We’ve been taught our entire life that a healthy diet is comprised of whole grains, fresh fruits, and vegetables. Armed with that information, it’s no surprise that most refuse to try a diet that outright eliminates ALL carbohydrates.
Regardless, it’s estimated that thousands of people across America are trying the Carnivore diet on for size.
What’s instigating this surge in carnivory?
Certainly not research. To date, the carnivore diet is severely lacking substantial data on its alleged health claims (or hazards) (1). Currently, all the hype has been perpetuated via social media (Reddit forums, Facebook groups) in the form of testimonials. Beyond that, when big-name spokespersons such as Dr. Ken Berry, Joe Rogan, and Dr. Shawn Baker are advocating, we listen up.
What is the Carnivore Diet?
The carnivore diet is pretty much as straightforward as it sounds. It involves eating all the animal parts. No fruits, vegetables, or carbohydrates. But all the steak and eggs you can stomach. This can be a tough sell because the USDA tells us that fruits and vegetables are essential components of a healthy diet and that eating too much meat is bad for our heart (2). Therefore, we would assume a carnivore diet couldn’t possibly be healthy for the human body.
Admittedly, I once shared these beliefs. I wasn’t sold until taking a thirty-day carnivore challenge of my own. But guess what? Thirty days was all it took to rearrange everything I thought I knew about nutrition.
Why Try Carnivore?
People are trying the carnivore diet for a variety of reasons. Some turn to carnivore due to metabolic dysfunction and stalled weight loss. Others take on carnivore in an attempt to heal autoimmune diseases and promote longevity (3). Regardless of your why, I’ve got you covered with five reasons to consider going carnivore.
5 Reasons to Consider Going Carnivore
1. You’ve Hit a Weight Loss Plateau with Keto
For many, one of the most gratifying aspects of the ketogenic diet is that they’re able to shed weight rapidly (and without going hungry). While some manage to hit their weight loss goals with relative ease, others run into frustrating stalls along the way. This is normal— even when you’re doing everything right.
Ketogenic success is dependent upon a myriad of factors. Aside from tracking your macros and eating high-quality whole foods, there’s metabolic flexibility to consider (4). Metabolic flexibility varies according to factors such as age, gender, and metabolic history. Accumulated metabolic damage can make fat-adaptation (and weight loss) more challenging.
This explains why some people can get away with eating loads of carbs without gaining a pound— these folks have greater metabolic flexibility. The good news is, you can work on your flexibility. In fact, the ketogenic diet serves to improve metabolic flexibility— carnivore just takes things a step further (5). It’s suggested that the carnivore diet dramatically improves metabolic function, and an improved metabolism will achieve greater weight loss results (6).
2. Tracking Macros isn’t Your Thing
I get it— tracking macros blows— it’s tedious and time-consuming. Unfortunately, to achieve ultimate ketogenic success, tracking macros is a necessary evil.
Alternatively, the carnivore diet puts little emphasis on tracking macros. The idea with carnivore is to eat like an animal would— until you’re fully satiated (7). The thing is when you’re restricted to meat and lard— you’re unlikely to over-do it.
3. Eating Vegetables is a Serious Struggle
I happen to LOVE vegetables! Actually, vegetables are likely the number one reason I won’t fully commit to the carnivore diet. But even though I’m a fan, I understand many are not. Over the years, many of my clients have shamefully reported their disdain for vegetables.
The good news is, you don’t have to eat them (and you don’t have to be ashamed)— in fact, you’re not even allowed to eat them on carnivore! Although, there is just one stipulation to this free pass. If you’re not consuming your nutrients in the form of green leafy’s, you must derive them from your meats. Yes, believe it or not, meat is packed with nutrients!
But just like vegetables, not all meat is created equal. It’s important to select animals (and their parts) that provide the highest nutritional content. The following is a list of the most nutrient-dense meats available.
- Animal organs— especially the liver. Liver is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet!
- Bone marrow—rich in collagen, and conjugated linoleic acid
- Salmon roe— excellent source of omega-3
- Salmon filet— high in vitamin B-12 and omega-3
- Egg yolks— great source of choline (brain food)
- Brains— hard to get your hands on, but the BEST source of DHA omega-3
- Cartilage— gristle contains cartilage, and cartilage is a quality source of collagen
- Grass-fed beef— especially fatty cuts such as ribeyes, or New York strip steaks
- Bone broth— good source of collagen
4. Your Gut Needs some TLC
Most people aren’t gonna jump on an all-meat diet just because they’re not big on vegetables. For the majority, the driving force behind “going carnivore” appears to be gut health.
The Importance of Gut Health
Internationally recognized Gastroenterologist Will Bulsiewicz states, “All health starts in the gut. It’s not just about digestion. In recent years, the immune system, metabolism, hormonal balance, mood, brain function, and even genetic expression have all been connected to the health of our gut (8). When people take proper care of their guts, their health tends to follow (9). Disease gets reversed—or, better yet, prevented—and the body functions the way nature intended. You feel energized and strong, and you’re basically living your best life.”
Of course, Dr. Bulsiewicz isn’t the only one drawing the connection between gut health and diseases. Beyond Hippocrates, there’s a whole slew of doctors backing the notion that hundreds of chronic conditions are directly tied to the health of our gut (10).
Carnivore and Leaky Gut Syndrome
What is Leaky Gut Syndrome?
The gut is responsible for digestion as well as the absorption and expulsion of food. 90% of digestion and nutrient absorption occurs in the small intestines. A healthy small intestine maintains a semi-permeable membrane, inhibiting harmful materials such as gluten, proteins, bad bacteria, and toxins from leaking into the bloodstream. In individuals with leaky gut syndrome, the small intestines develop larger holes or passageways for these harmful substances to enter the bloodstream (11).
What Causes Leaky Gut Syndrome?
On a positive note, these holes or passageways in the intestines don’t develop on their own. There are two main causes of leaky gut syndrome— the first being an imbalanced gut microbiome and the second, harmful compounds in food, such as gluten, sugar, and GMO’s (12).
Leaky Gut and Autoimmune Conditions
Leaky gut poses a major problem within the body, specifically for the immune system. The reason being, the majority of the immune system lives within the gut (13). And a compromised immune system can lead to potentially life-threatening conditions such as lupus or multiple sclerosis.
Although some doctors write off leaky gut as an illegitimate condition, others are convinced of its legitimacy and connection to autoimmune conditions. Various well-respected medical journals such as the Frontiers in Immunology and the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology have published articles suggesting that leaky gut is directly linked to autoimmune diseases.
Does Carnivore Heal Leaky Gut Syndrome?
Much like keto, by design, carnivore essentially wipes out several leaky gut triggers such as gluten, sugar, and un-sprouted grains. But carnivore takes it a step further, eliminating other potential risk factors such as soy, GMO’s, and other food additives. All of this has an impact on gut health.
Beyond that, the carnivore diet serves as a serious reset for the microbiome. One study showed dramatic microbial shifts after just a few days on carnivore (14).
But are these microbial shifts for the better?
Apparently, we don’t know enough about the microbiome to make a solid determination (15). It has been suggested that the best microbiome for your body is one that is well adapted to the diet you are currently eating. Meaning, the microbiome is highly adaptable (16).
Regarding carnivore, there are a growing number of published case reports involving the resolution of inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s, and ulcerative colitis, which leads me to believe there’s something to this zero-carb diet (17).
5. You Can’t Seem to Tame Your Cravings
The ketogenic community likes to throw around this promise that “going keto” will eliminate your sugar cravings. To its credit, keto does an excellent job of making cravings more manageable— but full-on elimination— I think not.
I believe zero-glycemic sweeteners such as erythritol, stevia, and monk fruit are largely to blame. Although keto-approved, sugar alcohols keep us hooked on that dependency loop. What’s more, allowing that little bit of sweetness to sneak its way in via berries, dark chocolate, and keto treats always keeps us coming back for more.
The carnivore diet effectively eliminates ALL sugars— lactose, fructose, sucralose— bah Felicia! Eliminating all sweetness from the diet cuts the dependency and allows the palate to realign.
The Bottom Line
To date, there are not a lot of published studies involving the carnivore diet. Most of the praise for carnivore has been contributed by way of testimonials (18). Personally, I was grossly skeptical of going zero-carb until experiencing the results myself.
Ready to Try Carnivore?
Keep in mind, “going carnivore” is an extreme dietary decision and one that will certainly come with challenges (especially in the adaptation phase). Committing to a thirty-day challenge is an excellent way of trying carnivore on for size. It can be a great way of identifying inflammatory foods or breaking a weight-loss stall.
If you’re coming off a ketogenic diet, carnivore should be a relatively seamless transition. However, if you’re accustomed to a Standard American Diet, you’ll likely experience some unpleasant side-effects such as fatigue, digestive upset, headaches, cravings, etc. Click here to learn more about the keto/carnivore flu.
Another thing to consider would be investing in a cookbook. At times, carnivore can feel boring and limiting. Having recipes at your disposal may inspire you to cook in new and inventive ways, making the whole process much more exciting. I’d recommend, The Carnivore Cookbook by Maria and Craig Emmerich. This book has been super helpful throughout my 30-day challenge.
Good luck to you, and please don’t hesitate to comment below about your experience with the carnivore diet! 😊
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This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Katie Rodriguez nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement or lifestyle program.