What is the Carnivore Diet?
Also known as the All Meat Diet or the Zero Carb Diet, the Carnivore Diet entails eating only animal-based food products and drinking water every day. That includes beef, wild game, pork, lamb, poultry, eggs, fish, seafood, cheese, butter, and heavy cream. No plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruits, or grains are allowed on the diet. It is touted to help a person lose weight but, even more, it is thought to be the answer to America’s crippling health. After all, sugar is guilty for promoting nearly all diseases on the planet.
The Carnivore Diet has been featured on the Good Morning America show and written about in the New York Post. Carnivore forums are popping up all over the internet, and the Carnivore/Keto Diet group is proclaimed to be one of the fastest growing Facebook groups. While there has been little research on this newfound diet, thousands are proclaiming they have found symptom relief or been healed from gut, autoimmune, mental, and metabolic disorders.
Is the Carnivore Diet Safe?
Many may wonder if the Carnivore Diet is safe. Questions regarding nutrients, fiber, and constipation are in the forefront of the minds of those who want a new way of eating for both weight loss and wellness. Conflicting research about meat and eggs being a hazard for heart disease is also a major concern for many.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much scientific research on a meat-only diet. All carnivore diets in health journals only reflect meat-eating animals such as canines, felines, and bears. Plus, those studies that tout meat causes cancer have been conducted on diets that contain meat but also include junk food, grains, vegetables, and fruits. Therefore, we don’t really have any real conclusive evidence on the Carnivore Diet and its safety.
However, there are the testimonies of thousands of people spread across internet forums who have been eating the Carnivore Diet. People express their excitement in being healed from many diseases including severe digestion problems like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Chron’s Disease, and Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO). Those who have suffered from autoimmune, mental, and metabolic disorders for decades say they wanted to give up on life prior to the Carnivore Diet but found relief and even remission or healing once they became carnivores. According to many with arthritis and other muscular-skeletal problems, joint pain relief is one the biggest benefits from the diet.
For those who were desperate for weight loss, the Carnivore Diet has been very beneficial. Some have lost 100 to 200 pounds within a year’s timeframe. Others have even lost more. Weight loss seems to be quick without side effects, and it even curbs cravings quickly. Many say that the diet has even saved them from opting for gastric bypass and other weight loss surgeries.
So, what about nutrients, fiber, and constipation? According to the experts and dieters of the Carnivore Diet, there is no problem with nutrition intake or bowel movements.
As long as animal-based food sources are selected carefully, nutrients are obtained from the animals. Vitamin C is a huge concern for many who contemplate this diet as meats and dairy have extremely low amounts. However, research shows that a high carbohydrate and sugar-filled diet actually requires a very high amount of Vitamin C because glucose inhibits the nutrient assimilation in the body. The Carnivore Diet doesn’t require those high amounts of Vitamin C because there are no carbs or sugar being taken into the body. Plus, meats contain the recommended dietary allowance for Vitamin C. Though the Carnivore Diet provides less than what a carb-filled diet may include, all of the Vitamin C is taken into the body and fully assimilated. Therefore, Vitamin C is not a problem on the Carnivore Diet.
As far as bowel movements, one would think that severe constipation would be a problem due to a lack of fiber. However, that just isn’t true. Many people that switch to a Carnivore Diet from other diets, including those that come from a high fiber diet, find relief from constipation. In fact, loose stools and diarrhea have been experienced by some in the first few weeks of the diet, but there has yet to be a problem with constipation. Regular bowel movements are usually experienced within the first month to three months, depending on how offset the digestive system was of the dieter.
What are the Benefits of the Carnivore Diet?
Following are just some of the reported benefits of a Carnivore Diet:
- Less bloat
- Flatter abdominals
- Limited gas
- Constipation relief
- Regular bowel movements
- Weight & fat loss
- No carb cravings
- Less hunger
- Better food control
- High energy
- Mental clarity
- Better moods
- Emotional stability
- Improved gut health
- Autoimmune symptom relief
- Less joint pain
- Little to no inflammation
- Better blood pressure
- Improved cholesterol
- Reversed diabetes
- Faster healing
- Ability to get off prescription drugs
- Better lab results
- Clearer skin
- Thicker hair
- Gray hair returning to color
- Strength gains & quick recovery with workouts
- Muscle gain
- Higher testosterone (men)
- Healthier libido
- Better physique
- New wardrobe
Can the Carnivore Diet be Beneficial without Vegetables?
We all know that vegetables, as well as fruits, contain beneficial nutrients for health. However, many also have natural toxins which can be harmful to some people – especially those who have illnesses. As research has shown, most of the immune system resides in the gut microbiota and many disorders and diseases are linked to a leaky gut. Some of these disorders include numerous gut, autoimmune, mental, and metabolic disorders.
A leaky gut is a condition in which the tight junctions in the gut don’t work properly. These tight junctions control what passes through the lining of the small intestine. When the junctions aren’t working correctly, substances leak into the bloodstream. This causes the immune system to recognize these substances as toxic enemies to the body and mounts an attack against them. The result is an inflammatory response which contributes to many bodily disorders such as pain, insulin and leptin resistance, fatty liver, and more serious diseases.
While vegetables are beneficial to people with healthy guts, they can be quite toxic to people with leaky guts. This is due to the following toxins being released into the bloodstream. Some of these toxins even increase intestinal permeability which creates leaky gut. Following are some of the natural toxins in vegetables.
A type of protein that binds to sugar, lectins are considered anti-nutrients. This is because they reduce the body’s ability to absorb nutrients. Lectins are found in beans, soybeans, peanuts, cereal grains (i.e., wheat, barley, rye, corn, sorghum, etc.), potatoes, tomatoes, and many other vegetables. There are two main classes of toxic lectins which include prolamins (aka glutenoids) and agglutinins.
Prolamins are abundant in grains, pseudo-grains (i.e., amaranth, buckwheat, quinoa, and millet), and legumes (i.e., peas and lentils). Gluten is the best-known example of a prolamin and is the source for many autoimmune diseases, including Celiac disease.
Agglutinins are found in seeds and may be even more toxic than prolamins as they have the ability to induce the clumping of red blood cells which can clog blood vessels and stop healthy circulation of the blood to various parts of the body. Agglutinated red blood cells are toxic and can be fatal in some cases.
Digestive Enzyme Inhibitors
Digestive enzyme inhibitors are also anti-nutrients that interfere with the absorption of foods. However, they also stimulate secretion of more digestive enzymes from the pancreas. This hyper-production of digestive enzymes causes the pancreas to work harder, placing undue stress on the organ and depletes the body of nutrients. Digestive enzyme inhibitors are found in grains, pseudo-grains, and legumes.
Protease and amylase inhibitors are two of the main digestive enzyme inhibitors. Protease inhibitors block the digestive enzyme responsible for breaking apart proteins into individual amino acids from doing their job. Amylase inhibitors block the digestive enzymes responsible for breaking apart starches into individual monosaccharides, or simple sugars, from doing their job.
Phytates & Phytic Acid
Though phytates and phytic acid provide an antioxidant function, they also have anti-nutrient properties that inhibit mineral absorption and enzymes from digesting (i.e., proteases trypsin and pepsin, amylase, and glucosidase).
It’s better to eat foods high in phytates and phytic acid in moderation. This allows one to obtain the antioxidant benefits from them while still limiting their natural toxins. Foods high in phytates and phytic acid include grains, legumes, and nuts. Eating meat regularly will also offset any nutrient deficiencies caused by other foods high in these naturally toxic plant-based foods.
Saponins & Glycoalkaloids
All plant foods contain saponins which are compounds that have a distinctive, detergent-like characteristic designed to protect the plants from consumption by microbes and insects. Its compounds taste bitter making the plant less palatable. Saponins do provide beneficial properties such as binding cholesterol, neutralizing free radicals, reducing inflammation, and inhibiting cancer cell growth. However, ingesting saponins in large amounts can irritate and damage the stomach lining and cause other unpleasant symptoms.
A type of saponin called glycoalkaloids, or nightshades, have been proven to decrease viability of human intestinal health and cause leaky gut. Common nightshade vegetables include white potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and cayenne pepper.
Goitrogens are compounds in vegetables, usually dark green leafy and cruciferous, that suppress the function of the thyroid gland by interfering with iodine uptake. Without proper iodine uptake, the thyroid gland cannot function properly which can cause a faulty metabolism. Goitrogen-containing foods include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kale, watercress, and some other like foods.
Is the Carnivore Diet Easy for Weight Loss?
The Carnivore Diet is very easy for weight loss. Even more, it is simple to do. There is no set calorie or macro count. The recommendation is to eat when hungry only and until full but not stuffed. Following is a list of foods that may be included on the Carnivore Diet.
Carnivore Diet Food
- Wild game (i.e., venison, buffalo, bison)
- Heavy Cream
Carnivore Diet Drinks
- Bone Broth
- Coffee (first 30 days for current coffee drinkers)
CC BY 2.0 by Jules, Flickr
Carnivore Diet Supplements
Because this diet is basically a carbohydrate-free diet, loss of excess body water is great in the first few weeks. Therefore, electrolytes are also lost. It is recommended that dieters be sure to get enough electrolytes (i.e., sodium, potassium, chloride, and bicarbonate) in their diet, especially during the initial phase of adaptation. Taking a daily electrolyte supplement takes the guess work out of mixing them yourself. You may also add pink Himilayan salt liberally to foods and take a magnesium glycinate supplement. Though not everyone on the Carnivore Diet experiences loose stool or diarrhea, it is a common side effect for some during the first few weeks of the diet. If you choose to take a magnesium supplement, choose the glycinate form as it does not have a laxative effect like the citrate form. Following are a few recommended supplements.
Some dieters may experience diarrhea in the first few weeks of starting the Carnivore Diet. For those who have digestive issues, the following supplements may help.
If you have experienced problems with your health, or just haven’t been able to lose excess body fat on other diets, you may want to try the Carnivore Diet. Give it at least 30-90 days to see improvement. Stay tuned for more on the Carnivore Diet in future posts.