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Last updated on March 17, 2020

The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, low-carb eating plan designed to help your body reach a state of ketosis, in which it burns fat as opposed to sugar. While there are ways to customize it, the classic keto diet calls for a lot of protein from animal products like beef, salmon, and eggs. Considering meat's high environmental impact1, you might be wondering if you can try the diet while remaining true to your sustainable values. Here's what the research says on whether the keto diet is actually bad for the planet:

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Keto vs. your average non-vegan diet.

Unless your alternative is going vegan, adopting a keto diet really isn't any more harmful than being on any other omnivorous diet. In fact, it might even be a bit better depending on what you were eating before.

The objective of a ketogenic diet is to help the body use fuel more efficiently. Think about it this way: When your car gets better gas mileage, it winds up using less gas. The same can be true for us: On the keto diet, we get more mileage out of the food we consume, and therefore we end up eating less. One 2015 meta-analysis found that the keto diet suppresses appetite2, causing us to consume fewer unnecessary calories.

How can you make sure your keto diet is eco-friendly?

For those of us who aren't ready to take on a vegan keto diet just yet, here are a few ways to further lesson the environmental impact of the diet:

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1. Choose the right dairy.

Step one: Buy dairy products from environmentally friendly farms that are committed to some basic principles of sustainability. This means making sure your milk and cheese are antibiotic-free (growth hormone called rbST is often given to cows in the United States, even though it's been banned in other countries), and USDA certified organic. If they're from a local farm, even better!

2. Limit your red meat.

You don’t have to cut red meat entirely out of your keto diet, but limiting it will certainly help the environment. Think of it as a special treat and opt for grass-fed, regeneratively grown meat when you can.

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3. Choose local.

Whether you're talking about beef, cheese, fruit, nuts, or milk, the less your food has to travel to get to you, the better it is for the environment. It's that simple. If your food had to take a 15-hour flight to reach your dinner table, then it’s using up a lot of precious fossil fuels. Shop at local farmers markets whenever possible.

Moral of the story: No matter what kind of diet you choose, there will always be a way to minimize its impact on the environment.

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Sabina King
Sabina King

Sabina King is an entrepreneur and global nomad. She runs her businesses Hempure and TaZa wherever she is, and splits her time between Canada and Bali with her husband and two children. King is committed to living life to the fullest by balancing work and play, eating well, conditioning body and mind, embracing the world as a classroom, raising awesomely curious children, and taking care of the planet. In addition to TaZa and Hempure, she has also started the Skip the Plastic Straws Movement, a global effort to end the use of disposable drinking straws.