Science

The Carnivore Diet – A Complete Guide

2 months ago
The Carnivore Diet – A Complete Guide

Bone broth for breakfast, beef for lunch, and rib-eye for dinner; does that sound like a dream menu for you? This is the reality of a carnivore diet, a restrictive diet that includes only animal-based food. A carnivore diet is an extreme form of meat-diet that eliminates all plant foods and helps you experience healing through diet. 

Today in this article, we will discuss the available scientific evidence to help you choose safe and sensible dietary patterns that can improve your health. In the carnivore diet, we have limited available research studies, some expert opinions, and interesting evolutionary theories for proving its potential benefits. Even with limited evidence, we can not ignore the growing popularity and the health benefits the carnivore diet offers.

The carnivore diet is getting a lot of traction these days. There are numerous blog posts, podcasts, Reddit forums, and YouTube videos seen in the online media. 

What is a Carnivore Diet?

The carnivore diet is an animal-based diet that is high in proteins and fats but has zero carbs. No veggies, no grains, and no sugar, pure meat is what the carnivore diet stands for.

Many high-profile personalities such as Mikhail Peterson and Owsley Stanley, have shared how the carnivore diet helped them to resolve their health issues like autoimmune diseases, mental illness, and weight management problems. 

There are many controversies while understanding the benefits of a carnivore diet. Turning towards a complete meat diet by elimination or limited intake of plant food is a bold decision to make; how can it improve your health? Read on to understand its benefits and see if it’s the right fit for you. 

How Does the Carnivore Diet Work? 

The carnivore diet has various health benefits, and it primarily works through two mechanisms:

  • Removes toxic and unhealthy foods like junk food from your diet
  • Provides all the nutrients needed for your body

A recent study published in December 2020 has stated that a zero fiber carnivore diet shows great potential as a readily available, cost-effective, and effective treatment for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). It also indicated that the carnivore diet results in better satisfaction after meals, it decreases cravings for sweets, and helps to achieve weight loss in patients. 

With a carnivore diet, you stop consuming added sugar, processed food, junk food, and many toxic ingredients. Meat foods are highly nutritious, and it provides all the essential nutrients. You will not experience any nutritional deficiencies with a carnivore diet. It is a very filling diet that makes you crave less unhealthy or junk food.

Science-Based Benefits of the Carnivore Diet 

The carnivore diet is considered an extremely restrictive diet, but is it worth it? If you have the same concern, you should learn about the surprising health benefits this diet has to offer. From treating some autoimmune conditions to increasing insulin sensitivity, people have reported numerous health benefits with this diet. There is some scientific evidence to support these claims. 

  • The carnivore diet is a healthy way to lose weight. According to a recent study, a high protein diet such as a meat diet can help you reduce weight much faster and is a healthy approach. 
  • The carnivore diet improves your heart health. Latest research studies say saturated fat does not increase the risk of cardiovascular disease; instead, it has cardioprotective properties.  
  • The carnivore diet reduces inflammation. The carnivore diet is said to improve the biomarkers of inflammation. 
  • The carnivore diet enhances fertility. Some studies suggest that the consumption of a meat diet helps to improve the quality of sperm count. 
  • The carnivore diet supports your digestion. Experts suggest that a high-fiber diet has a bad impact on your digestive system and may lead to chronic constipation.  Although the carnivore diet has no fiber in it, meat proteins can get digested easily. Aspartate, asparagine, glutamate, and glutamine in meat proteins enhances cellular growth and improves overall health

The carnivore diet makes you feel like a warrior, fuels up your body, improves your skin health, and it boosts your energy. 

How is it Different From the Keto Diet? 

The keto diet is a high-fat diet with adequate protein and low carbs. With reduced carbs, the body sources energy from fat through gluconeogenesis. In keto, you are allowed to have some low-carbs, but your carb intake is almost zero in a carnivore diet. There are a few differences and similarities between the keto and the carnivore diet

The keto diet focuses more on fat with limited protein intake. There will be a metabolic adaptation that involves a shift from carbohydrates to lipids as the primary energy source. However, in the carnivore diet, you are allowed to eat both fat and proteins liberally. 

You achieve weight loss with the keto diet, but you go one step further to experience some surprising health benefits with the carnivore diet. However, if you are totally new to this lifestyle and find it hard to follow a carnivore diet, adapting to a low-carb keto diet can be a good move.

What to Eat in the Carnivore Diet 

The carnivore diet comprises all the meat products, spices, and dairy products. 

  • Meat food – High-quality beef cuts can be the best choice on your carnivore diet. They are highly nutritious and have all the essential vitamins. When you are on a carnivore diet, try to increase red meat consumption over time because they help you achieve the desired health and fitness. Brisket, chuck, top rump, flank, round steak, and beef ribs have high amounts of fat; consuming more fat is essential in a carnivore diet. Fat is the energy fuel when you go for a meat-only diet. Lamb meat and pork meat are also delicious and nutritious. You can try lamb soup and pork streaks for your snacks. Most of the meat products are not tender animal cuts, so you have to remember to cook them well. Chicken meat is delicious, the best protein source, easy to cook, and readily available at affordable prices. Add more fatty meats to your diet since you would eliminate all the carbs. Fat acts as fuel for your body; do not worry abt the fat content in your diet. Initially, add as much fat as possible to your diet, and gradually you can add organs and other sources.
  • Organ meat – Animal organ meats and head-to-tail components like bones and fat often provide vitamins and nutrients required to fuel the same organs in humans. Generally, vitamins and minerals will be stored in most of the organs; for example, vitamin B is stored in the liver, and calcium and phosphorus are found in the animal bones. Hence it is vital to have organ meat in your carnivore diet; else, you would be missing major vitamins and minerals.  
  • Fish on your diet – Seafood has a variety of collections and adds a wide range of nutrients to your carnivore diet food list. It is the right choice for any exercise regimen or fitness, or weight loss. Aqua food has all the macros you need to keep yourself fueled for your energy. Adding fish to your carnivore diet can be an excellent way to break up the monotony.  Fish and fish oil are very rich in vitamin D, A, and K. They are a lot lighter on your stomach and easy to digest; they are loaded with proteins and have much better health benefits than plant sources. Fish would be a perfect choice that needs less cooking time and can be added to your lunch menu or even for your snacks. You can try squid, lobster, oysters, crabs, scallops, salmon, and tuna.
  • Eggs – Eggs are rich in protein with an added fat in egg yolk. When you are on a carnivore diet, the eggs are the perfect choice for your breakfast, which goes well with beef liver, meat, and other high protein foods. You can also try duck eggs, turkey eggs if it’s available at your stores. Experts suggest having organic eggs preferably, although it’s not mandatory.  Organic eggs have higher nutrient content and are free from chemicals. Scrambled eggs would be the perfect breakfast any day.
  • Dairy – Dairy products are allowed because they are animal foods, and they add high nutritional content to your diet.  You can add milk, full-fat cheese, yogurt, and butter to your diet. Avoid any processed food containing harmful chemicals. The carnivore diet is one of the best choices for eliminating carbs and staying healthy with a balanced nutritional diet.
  • Other foods – You can have coffee and tea once a day, but remember, high caffeine intake can dehydrate you faster when you are on a carnivore diet. Drink a lot of water and keep yourself hydrated. 

You can also try bone broth in your diet instead of caffeine; this provides you more nutrients than any vegetables and serves as the best energy drink. You can add some condiments such as salt, pepper, and some oil such as olive, avocado oil, and coconut oil to your meal to make it taste better. 

What to Avoid in the Carnivore Diet

When you are on a carnivore diet, there are certain foods you might want to quit. Remember, if the food has not come from an animal source, it’s not allowed in a carnivore diet. 

  • Processed meat – Foods like salami, sausages, and beef jerky have chemicals and high additives. Although they are counted as animal-based food, it’s not safe to consume them. Try to avoid all the processed food, stay healthy, and get the maximum benefit of your carnivore diet. But it’s ok to have processed meat occasionally. 
  • Say-no to sauces – Most of the sauces have a very high content of carbs. Although most Italian sauces are creamy, they have processed thickeners added to them; it’s better to avoid sauces in your carnivore diet.
  • Alcohol – Beer, wine, and spirits have high carbohydrates content; in a carnivore diet, carbs are strictly not allowed, so no way you can go for alcohol. If you want to lose weight quickly, overcome your cravings for wine. 
  • Nuts and seeds – This is a common mistake in the carnivore diet. Nuts and seeds are allowed in the keto diet, not in the carnivore diet. Nuts and seeds are from plant sources. They are a rich source of carbs, fats, and proteins; try to avoid them in your carnivore diet. They may interrupt your metabolism and spoil the beauty of this diet. 
  • Avoid lean cut meat – As a general misconception, we all go for lean meat and do not prefer fatty meat, but it’s exactly the opposite in case of a carnivore diet. Fatty meat is more preferred in a carnivore diet because here, fat is the fuel for your body. 

How to Follow the Carnivore Diet

A carnivore diet is a very simple diet to start off; all you need to do is quit all the plant food and consume only meat. Here is a one-week diet plan for you to kick start your carnivore diet. 

Day 1

  • Breakfast: bacon and scrambled eggs
  • Lunch: fried pork 
  • Snack: Cottage cheese
  • Dinner: beef patties 

Day 2

  • Breakfast: cheese omelet 
  • Lunch: Chicken thighs 
  • Snack: liver fry or bone broth
  • Dinner: Ribeye steak

Day 3

  • Breakfast: Poached eggs with bacon
  • Lunch: Tuna and hard-boiled eggs
  • Snack: Sardines
  • Dinner: Bone broth and roasted chicken

Day 4

  • Breakfast: Kefir and two eggs over medium
  • Lunch: Shredded chicken with bacon
  • Snack: Tuna
  • Dinner: Bison burgers

Day 5

  • Breakfast: Chicken livers and scrambled eggs
  • Lunch: Turkey burgers
  • Snack: Hard-boiled eggs
  • Dinner: Slow-roasted salmon

Day 6

  • Breakfast: Chicken and feta omelet
  • Lunch: Beef liver
  • Snack: Sardines
  • Dinner: Pork chops

Day 7

  • Breakfast: Bacon and eggs
  • Lunch: Grilled chicken tenders
  • Snack: Steak bites
  • Dinner: Prime rib

Try to avoid the processed meat, and opt for more organic meat. When combined with physical activities, the carnivore diet makes you stronger and healthier. 

Downsides of the Carnivore Diet

The risk of the carnivore diet depends on your underlying medical condition. For example, in certain conditions such as kidney diseases, where you need to reduce protein consumption, the carnivore diet is not suitable. Also, depending on your need, if you are following this diet to lose weight or to address an autoimmune or inflammatory condition, it might give some impressive results. 

Eating a particular group of food always has a set of drawbacks, whether it’s vegan or a carnivore. When you are on a meat diet, you might run out of certain nutrients that are abundant in plants, like vitamin C and vitamin E.

There are short-term and long-term side effects of the carnivore diet too. During the beginning stage of your carnivore diet, you may experience nausea, vomiting, headache, tiredness, fatigue, insomnia, constipation, and fluid imbalance; this may be due to the new transition from a high-carb to zero-carb diet. This is also popularly known as keto flu; it can be due to glucose deprivation, and it lasts for a week. 

Short-term symptoms generally last for a few days to a few weeks. This includes electrolyte and fluid imbalances. Sometimes this may get serious as your body lacks essential micronutrients that are necessary for cells to function normally. 

Meat-only diets may be disruptive to your digestive system. Since there is no fiber in the carnivore diet, you may experience constipation as a side effect during the initial stages of this diet. Also, diarrhea is the most common side effect of a carnivore diet. Since you are new to a fatty diet, it can result in a runny and greasy stool. Due to a lack of plant food, the gut may lack good bacteria, which makes you more susceptible. 

People who are consuming antacids may face some problems. Gastric acids or stomach acids are required for the digestion of meat and fat; antacids reduce the stomach acids and prevent efficient emptying of your stomach.   

There are a few rare long-term effects in the carnivore diet. Hepatic steatosis is a fatty liver disease caused due to fat build-up in the liver, a rare symptom of a carnivore diet. Kidney stones are commonly seen in carnivore diets. A long-term carnivore diet might lead to nutrient deficiencies. 

In short, the carnivore diet may not be suitable for everyone. Depending on your medical history and diet requirements, you can try and adapt to this diet. But the carnivore diet results shared by some celebrities have indicated that this diet has relieved some severe health issues like anxiety, depression, skin problems, and rheumatoid arthritis. 

Final Words

The carnivore diet is the best diet if you are looking for weight loss, to be fit, and to cure autoimmune diseases or other health problems. Though it sounds like a very restrictive diet, a carnivore diet is simple and satiating. It reduces your meal frequency, cravings, and unhealthy snacking. Many people have experienced amazing results with this diet. When you approach this diet with the right intention, there is no turning back. 

Dr. Rashmi Byakodi is a health and wellness writer who aims to spread awareness about health through her words. With her medical background and a passion for writing, she has been creating health content on various platforms. Dr. Rashmi believes that with the right knowledge and a healthy lifestyle, we can combat many health issues, and she strives to spread the same through her blog posts. 

Find her on LinkedIn, Quora, and Pinterest.

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