At least since Jordan Peterson, a clinical psychologist and professor at the University of Toronto, and his daughter Mikhaila shared their incredible experiences on Joe Rogan’s podcast, the carnivore diet has been the talk of the town.
Accordingly, you may have heard of people who have experienced significant improvements from body fat to depression and autoimmune disease on a carnivore diet plan and want to try it.
If so, this is the article for you. In this post, I explain the science behind the carnivore diet and show you examples of diet plans to get you started, if any.
What Is the Carnivore Diet?
As the name suggests, the carnivore diet is an all-meat way of eating. Accordingly, carnivore relies exclusively on animal products.
In short, it’s a more restrictive version of the ketogenic diet. Therefore, its supporters often refer to the carnivore diet as the logical next step after keto.
Compared to the keto diet, it is even lower in carbohydrates, putting people into ketosis, which has tremendous health benefits.
That is why it is also called Zero-Carb or Meat-Only diet.
At first glance, this sounds a bit radical, especially since the carnivore diet is the exact opposite of all mainstream dietary recommendations.
We are constantly advised to limit our meat consumption and feed on whole grains and vegetables.
For example, star director James Cameron tells us in his controversial documentary Game Changers on Netflix that a vegan diet would make us healthier.
The fact that he and his wife have founded Verdient Foods Inc., which invested vast amounts of money in the largest pea protein factory in North America, he had thereby withheld from us.
Carnivore, on the other hand, is the opposite of these food trends. It’s about eliminating refined industrial foods.
If the general perception of a healthy diet is correct, why have metabolic diseases only increased particularly sharply in this millennium?
For example, more than half of the U.S. population already suffers from pre-diabetes (Menke et al. 20151).
If the masses were always right, we would be surrounded exclusively by ripped billionaires. However, you certainly wouldn’t have ended up here if you were interested in more conventional diet advice.
Since humankind has been eating meat for 99.6% but only using agriculture for 0.4% of its existence, the carnivore diet cannot be plain wrong.
Is the Carnivore Diet Healthy?
Although a carnivore diet meal plan is a radical approach, it can most likely help more people overcome nutritional problems than any other diet.
The carnivore diet is the quintessential elimination diet.
Not only are there hardly any people for whom meat can cause digestive problems, but the carnivore diet Plan also banishes all those substances that can cause problems to the gastrointestinal tract:
However, it’s not just physical ailments that the carnivore diet can counteract.
Because of eliminating these problematic anti-nutrients from our second brain, the gut, the diet is known for improved mental health.
In addition to clinical psychologist Jordan Petersen, psychiatrist Dr. Paul Saladino is also reporting about the carnivore diet’s remarkable benefits for several years.
Saladino reports helping his patients with a carnivore diet plan. Furthermore, he lives the carnivore diet himself.
Accordingly, the range of ailments that the carnivore diet can help with, according to testimonials, is broad:
- Anxiety and depression
- Autoimmune diseases
- Acne and skin irritations
- Joint pain
- Cardiovascular disease
Some people start the carnivore diet due to weight stagnation or other ailments that a low-carb or keto diet has not completely cured.
Others have heard of Dr. Shawn Baker, an orthopedic surgeon and athlete who holds world records. He is possibly the best-known proponent of the carnivore diet.
Baker credits the carnivore lifestyle for his extraordinary energy and athletic performance.
Numerous people want to follow this example, which has created real hype about the extreme diet and its benefits.
Benefits of the Carnivore Diet
There have been no substantiated studies about the carnivore diet itself. Therefore, its much-cited benefits come mainly from testimonials from people who have tried it.
Although the carnivore diet has not been explicitly studied, studies exist that could scientifically explain its following benefits and health effects:
1. Improved Gut Health
The carnivore diet eliminates plant anti-nutrients that are indigestible. Therefore, lectins, among others, can no longer damage the intestinal wall and trigger infectious and autoimmune diseases (Haupt-Jorgensen et al. 20182; Sturgeon et al. 20163).
2. Less Inflammation
According to one study, extra low-carbohydrate, high-fat diets like carnivore help overweight people reduce inflammation. In contrast to a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet, the LCHF diet also significantly reduced body fat (Ruth et al. 20134).
3. Effortless Weight Loss
Like keto, you can combine carnivore easily with intermittent fasting. This can lead to even better weight loss in the long run.
4. Lower Risk of Diabetes
Because carnivore is a zero-carb diet, it helps keep blood sugar levels stable throughout the day. In a study, particularly low-carbohydrate diets regulated blood glucose levels so well that people with type 2 diabetes could discontinue their insulin medication (Westman et al. 20087).
5 Improved Heart Health
The myth that meat causes heart disease due to saturated fat had to be debunked by health authorities. According to studies, saturated fats reduce heart disease and strokes, while carbohydrates increase them (Hite et al. 20108; Mozaffarian et al. 20049; Siri-Tariano et al. 201010).
6. Younger Skin
Carnivore is rich in zinc, DHA, vitamins A and E, and free of refined carbohydrates. This could be why a study of indigenous peoples found that acne is exclusive to Western civilization (Cordain et al. 200211).
7. Less Kidney Stones
On a carnivore diet, you automatically eliminate oxalates. These are plant-based anti-nutrients that can bind calcium in the kidneys, promoting kidney stones (Han et al. 201512).
8. Mental Clarity
People who follow a carnivore diet plan consistently report mental clarity because ketones have neuroprotective properties, and the brain prefers them over carbohydrates (LaManna et al. 201013).
9. Increased Testosterone Levels.
According to one study, men who followed a low-fiber, high-fat diet for two months were able to increase their testosterone levels by 13% while decreasing estrogen levels by up to 28% (Dorgan et al. 199614).
Last but not least, carnivore is probably the most straightforward diet. You don’t need exotic instructions, buy fatty cuts of meat and eat until you are full. Finally, you don’t have to count calories or calculate macronutrients.
How to Start the Carnivore Diet
So if you’re tired of complicated diets where you continuously need new recipes, buy exotic ingredients, and portion meals, the carnivore diet can help.
This way, you can quickly improve your health by avoiding processed foods and anti-nutrients or achieve your fitness goals through adequate protein intake without supplements.
In summary, the carnivore diet has three essential components:
Therefore, the only solid food that comes to the table is part of the animal kingdom. For its proponents, carnivore is more of a lifestyle than a diet, significantly since it has helped alleviate long-standing mental or autoimmune disorders.
Nevertheless, an extreme diet is not for everyone.
Therefore, consult your trusted physician before drastically changing your dietary habits.
Keto vs. Carnivore Diet
On the zero-carb carnivore diet, you hardly eat carbohydrates. However, eggs, offal, shellfish, and dairy products may contain traces of carbohydrates.
In contrast, keto includes more carbohydrates because it only considers net carbs.
These are total carbohydrates minus fiber since the body doesn’t absorb them.
On the other hand, carnivore further eliminates all plant foods from the diet plan.
Practitioners of a ketogenic diet must also pay close attention to their macronutrients. This way, they ensure the correct fat, protein, and carbohydrate ratio.
On the other hand, the carnivore diet has no prescribed macronutrient ratio. You will also burn fat as your primary energy source for lack of carbohydrates. This metabolic state is called ketosis.
However, too much lean meat could be a problem on the carnivore diet. Without the protective fat, protein can significantly increase insulin levels (Nuttall et al. 199115).
And the storage hormone inhibits fat burning (Meijssen et al. 200116).
Moreover, fat will boost satiation. However, there’s also a hybrid of the two diets called keto carnivore.
On keto carnivore, non-animal fats, such as olive oil, coconut oil, MCT oil, or avocado oil, are allowed.
Sometimes keto carnivores will even consume high-fiber vegetables such as spinach or kale. Besides, a low-carb fruit is allowed, the avocado.
Furthermore, unsweetened almond milk is allowed in the process. This is a smart move since cow’s milk spikes blood sugar tremendously.
While many people use sweeteners such as stevia or monk fruit extract on the keto-carnivore diet, I can only advise against it.
Although these options are sugar-free, they affect insulin levels (Tey et al. 201717).
Additionally, artificial and natural sweeteners such as stevia can negatively alter gut flora (Ruiz-Ojeda et al. 201918).
Carnivore Diet Food List
One of the main characteristics of the carnivore diet is its simplicity. For this reason, the list of foods you can eat on the carnivore diet reads relatively simple:
- Duck meat
- Animal fats
- Bone broth
- Bone marrow
- Low-lactose dairy products
Beef is the ultimate carnivore diet food.
Ruminants are the perfect herbivores. Their digestive system includes four stomachs for a good reason. Therefore, they can ideally absorb nutrients from plant sources, which we can’t.
Therefore, ruminants can eliminate plant toxins from their digestive system, so the food we eat is free of them.
Cows can even render glyphosate, a pesticide that is the town’s talk due to its adverse health effects, virtually harmless.
Similarly, the European Food Safety Authority concludes that sheep and lamb suffer no adverse health effects from glyphosate (EFSA 201819).
The same is not valid for pork or chicken, so they do not have the same carnivore diet status. Besides, these animals run the risk of being heavily medicated.
Those who know regional livestock farmers who do not focus on feeding soy and corn are at a clear advantage.
As an all-meat diet, the carnivore approach aims to eat animals sustainably. If a life is taken from an animal, carnivores eat nose to tail and do not waste any parts.
This premise counteracts the most significant mistake people make about meat consumption today – the focus on tenderloins.
Eating offal, skin, and bones is more sustainable, but these cuts also offer a complete spectrum of essential vitamins, minerals, and amino and essential amino acids.
Foods to Avoid
Having just discussed the cornerstones, let’s play it safe and eliminate all those foods that may cause health ailments.
Therefore, avoid the following on your carnivore diet meal plan:
- Baked goods
- Nuts, seeds, and legumes
- Vegetable oils
- Dairy products containing lactose
- Chemical additives
- Sugar and sweeteners
Since there is little difference between sweets and modern fruits from a biochemical standpoint, fruits must be eliminated from a carnivore diet meal plan.
The liver converts the sweet molecule into alcohol and stores it as fat – a comparatively new scientific insight (Tappy et al. 201020).
For this reason, fructose, not alcohol, is responsible for the lion’s share of all fatty liver disease worldwide (Angulo et al. 200221).
In contrast to fruits, many vegetables are much more likely to live up to their image as nutrient sources.
On carnivore, you have to avoid them due to plant toxins.
Avoiding vegetable oils is even more urgent, as they can be full of lectins and consist predominantly of pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids.
The nature of animal fats also makes them more suitable for frying, as saturated fatty acids cannot oxidize.
Moreover, dairy from northern European cows contains casein A-1 instead of the milk protein casein A-2.
During digestion, the body converts casein A-1 into a lectin-like protein called beta-casomorphin, which is thought to cause autoimmune diseases.
Therefore, consuming southern European dairy products such as Parmesan makes sense. Moreover, protein mutation does not affect dairy products from goats or buffaloes.
Nevertheless, those who want to lose weight with a carnivore meal plan should avoid milk or yogurt, as lactose is sugar and will promote weight gain.
Strict carnivores also avoid processed meat due to unwanted additives.
Carnivore Diet Meal Plan
Getting started on the carnivore diet is straightforward. With this carnivore diet meal plan, becoming a carnivore will be easy for you. Plus, you’ll quickly find your preferences due to the simplicity of the diet.
After many people switch from keto to carnivore, they know about the benefits of intermittent fasting on ketosis. Therefore, the suggestions for breakfast on this carnivore diet meal plan are optional:
- Breakfast: Feta omelet
- Lunch: Roasted lamb chops
- Dinner: Oven-roasted mackerel
- Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with grass-fed butter
- Lunch: Roasted pork belly
- Dinner: Ground beef with a fried egg
- Breakfast: Soft eggs
- Lunch: Tuna steak
- Dinner: Roasted chicken liver with ghee
- Breakfast: Fried egg with bacon
- Lunch: T-bone steak
- Dinner: Sardines and hard-boiled eggs
- Breakfast: Anchovies and fried egg
- Lunch: Roasted salmon with skin
- Dinner: Chicken hearts with grass-fed butter
- Breakfast: Eggs with fried bacon
- Lunch: Chicken legs from the tube
- Dinner: Shrimp with ghee
- Breakfast: Tuna with feta
- Lunch: Roasted calf’s liver
- Dinner: Ribeye steak
The fattier the cuts on your carnivore diet meal plan, the better. And this is especially true with fish. Ultimately, we want to get the high-potency omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA, which you cannot get from plant-based sources.
Also, lean cuts on the carnivore diet meal plan are complemented by healthy fats whenever possible. In addition to grass-fed butter and ghee, goose fat, organic lard, and pastured beef tallow are good choices.
That said, it’s easy to get started on the carnivore diet. If you love steak, you can even eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Nonetheless, I would always add offal to the plan to boost nutrient density.
Potential Side Effects
Widespread side effects of the carnivore diet are all too familiar to those who have tried the keto diet or intermittent fasting.
Still, you don’t have to worry right away because a staple on any carnivore diet meal plan can provide relief.
When you start the carnivore diet, your metabolism undergoes significant changes that can have several health benefits.
Since carnivore is a zero-carb diet that can restrict carbohydrate intake even more than ketogenic diets, effects of metabolic change may occur more quickly.
But there is an advantage to this. If so, the body learns more quickly to burn fat as a primary energy source.
The zero-carb diet forces the body to deplete its carbohydrate stores by keeping insulin levels low and flushing out water and electrolytes.
In addition to energy, the storage hormone insulin retains salt in the body (Brands et al. 201222).
Therefore, the kidneys flush out more sodium on a carnivore diet. For this reason, you need more salt to feel well, especially when switching to a carnivore diet.
In short, like the keto diet and fasting, this lack of sodium is the leading cause of headaches or dizziness, so these symptoms are often called keto flu.
Therefore, I like to reach for freshly ground pink Himalayan salt and salt as desired.
Since this natural salt contains no chemical additives like anti-caking agents, is minimally processed, and has not been bleached, I think it is a better choice.
With that in mind, don’t be afraid to listen to your body and give it salt when it asks.
Salt also takes the bitter taste out of foods and is a natural antagonist of sugar. While sugar consumption promotes insulin resistance and body fat, salt increases insulin sensitivity and helps you lose weight instead (Sakuyama et al. 201623).
Therefore, salt is also a natural remedy for cravings.
Cravings and Mood Swings
When the body switches to ketosis, there are long-term benefits but short-term side effects. If your body is used to burning sugar for energy, you may experience withdrawal symptoms quickly.
Eventually, sugar is eight times more addictive than cocaine for a reason (Lenoir et al. 200724).
The comparison to drug addicts may sound radical, but it is not far-fetched.
Because sugar is a readily available energy, the body quickly becomes accustomed to this fuel, and if it suddenly disappears, it will promptly crave it.
For this reason, the lateral transition from a Western diet can be challenging, which is why many carnivores started with a ketogenic diet as an intermediate step.
Such a significant change in eating habits can cause mood swings since your body initially struggles to get all its energy from fat. The best solution to cravings is to increase your intake of healthy fats.
Therefore, you should never base a carnivore diet meal plan exclusively on lean cuts of meat – a mistake made all too often in conventional diets.
Furthermore, sweeteners are likewise not a solution. Besides the fact that they raise insulin levels, they fuel cravings all the more.
Have you ever wondered why so many overweight people consume diet soda like water?
The fact that sweet taste stimulates your brain’s reward center, but no glucose arrives due to zero-calorie sweeteners could be a good reason (Yang 201025).
Thus, compared to conventional diets, the carnivore diet significantly changes your metabolism.
With this in mind, can’t a purely animal-based diet lead to nutrient deficiencies?
Vitamin C and Scurvy
First and foremost, vitamin C immediately comes to mind. It is one of those few vitamins more abundant in plant sources. Moreover, vitamin C has been so heavily promoted in recent decades that we can hardly forget it.
A simple solution would be to eat sweetbreads on a carnivore diet. As little as 200 grams of a ruminant’s esophagus will provide the daily requirement of vitamin C.
In addition to other offal such as liver, heart, and brain, skeletal muscle meat also contains smaller amounts of vitamin C.
Many advocates of the carnivore diet report feeling great even though their diet is primarily steak. Therefore, can a lower daily requirement be sufficient for carnivores?
As on keto, the human metabolism changes on the carnivore diet compared to the Western Pattern diet. It is not only a low-carb but rather a zero-carb diet.
In addition to burning fat more efficiently, this also brings benefits to vitamin C intake. Since vitamin C and glucose have a very similar molecular structure, they compete for glucose transporters in the body.
When glucose concentrations are high, the uptake of vitamin C by the transporters is blocked (Liang et al. 200126).
Conversely, this means that the fewer carbohydrates consumed, the better the body can absorb vitamin C.
Accordingly, another study states that high blood glucose inhibits cellular uptake of vitamin C.
Thus, scientists even suggest that the high glucose concentration in diabetics may be responsible for tissue scurvy (Cunningham 199827).
Scurvy is a vitamin deficiency disease also known as C avitaminosis.
Most likely because it can improve vitamin C absorption, meat consumption is an ancient home remedy for scurvy.
Also, indigenous peoples who have traditionally taken a carnivorous diet, such as the Inuit before their Westernization, are not known to have scurvy.
Nutrient-Density and Fiber
Even though people report eating nothing but steak, I wouldn’t just go to the butcher and buy filet steaks or pork chops exclusively.
Those who alternate between meat, fish, and various offal and bones can get a remarkable range of micronutrients.
Accordingly, organ meat is packed with nutrients such as, in particular, A, B, D, and E vitamins, copper, zinc, iron, magnesium, potassium, folic acid, selenium, or choline.
Since beef liver is the most nutrient-dense food, there is hardly a micronutrient that it does not contain (*).
If you throw in heart, bone broth, brains, sweetbreads, fatty fish, or fish roe occasionally, you’ll get heaps of antioxidants, collagen, vitamin C, DHA, and EPA.
Nevertheless, lean meat also contains such nutrients, but not in such large quantities.
Accordingly, a carnivore diet meal plan can result in a full spectrum of nutrients, which surprised me personally.
At first glance, that sounds good. But what about healthy fiber?
Fiber is a double-edged sword when it comes to healthy eating. While nature intended it in plants to facilitate consumption, isolated fiber is not helpful for digestion.
In plants, fiber prevents unhealthily high blood sugar and insulin spikes during digestion (Chandalia et al. 200029).
But on a zero-carb diet, this effect is not necessary. For this reason, nature did not foresee fiber in meat.
Unlike plant-based sources, the body can absorb nutrients from animal sources far better due to a lack of anti-nutrients.
Moreover, the satiety effect of fat and protein significantly beats that of indigestible plant components.
My Personal Experience
Even though there are no dedicated long-term studies on the carnivore diet, it could benefit some people.
If there are mental, intestinal, or autoimmune conditions that could have their origin in the diet, the impact of a carnivore diet may be remarkable.
In conclusion, carnivore is probably the most effective elimination diet. For this reason, you might have witnessed many positive testimonials.
I tried a strict carnivore diet for four weeks and could not notice any energy loss compared to a ketogenic diet.
What carnivore does improve, in my experience, is gut health.
The gut no longer speaks up with discomfort or bloating due to lacking all indigestible anti-nutrients, such as FODMAPs or lectins.
Therefore, anyone who consumes large amounts of gluten-containing foods, such as pasta, bread, or beer, is guaranteed to experience a drop in mood after the strict elimination diet.
The carnivore diet’s main challenge is providing high-quality meat or fish, making it difficult in the long run.
Nonetheless, I would prefer a carnivore over a vegan diet any day. Why?
I have no problem with a plant-based diet. However, the fact that the food industry continuously exploits the vegan trend to produce more unnatural industrial foods harmful to our bodies is more than questionable.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
How much meat should I eat per day on a carnivore diet meal plan?
There is no calorie counting on the carnivore diet. Eat until you are full. The main benefit of the diet is the exclusion of potentially harmful plant toxins and processed foods.
Will the carnivore diet get you into ketosis?
As long as you don’t focus your carnivore diet meal plan on lean meat, you will always be able to reach the metabolic state of ketosis.
Can you build muscle on the carnivore diet?
As Dr. Shawn Baker shows, muscle building is favored by a carnivore diet meal plan because it naturally supplies high-quality proteins.
Can I have processed meat on a carnivore diet meal plan?
While some people eat processed meats on the carnivore diet, strict carnivores do not.
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Stephan is a writer and a true man of science, holding multiple diplomas and master's degrees in different research areas. His greatest passion is closing the gap between the conventional perception of health and the latest scientific evidence – always following the data.