I have to say, being a South African, the idea of sitting down to a big juicy steak for breakfast appeals to me. I’m following a few carnivore advocates on twitter, which includes a big community off medical professionals.

I’ve come to learn in the past year or two to listen up, especially if you start to see some anecdotal evidence on a nutritional topic.  It should at least make you curious to find out more. Test it out.

Before we dive into what I’ve found, just to reiterate that this is not an academic paper. I’m not an expert on the carnivore diet. I’ve never followed it…wait, maybe a few days when we would go camping and we mainly had barbeque!  

I’m just a curious health coach who wants to make sure my clients know what’s out there and what the science is on the topic. 

What is the Carnivore Diet?

The carnivore diet consists entirely out of meat and animal products, excluding all other foods.  While it could include other animal foods like eggs and certain dairy products, it excludes all other plant-based foods like vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts and seeds.

The carnivore diet stems from the belief that our ancestors mostly ate meat and fish.  So, it’s pretty much “if it had a mother, you can eat it”. 

And we are not talking about fake meat. Fake meat comes from a laboratory, not animals.

The carnivore diet also aims for 0 carbs, excluding all plant foods from your diet -where most of your carbs come from if you eat whole foods.  So, you get your energy primarily from protein and fat. 

Shawn Baker, a former American orthopaedic doctor, is the most well-known advocate of the carnivore diet.  In 2017, Baker’s medical license was revoked by the New Mexico Medical Board due to concerns about his practice.  Baker has released a 2-part YouTube series to explain his side of the story. 

But nevertheless, a person well worth following if you want to stay abreast of the carnivore diet.

What is the food list on the carnivore diet?

The foods that are allowed on the carnivore diet include beef, chicken, pork, lamb, turkey, organ meats, salmon, sardines, white fish and small amounts of cream and hard cheese.  Butter, lard and bone marrow are also allowed.

Proponents of the diet emphasize eating fatty cuts of meat to reach your daily energy needs.

You can drink water and bone broth on the carnivore diet, but tea, coffee and other drinks made from plants are discouraged.

There is no specific macro intake prescribed on the carnivore diet and it’s advised that you eat as often as you like, or as much as you like.

Specifics that someone on the carnivore diet can eat include:

  • Meats like beef, chicken, turkey, organ meats, lamb, pork, etc.
  • Fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines, crab, lobster, tilapia, herring, etc.

Foods that might be acceptable as some interpret these foods as “coming from an animal”, also includes:

  • eggs, lard, bone marrow and bone broth, 
  • heavy cream, hard cheese, butter, etc.
  • water,
  • salt, pepper and seasonings with no carbs are allowed.

Even though coffee and tea are plant based, there are some carnivores that do keep this in their diet. Honestly, I don’t know what I would do without my cuppa joe in the morning!

What foods should be avoided on the carnivore diet?

The foods that are generally avoided this diet include:

  • All forms of Vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, potatoes, green beans, peppers, etc.
  • All forms of Fruits: apples, berries, bananas, kiwi, oranges, etc.
  • High-lactose dairy due to its high sugar content: 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: soda, coffee, tea, fruit juice, etc.

While some people incorporate some of these foods, a true carnivore diet does not permit them, hence the term – pure carnivore. 

What is the benefits of the carnivore diet?

The benefits of the carnivore diet aren’t fully documented yet. It doesn’t’ mean however that there aren’t any.  Since a person is eliminating carbs, you will by default eliminate processed and sugary foods like cookies, cakes, candy’s, sodas and other high-carb packaged foods. 

These are also the types of food that should be eliminated by people with diabetes, since it can spike blood sugar levels and increase insulin.

A quick look through any carnivore community and you’ll see people are using it to make massive body composition changes, cure type 2 diabetes, manage depression, reduce anxiety, sort IBS issues and as farfetched as it might sounds even curing some cancers. 

Some aspect off the carnivore diet can certainly lead to weight loss. Especially because protein is linked to feeling fuller after meals, which can cause you to eat less.

There are studies that show increasing your protein intake, and reducing your carb intake, may lead to more sustained weight loss.  

Some folks reason that the carnivore diet eliminates mindless eating. You don’t sit and snack on meat the whole day.  Protein is satiating, so you will eat less. 

You can also enter a state of ketosis on a carnivore diet, which can support weight loss and insulin resistance.

Anecdotal evidence also reported faster weight loss, improved mental clarity, better digestion and even improved athletic performance. 

There’s also studies that found that switching to an all-meat diet, can significantly change gut microbiota.

What is the side effects of the carnivore diet?

There is still a community of people that believe that saturated fat, can increase your risk of heart disease. However, recent studies have shown that high intake of saturated fat and cholesterol are not strongly linked to higher risk of heart disease, as was previously believed. 

There is no research available that show the long-term effect of consuming high amounts of animal fat and protein.  Processed meat should be avoided in any diet

While people believe that the carnivore diet eliminates highly nutritious foods and strip your diet from nutrients, there are proponents of the carnivore diet that belief otherwise. 

There are concerns that a carnivore diet does not provide enough fiber in the diet.  However, fiber has become a controversial topic and more research is needed as to how beneficial fiber really is. 

There is also a concern amongst folks about nutrient deficiencies.

Again, there is just not enough evidence to back this up, either way. There is some anecdotal evidence of individuals who’ve been on the carnivore diet for several years, with no adverse reaction.

Who should consider a carnivore diet?

There is no RCT (randomized control trials) done on the carnivore diet, but here’s what I was able to find. 

Anecdotal evidence suggests that people with food intolerances, are doing well on the carnivore diet

Dr Mabry, began a carnivore diet in 2015 after his weight stalled. He was eating almost 80% fat and 20% protein. He was able to drop his weight further, and his lifelong sugar and carb cravings disappeared completely. 

This CrossFit athlete recording that the carnivore diet eliminated their sugar cravings completely within 3 days.   

Who should not eat a carnivore diet? If you are prone to disordered eating, then you should not follow a diet.  Rather consult with a CBT practitioner to support you with your lifestyle goals.

Why are some experts freaking out about the carnivore diet?

It’s mainly because of the amount of saturated fat you will be eating on a carnivore diet.  This is the same concern there is with the keto or low carb diet – which is nothing other than cutting out processed food and sugar.  

In 2019, the American Diabetes Association released a statement that endorses low carb diet as an option.  

Also as mentioned previously, there is no randomized control trials that proof that saturated fat causes heart disease.  

Just because a bunch of intellectuals sit down and put some thoughts on a piece of paper, doesn’t mean that they’ve proven anything, nevertheless that they know what they’re talking about. 

Conclusion

So, is the carnivore diet safe?

We don’t know. There isn’t enough evidence to indicate long term benefits or negative side effects of this diet.

For evidence to be significant, we are talking about randomized control trials in large populations at least for more than 1 year. It’s hard to do these types of studies, especially when it comes to nutrition.

I’m always a fan of cheering people on to test and decide for themselves if a certain way of eating works best for them, unless there’s proven evidence that the side effects outweigh the benefits. Which we don’t have for the carnivore diet. 

I cannot but wonder about all my clients whose biggest complaint is “my kids don’t want to eat any vegetables”.  Their kids are perfectly fine. No one is malnourished. No one is under fed.  They are as healthy as any other kid their age who eats a 3-course meal at every sitting.

It does seems that the carnivore diet is great anti-inflammatory diet.  Most of the information available is based on anecdotal evidence, which means its evidence collected in a casual or informal manner and relying heavily or entirely on personal testimony.

So my conclusion is that it’s worth looking into the diet if you are suffering from inflammation and other chronic diseases.

Just make sure it’s whole organic meat and not fake or processed meat.  It’s the chemicals in the food, that is not real food, that causes all the health issues in our community.

Happy meat eating,

Petrolene