If you’re a meat lover, then you’ll probably come across the Carnivore Diet. This diet which looks to be the the one to watch for 2020 consists mainly of meats and different kinds of animal-based products.
Followers of the diet have reported significant health benefits. It is said to have helped regulate their level of blood sugar, cure sugar addiction, improved fibromyalgia, autoimmune illnesses and arthritis, treat mood issues, and aid in weight loss!
Related reading: How A Keto Diet Can Boost Your Mood
But is the Carnivore Diet healthy? Is it better than the keto diet for weight loss? Read on to understand what this diet is all about and if it’s better than keto and other low carb diets.
What is the Carnivore Diet?
Dr Paul Saladino, a medical doctor and Functional Medicine practitioner is also a proponent of this extreme diet and is currently in the process of writing a book.
It is an extremely restrictive diet that only includes animal products, such as grass-fed meat, wild caught fish, organic eggs, limited organic high-fat dairy products and animal fats such as butter, suet or tallow.
Some proponents include so called booster foods like organ meats, bone broth and fish roe.
Related reading: Is A High Protein Diet Like Keto Bad for You?
As a zero-carb diet, it doesn’t include vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts or seeds therefore your energy will mainly come from fats and proteins.
Abby Langer, a Toronto-based dietitian has called the diet a mono diet.
“I call this a mono diet, which means you’re basically eating one food. It’s meat, eggs, and coffee. Some people will eat dairy, but most believe that the lactose in milk makes it off-limits, because that’s sugar. No plant foods are allowed, which means you can’t eat any grains, nuts, seeds, beans, fruits, or vegetables.”
The Carnivore Diet stemmed from the belief that our human ancestors ate only fish and meat, which made them live a healthier and longer life although there is no definitive proof of this.
Many health experts believe that carbohydrate loaded diets that we have now are the reason behind the increasing rates of chronic diseases.
Related reading: How Carbohydrates Contribute To Weight Gain
Benefits of the Carnivore Diet
Followers of the Carnivore Diet have reported reaping a many health benefits from the diet. However, there is not enough long term research done yet to prove these benefits. The reported benefits are mostly based on the anecdotal accounts of those who have followed the diet.
Dr Saladino, considered to be the leading authority on the science and application of the carnivore diet, claims to have used this diet in hundreds of patients to reverse autoimmunity, chronic inflammation, and mental health issues many of whom had been told their conditions were untreatable.
He is currently in the process of writing The Carnivore Code which is due for release in February 2020. He states:
I discuss our ancestral origins as hunters, and how eating animals made us human. I go into detail about plant toxins of all types, where they are found, and how to avoid these toxins. I also discuss the superiority of animal foods in terms of nutrient bioavailability, and I debunk all of the myths about animal foods being bad for us or bad for the environment.
• Easy To Follow – diets that are easy to follow often lead to successful results, especially for the long term. Many love the carnivore diet because it’s a simple way of eating. Unlike other diets, the carnivore diet does not require counting calories or calculating macros.
• Improves Digestion – although fiber has been found to improve our body’s digestive system, meat-eaters have a totally different outlook. They found that minimizing fiber actually helped to improve digestion.
In fact, a study has found that people who cut down on fiber experienced an improvement in their bowel movements.
Some followers have claimed to have resolved their irritable bowel symptoms and food allergies as well.
• Lower the risk of pain and inflammation – eating meat may help to decrease pain and inflammation. One study has looked into the inflammation markers of two groups of people following different diets.
The first group followed the low carb and high-fat diet while the other followed the high-carb low-fat diet. The results show that those who followed the high fat, low carb diet had a decrease in systemic inflammation at the end of the study.
Related reading: Doesn’t A High Fat Diet Clog Up Your Arteries?
• May aid in weight loss- following the carnivore diet could put you into the state of ketosis, which is the main concept of the keto diet. The carnivore diet includes too much protein to be a true ketogenic diet so you may not go into ketosis.
However, those who follow this meat-based diet have reported that the diet has suppressed their appetite and helped them to lose weight.
Carnivore Diet Versus Ketogenic Diet
Since the keto diet is a high-fat diet, it’s not surprising why most people would often compare it with the carnivore diet. Both diets eliminate carbs and consider fats and protein as important components.
The biggest difference is that the carnivore diet eliminates all plant-based foods. In a ketogenic diet, you can eat fresh fruits and leafy greens, provided they are low in carbs.
The keto diet also encourages eating plant-based fats, such as coconut oil, avocados, seeds and nuts. But unlike the ketogenic diet, the carnivore diet does not require following any macronutrient ratio.
All you basically need to do is to eat meat, preferably grass-fed. And since your diet does not contain any carbs, you could, but may not, reach the state of ketosis.
Related reading: What’s So Good About Grass-Fed Meat?
The reason you may not achieve ketosis is because the meat only diet is a lot higher in protein than the keto diet. Excess amino acids provided by the meat can be converted to glucose by the liver and used for energy so you would not be relying on the fat for energy.
Related reading: Can You Have Too Much Protein On Keto?
What do meals look like on the meat diet?
The meat used should be fatty cuts, cooked in pure pork lard and topped with grass-fed butter. It can be flavored with a little Himalayan salt and pepper and a few herbs.
Organic eggs and grass-fed streaky bacon
Grass-fed steak and organic eggs
Organic chicken livers and egg
Grass-fed rib-eye steak
Grilled beef heart
Wild caught salmon
You should not need snacks on this diet because, like the keto diet, it is very satisfying and will stop cravings. In fact some people following the diet only eat one or two meals a day.
The majority of people start off with drinking coffee and water which should be filtered. Since a small amount of heavy cream and hard cheese is allowed you could have a little heavy cream in the coffee.
You should aim to wean yourself off coffee after the first month on the diet because coffee comes from a plant.
If you don’t do well on the diet and you drink coffee it could be that coffee is a problem for you and you should gradually reduce it and increase your water intake.
Related reading: Is Mold in Coffee Bad for You?
Alcohol is not allowed on the diet. One advantage of the keto diet is that some low carb alcohol is allowed.
Drawbacks of the Meat Diet
The carnivore diet is highly restrictive in nature. Plus, it eliminates most of the important food groups in your diet, which is why it may come with a few downsides although this is disputed by Saladino.
Since the carnivore diet requires eating meats and animal-based foods, the diet is often saturated in fats and cholesterol. Depending on your genetics this could increase your LDL or bad cholesterol level and could put you at risk of heart diseases
Unlike the keto diet, the carnivore diet does not include highly nutritious foods although you can get plenty of nutrients such as B vitamins, vitamin A, iron, amino acids, fatty acids, zinc, and some minerals from good quality grass-fed meat.
It does not include eating vegetables, fruits, legumes, seeds, and other foods that are loaded with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that have been proven to help prevent disease.
Although meat is considered by many to be an essential part of our diet, it should not be the only food items that we eat. Following the Carnivore Diet could lead to nutrient deficiencies in the long term. No long term studies have been done on the diet.
Is the Carnivore Diet Better Than Keto?
As of now, there’s a very little amount of research proving the benefits of the carnivore diet. Most of the written arguments about the diet are merely theoretical.
While the carnivore diet may work for some, it may not be suitable for most people since it eliminates some of the important nutrients that our body needs.
Sure, following meat-based diets may come with some health benefits including weight loss, but it may not the healthiest diet to follow especially for the long-term. Only time will tell.
The ketogenic diet is still a better option when compared to the carnivore diet. If you’re thinking of starting a meat-based diet, you might as well start with the keto diet, which has a more moderate eating plan.
Although keto is a high-fat diet that encourages eating of meat, it also allows you to eat other nutritious foods, such as low carb fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds.
With the keto diet, you will not only end up losing weight but you also get to improve your health and maintain it for the long run.