
The benefits are pretty impressive too. You will be physically leaner, have more energy, a stronger immune system and enjoy better health by switching to a Clean Keto approach. With all of the fab effects of ketosis being multiplied, and with every meal being an investment to your health and longevity.
So with that said, here is our 4 rules to Clean Keto, including our does and don’ts to supercharge your ketogenic diet:
1. Avoid seed oils
When someone is looking to go keto, all of a sudden 70% of their total calories need to come from fat. Now most of this should come from whole food sources, however people will often increase the consumption of refined oils either through cooking or as condiments on food such as dressings and mayonnaise. After all, fat is good right!?
Wrong! The type of fat really matters, and polyunsaturated seed oils are the worst kind, especially when it comes to cooking. This type of fat, high in Omega-6 fatty acids, is unstable due to containing multiple double-bonds, making it highly sensitive to heat or even sunlight, which causes it to break down, denature and become rancid. And that is bad enough in a jar or your kitchen fryer, but imagine what can happen when you eat this.
You see, when we consume fat, some will be used for energy (if you’re keto), some will be used to make cell membranes (your brain is around 60% fat) and the rest will travel into adipose tissue (fat cells). So the problem with seed oils is that when these unstable double bonds breakdown in the body, this then leads to oxidative stress, causing cell membranes to breakdown and fat cells to become inflamed. This in turn can lead to systemic levels of inflammation causing pain, discomfort and downstream autoimmune issues.
Not good at all… and it’s no wonder that leading Low Carb proponents like Dr Ken Berry (https://drberry.com), author of Lies my Doctor Told Me, believe that seed oils are one of the leading causes of poor health and chronic conditions. Seed oils are more commonly known (or marketed) as vegetable oils, even though they have never come from a vegetable – there is no such thing as carrot oil… or broccoli oil!
These are highly processed, derived through industrial methods of adding heat and chemicals to seeds, followed by deodorising and hydrogenating to affect the smell and appearance in order to make it (just about) fit for human consumption. The most common that you will find on the market are rapeseed oil, soy bean oil, sunflower oil and spreads like margarine, and these have only been part of our food system since the 70’s. If you check the labels on most processed packaged foods, or mass produced dressings and condiments, you’ll find one of these oils right near the top of the ingredients list.
So now that we’ve made the case for avoiding these and restricting foods that contain seed oils, which fats should I look to include?:
- Whole food fats from meat, fish diary (more to follow on this)
- Raw nuts and seeds
- Avocado oil
- Grass-fed Butter
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Coconut oil
- Tallow/ Lard
- Mayonnaise and condiments from trusted brands (like Hunter & Gather)
2. Choose your snacks wisely
Snacks!! Who doesn’t love having a nibble on something, savoury or sweet, to keep you ticking over between meals!? We certainly do, but the type of snacks you go for can be the difference between winning with Clean Keto, or losing with a snack that doesn’t make the grade.
Now don’t get me wrong, keto is amazing for suppressing appetite and reconnecting with your satiety signals. This is due to the metabolic flexibility that you get from being in a ketogenic state, with your body seamlessly transitioning between the food that you eat, and the body fat that you’ve stored.
But a great snack can be the perfect way to supplement your nutrition, support you with meal timing and prevent slip ups that can cause you to go ‘off the rails'. And what a great time to be alive and living low carb in the UK, as there are more and more great products on the market!
The way to keep it ‘clean’ though, is by following these steps:
Look out for natural ingredients – snacks to avoid are those that have been clearly been made in a lab, not the kitchen! These tend to have long ingredients lists with things on there that most people can’t even pronounce. So go for options with natural, whole food ingredients like coconut, raw cacao, MCT’s or natural flavourings.
Stick to certain sweeteners – Stevia, erythritol and chicory root are some of the best options when it comes to ‘clean' sweeteners in keto-friendly snacks! Many products out there will claim to be keto and plaster “low in net carbs” all over the package. But they will often use artificial sweeteners, many of which can spike blood sugar and negatively impact ketosis.
Prioritise protein – look out for snacks with a healthy amount of protein (whey or pea is best) to ensure you get your required daily amount for optimal health and performance. It is also the best macro for satiety to further suppress appetite and keep you full.
So here are some options that we highly recommend:
- Boostball Keto Burner Bites (we LOVE the Choc Brownie)
- Biltong (not Jerky!)
- Greek yogurt
- Boostball Creamy Vanilla Keto Protein Shake
- Nut butters
- Keto Porridge
3. Go pasture-raised or wild caught with meat & seafood
Meat and seafood tend to be one of the key pillars of a ketogenic diet. This is owing to the high levels of bio-available protein, whole food fats and healthful micronutrients that they contain. There are some amazing options, such as Atlantic mackerel which is a fish that was almost designed for keto, with a macronutrient profile of 70% fat and 30% protein. Plus, as fattier cuts are recommended, these tend to come with the added benefits of being packed with additional micronutrients, due to the fact that most vitamins are fat soluble and so they are found there.
But animal products in general are getting a bad reputation, with an overwhelming movement towards plant-based eating. This is based on associated concerns about health, the environment and the sustainability of food production – however this is largely supported by weak observational data, not peer reviewed RCT’s.
And when you really scratch the surface, “it is not the cow, it’s the how.” This is a great quote from Diana Rogers, author of Sacred Cow (https://sustainabledish.com), who has devoted her research to sustainable practices around food. She highlights that it is the industrialised methods of factory farming that is the crux of the issue – confining large volumes of livestock to small spaces and not allowing space to move and graze as they would conventionally. And this goes for fish as well as ruminants!
So when it comes to meat and focusing on clean eating, go for organic, grass-fed and try to reconnect with the production of food by seeking local farms or online vendors that align with the values of eating better quality meat. The same goes for fish & seafood – this should preferably be wild-caught and sustainably sourced, and you can generally find this available for both fresh and tinned options. And to really take it to the next level, organ meats (or offal – which sounds awful) such as liver, are the holy grail when it comes to nutrient density and clean keto. They are an amazing source of protein, as well as being off the charts when it comes to micronutrients such as Vitamin A, B2, B12 and Iron. But again, always look for the source to be from pasture-raised animals for the best quality product.
And here are our go to options for meat and seafood on keto:
- Beef/ Lamb liver
4. Eat your vegetables
And while you’re at it, try to eat the rainbow…!
Everyone has heard of the saying, try to get “your 5-a-day”. But the issue here is that most people focus on fruit – apple, banana, tangerine, kiwi, grapes – nailed it right!?
Wrong! In fact fruits are actually quite poor when it comes to nutrient density, and focusing on these can mean missing out on key micronutrients, whilst topping up your calories with equal parts sucrose (sugar) and fructose!
What’s more, keto tends to be low in fruits – due to the aforementioned sugars – and while you might be focused on fat, or adding cheese to everything, you may again find yourself missing out on important nourishment and not to mention fibre. So the term “eat the rainbow” applies here when you are thinking about vegetables and prioritising those high in micronutrients to get ‘more bang for your buck’ is the way to go!
That is not to say that fruits are completely out of the equation on keto. Low sugar fruits like berries are great when it comes to satisfying a sweet tooth. Or citrus fruits like lemons and lime added to foods to give an amazing twist of flavour – we absolutely love Latin inspired cooking for that very reason, with some of our favourite dishes like ceviche and of course guacamole!
But what about seasonal and organic? Both are the way to go on Clean Keto, avoiding the toxic chemicals used to ensure high yields of crops, and veggies that are produced at the time of year that they are meant to be abundant – sprouts in December, asparagus in May, and berries in summer!
Our top choices are:
- Brussel sprouts
- Bell pepper
- Bok choy