Information Points:

  • Carnivore diet
  • Meat
  • Low carb
  • Cholesterol ratio
  • Inflammation

The Carnivore Diet: What is it?

Are you considering going carnivore? This all-meat diet is trending, and many people have reported significant benefits from adopting it, however, totally dropping plant-based food off your plate could have a significant impact on your health. First, let’s discuss what makes up the carnivore diet.

  1. What Is the Carnivore Diet?

The Carnivore Diet is a restrictive diet that only includes meat, fish, and other animal foods like eggs and certain dairy products. It excludes all other foods including fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts, and seeds. Its proponents also recommend limiting dairy intake to foods that are low in lactose — a sugar found in milk and dairy products — such as butter and hard cheeses.

The Carnivore Diet stems from the controversial belief that human ancestral populations ate mostly meat and fish and that high-carb diets are to blame for today’s high rates of chronic disease.

Many people who have adopted the carnivore diet report faster weight loss, improved mental clarity, healthier digestion, and even improved athletic performance. Some have also reported remarkable relief from debilitating chronic health problems where conventional methods failed. Despite these great reviews, it is definitely worth taking more time to investigate it.

  • Exactly which foods are on the Carnivore Diet List?

As the title suggests, the carnivore diet is made up of mainly meat with an emphasis on fattier cuts of meat to take in enough calories.

Promoted Foods:

  • Meat: beef, chicken, turkey, organ meats, lamb, pork, etc.
  • Fish: salmon, mackerel, sardines, crab, lobster, tilapia, herring, etc.
  • Other animal products: eggs, lard, bone marrow, bone broth, etc.
  • Low-lactose dairy (in small amounts): heavy cream, hard cheese, butter, etc.
  • Seasonings: salt, pepper, and seasonings with no carbs
  • Water

Forbidden Foods:

  • All Carbs
  • Vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, potatoes, green beans, peppers, etc.
  • Fruits: apples, berries, bananas, kiwi, oranges, etc.
  • High-lactose dairy: milk, yogurt, soft cheese, etc.
  • Legumes: beans, lentils, etc.
  • Nuts and seeds: almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, pistachios, etc.
  • Grains: rice, wheat, bread, quinoa, pasta, etc.
  • Alcohol: beer, wine, liquor, etc.
  • Sugars: table sugar, maple syrup, brown sugar, etc.
  • Beverages other than water:  fruit juice, soda

Discretionary Foods

  • Milk, Butter, Yogurt
  • Eggs
  • Coffee and tea: These may be plant-based, but some people keep these in the diet.
  • Is there an ancestral link to the carnivore diet?

Some people have considered the carnivore diet to be a fad, but is there evidence that any traditional populations practiced the carnivore culture? Many ancestral groups thrived on large quantities of animal products, however, every single one of these groups also took advantage of plant foods when they were available. These communities all predominantly ate meat and fish for their core sustenance:

  •  Sioux of South Dakota
  • The Maasai, Rendille, and Samburu from East Africa
  • Gaucho Brazilians
  • Mongolian Nomads
  • The Russian Arctic Chukotka
  • The Canadian Inuit

They also all looked for supplementation in vegetables, fruits, berries, lichen, condiments such as honey, and many other non-meat sources.

  • What are the benefits of using the carnivore diet?

The carnivore diet, though not being a new diet in a strict sense, has gained fame in recent times. Let’s look at some of its benefits recognized by both research and experience.

  • Weight Loss

As with the ketogenic diet, not taking in carbs keeps your blood sugar low at all times. Insulin levels don’t spike, so the body has no reason to store incoming calories as body fat, andthe limitations on what you can eat make it almost impossible to get a calorie surplus without a concerted effort.

  • Better Heart Health

While there is still no clear link between the consumption of saturated fat and heart disease, there is quite a bit of solid evidence that saturated fat can potentially improve heart health.

A person’s cholesterol ratio is found by dividing their total cholesterol number by their HDL score, and according to the Mayo Clinic , it is a better risk predictor than total cholesterol or LDL. When people don’t consume carbs, the liver produces fewer triglycerides which may raise their HDL levels. For many people on a high protein diet, the LDL also rises. We associate higher cholesterol with more risk when in fact, the body needs that LDL cholesterol to be higher as a person loses weight and becomes more active. That LDL cholesterol is providing more fuel especially if the LDL particles are smaller and denser. There is bigger, “fluffier” type of LDL particle that has more risk, and the kind of particle one has can be determined by a ratio of triglycerides to HDL cholesterol. According to the Cooper Institute, the lower the ratio, the less the risk.

  • Lower Inflammation

Simply cutting plant foods from your menu can lower inflammation by itself. Brian St. Pierre of Precision Nutrition states, “If you had a food sensitivity to some of the plants you were eating and had low-grade inflammation, then removing them will make you feel better.” Lower inflammation means reduction of the risk for some chronic illnesses like Type 2 Diabetes, cardiovascular issues and other conditions such as achy joints. There’s some evidence that eating more gelatinous proteins can improve cartilage health; these proteins would include in bone broth, collagen, and gelatin.

The liver produces C-reactive proteins (CRP) in response to inflammation, so measuring CRP levels can indicate how much inflammation is in your system. A level of 10mg/L or less is normal, and 1mg/L or less is good.

  • Higher Testosterone

Diets high in fat have been shown to boost testosterone levels. In fact, a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that men who followed a high fat, low-fiber diet for 10 weeks had 13% higher total testosterone than subjects who ate low fat and high fiber.

  • Fewer Digestive Problems

Meat is made primarily of protein and fat, which are absorbed high up in the GI tract, leaving little residue leftover to irritate or inflame the gut. In other words, an all-meat diet is effectively a very low-residue diet and gives the gut a rest.

  • Increased Mental Clarity

At one starts the carnivore diet, the body has to figure out how to fuel its system without carbs potentially causing sleep difficulties or leaving a person lethargic and moody.  When the body doesn’t have carbs it can turn into glucose, the liver uses fat cells to make ketones, a chemical that builds up in the blood making it more acidic; bad breath can signal the presence of ketones. After the first few days, carnivore dieters report these adjustments in the body regulate and they think more clearly and have better focus almost right away. 

  • Simplified Dieting

The carnivore diet is the simplest you will ever come across. You eat animal foods when you’re hungry…period. If you are the kind of person who gets confused counting calories or macros, is tired of weighing portions on a food scale, or isn’t sure what’s gluten-free and what isn’t, a carnivore diet will all but relieve you of having to think.

And while a meat-rich diet may sound like it would break the bank, the amounts actually consumed may not be high, since meat is so satiating. Eating smaller amounts should keep costs down, just as not buying any other foods would too.

  • Is an all-meat, carnivore diet healthy?

Meat can be an essential part of a healthy diet, but an all-meat diet may not be the solution for everyone.  Different diets are better suited for different people based on their individual physiology and medical conditions. The diet that best matches their specific situation could be higher or lower carb, high fat, or even high protein. The right diet for any individual depends on their health, their goals, and which diet and lifestyle would best serve them. 

References:

  1. Everyday Health (2018): On the Carnivore Diet, People Are Eating Only Meat: Here’s What to Know. Retrieved from

https://www.everydayhealth.com/diet-nutrition/diet/carnivore-diet-benefits-risks-food-list-more/

  • Men’s Health (2019): Inside the All-Meat, Only-Meat Carnivore Diet That Took the Internet by Storm, Retrieved from

https://www.menshealth.com/nutrition/a27405997/carnviore-diet-plan/

  • Chris Kessler (2019): The Carnivore Diet: Is It Really Healthy?

Retrieved from

https://chriskresser.com/the-carnivore-diet-is-it-really-healthy/

  • Onnit Academy (2017): The Carnivore Diet: Is Eating ONLY Meat Healthy, or Totally Crazy? Retrieved from