If you want to eat healthier, conventional nutrition says to eat plenty of fresh fruits and veg, select healthy, whole grains and drink plenty of water.
But a new diet called the carnivore diet is anything but conventional, taking an opposite stance to the first two pieces of advice listed above and flies in the face of plant-based advocates. On the carnivore diet, you'll completely eliminate fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts and other plant-based sources, only eating foods from animal products.
The carnivore diet is extreme, cutting out entire food groups, along with the micronutrients and fibre that comes with them. While we would never recommend the carnivore diet for everyone, the science-loving part of us wanted to research this new way of eating.
So, for the sake of exploration (and, let's face it — sheer curiosity), we researched the carnivore diet. Below, we share our findings, including the basics of the carnivore diet and the (somewhat surprising) success people have had with it.
Disclaimer: The following information is meant for informational purposes only, and should not be taken as medical advice. Before beginning any diet, particularly one that cuts out entire food groups, please speak to a conventional-wisdom-questioning nutritionist.
What Is the Carnivore Diet?
The carnivore diet, as the name entails, is a diet where you eat only animal products. All other foods — including grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, sugar, alcohol and even multivitamins — are completely eliminated.
What Can You Eat on the Carnivore Diet?
So, what foods does that leave you with? The answer is simple: Any food that comes from animals. You can enjoy fish, chicken, organ meats, red meat such as ribeye steak, pork and minced beef, eggs, lamb and foods from other animals (some even eat honey!).
You can also include animal-derived products, including collagen peptides, bone marrow and bone broth. Carnivore dieters are encouraged to eat foods from high-quality sources, including grass-fed meats and pasture-raised poultry, and avoid processed meats. Lastly, those who follow this elimination diet can only consume animal-based cooking fats, such as tallow and lard.
What About Dairy?
Dairy is the one grey area within the carnivore diet. Most carnivore dieters eliminate dairy products completely, as many people have unknown underlying intolerances often associated with lactose or casein. Other carnivore diet advocates believe that because dairy comes from animal-based sources, it should be included. (A similar debate takes place in paleo communities, where some individuals consume dairy — sometimes called the primal diet — while others cut it out entirely.)
How the Carnivore Diet got Started
Followers of the carnivore diet sometimes view it as a derivative of the paleo or ketogenic diet (keto diet). On the paleo diet, individuals cut out grains, legumes, refined sugar and processed foods. The keto diet is a high-fat, low-carb diet that takes the paleo diet one step further, eliminating all high-carb foods, including grains, legumes, fruit, natural sugars and starchy vegetables. The goal of the keto diet is to enter ketosis, where you become fat adapted and run on ketones, rather than glucose, for fuel.
Success Stories on the Carnivore Diet
Due to its restrictive nature, the carnivore diet has received its fair share of backlash from health and wellness communities. With that being said, there are a number of loyal carnivore diet followers who are testaments to its success.
Carnivore diet proponents claim that cutting out fruit, vegetables and grains has helped them experience muscle growth, meet weight loss goals, treat autoimmune disorders and lower blood sugar and glucose levels.
Dr. Shawn Baker Uses the Carnivore Diet To Train Olympians
Shawn Baker, an orthopaedic surgeon, founder of MeatRX, bodybuilder and athlete, is credited with spearheading the carnivore diet community. After training numerous Olympic athletes, Shawn believed that meat — and only meat — contained the essential components of human nutrition.
In an Urban Wellness Clinic podcast episode, Shawn stated that by consuming animal-based products, humans mimic the diets of their ancient ancestors more closely, which allows them to train at higher intensities .
Shawn holds the world record in the World Association of Bench Press and Deadlift Submasters, was a USA track and field All-American in the discus and holds the American deadlift record for the Natural Association of Strength Athletes . Shawn claims that those switching to a carnivore diet for the first time will experience improvements in joint pain, mental disorders, blood pressure and hormonal imbalances .
Lastly, on MeatRX.com, he tells potential carnivore dieters that they will not experience high cholesterol, diabetes or cancer — stating that most of conventional nutrition science comes from 'poorly designed studies' .
Joe Rogan Experienced Weight Loss on the Carnivore Diet
Joe Rogan is a stand-up comedian, podcaster behind The Joe Rogan Experience, MMA and UFC commentator and martial arts athlete. After interviewing psychologist Jordan Peterson and Shawn Baker on his podcast, Joe Rogan followed the carnivore diet to help improve his functional strength, tracking his results on social media.
According to ‘Men's Health’, Joe Rogan followed the carnivore diet for one month, powering him through a grueling workout regimen of weightlifting, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, kickboxing and taekwondo . He claimed the low-carb, high-protein nature of the diet allowed him to have ‘amazing energy levels’ and improvements in his vitiligo (skin pigmentation).
His carnivore diet meal plan consisted of eating six eggs for breakfast, a lot of game meat for dinner, bacon as a snack and supplementing with fish oil, vitamin supplements and probiotics. While he did experience weight loss, he did experience severe side effects, including, and we quote, 'explosive uber diarrhea'.
Mikhaila Peterson Used the Carnivore Diet To Treat Autoimmune Diseases
Mikhaila Peterson is a Canadian best-selling author, educator in microbiome recovery, host of the Mikhaila Peterson podcast and one of the most well-known thought leaders behind the carnivore diet. Her unique spin on the diet was nicknamed 'the lion diet', consisting of only red meat, salt and water .
Mikhaila Peterson became famous for following an animal-foods-only diet in order to treat a number of chronic diseases and autoimmune disorders . After being diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, idiopathic hypersomnia, Lyme disease, psoriasis and eczema, she followed a strict elimination diet of just beef, salt and water in order to heal herself. After following the diet, she was able to rid herself of antidepressants and other medications, and says she is symptom-free .
Dr. Paul Saladino Treated Hundreds of Patients With the Nose-To-tail Carnivore Diet
Dr. Saladino is the host of the Fundamental Health podcast, author of ‘The Carnivore Code’ and founder of Carnivore MD. Using the carnivore diet, he has been able to reverse autoimmunity, inflammatory responses and mental health issues for hundreds of patients .
Dr. Saladino argues that the nose-to-tail carnivore diet closely mimics the ancestral diet, where hunter-gatherers ate high amounts of organ meat, bone broth, wild game and yes, even saturated fat. His dietary teachings state that eating organs and muscle meat can boost the immune system, prevent nutrient deficiencies, decrease obesity rates, reduce oxidative stress and lead to optimal health .
In stark contrast to functional medicine, he claims that plant toxins — including oxalates and lectins — are far more harmful to the human body than animal-based food sources .
The Health Benefits of the Carnivore Diet
The biggest criticism of the carnivore diet is that it leaves out micronutrients — eliminating vitamins, minerals and fibre. In addition, it typically cuts out one macronutrient — carbohydrates — entirely, making the carnivore diet a zero-carb diet (unless of course you use honey). Again, while we do not recommend the carnivore diet for everyone, animal-based products do contain more nutrients than you might think. Contrary to popular belief, you can get all your vitamins and minerals from animal-based sources.
Animal-Based Products Do Contain Traces of Vitamins
Meat products do contain vitamins in small amounts. For example, sardines contain over 100% of your daily vitamin D, while liver provides vitamin A, a number of B vitamins (including 800% of your daily vitamin B12) and even traces of vitamin K (typically found in plant-based sources . Eggs contain vitamins E, A and vitamin B12 .
Vitamin C is difficult to find in animal-based products. However, there are a few sources, such as fish roe, that have small traces of vitamin C . Dietitians will warn that too little vitamin C can lead to scurvy, which can cause bleeding gums and opening of previously healed wounds .
Animal Products Are Rich In Minerals
Meat and eggs are notoriously high in minerals — particularly iron, magnesium, zinc and copper. In fact, individuals who follow diets that limit animal-based products (such as pescatarian, vegetarian and vegan diets) run the risk of developing iron-deficiency anemia due to a lack of iron .
With that being said, too much iron can also cause health problems. Consuming too much meat (and therefore, too much iron), can be toxic for your blood, a health condition called hemochromatosis .
Meat Does Not Contain Fibre (Which May Not Be a Bad Thing)
Fibre is a carbohydrate found in plant foods. Therefore, on the carnivore diet, you will not consume any fibre. Fish, pork, beef and eggs contain 0 grams of fibre per serving, which many mainstream nutrition advocates argue can lead to constipation and other digestive issues.
On the other hand, many people in the carnivore community report having digestive issues go away after switching their diet. In addition, some studies show that removing fibre can improve constipation — not make it worse .
Meat Contains Essential Amino Acids
Animal-based products (including eggs) contain all nine essential amino acids — or those that the body does not produce on its own. For this reason, meat and eggs are considered ‘complete proteins’ .
Those who cut meat out of their diets (such as vegetarian diets) and rely on plant-based protein will need to be extremely diligent to consume all nine essential amino acids. In addition, the bioavailability of plant-based protein tends to be lower than animal-based protein. While no adverse health effects are reported, this can make it more difficult to build muscle mass and strength.
Is the Carnivore Diet Right for You?
The carnivore diet is a restrictive diet which involves cutting out entire food groups, namely fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes. Instead, you’ll strictly consume foods from animal-based sources.
While the carnivore diet goes against much of conventional nutrition, there are a few health benefits which should be noted. First, meat contains a number of vitamins and minerals, particularly B vitamins and iron. In addition, a number of advocates of the carnivore diet claim it can help with digestive issues, autoimmune disorders and weight loss (excess fat). Lastly, meat contains all nine essential amino acids, which can help power you through your workouts, provide lasting energy and help you in your pursuit of optimal health.
If you do choose to experiment with the carnivore diet, there are a number of Hunter & Gather products that can help. Grass-Fed Liver & Heart Capsules can provide beneficial nutrients, including vitamin B12, folate, phosphorus, zinc, copper and iron. Lastly, both bovine collagen and marine collagen protein powders contain essential amino acids and collagen, helping to improve your joint, gut, hair and skin health. Lastly, check out our sample three-day carnivore diet meal plan to get started.
All information provided on our website and within our articles is simply information, opinion, anecdotal thoughts and experiences to provide you with the tools to thrive.
It is not intended to treat or diagnose symptoms and is definitely not intended to be misconstrued for medical advice. We always advise you seek the advice of a trained professional when implementing any changes to your lifestyle and dietary habits.
We do however recommend seeking the services of a trained professional who questions the conventional wisdom to enable you to become the best version of yourself.