Overview of the Carnivore Diet
Could you eat nothing but meat all day every day? Well, that’s the extent of what’s on the menu with the latest trendy diet — the carnivore diet. The carnivore diet is the latest iteration in a long line of low-carb diets. However, the carnivore diet takes low-carb to a whole new level of extreme — no carb extreme to be precise.
On the Carnivore diet, you can eat animal products and animal products only. That means no vegetables, no fruits, grains, nuts or seeds. It should be noted that dairy products are allowed in the diet but carnivore purists tend to avoid them because of the lactose.
This diet is an elimination diet and a pretty extreme one at that — also known as exclusion diets, these diets are usually used to identify foods that an individual cannot consume without some kind of reaction or adverse effect. As this diet is so restrictive by nature, it can often provide relief for those who suffer from various food intolerances.
Most people either love the idea of eating steaks in their diet, while the rest are just deeply concerned and not interested. It is quite clear from studies and reports that the consumption of excessive animal foods is detrimental to health.
This makes everyone think the carnivore diet something of a quandry. It certainly seems like the most radical diet yet. But is it healthy, can eating vast quantities of meat, butter, and eggs every day truly be good for you? The short answer… probably not. But let’s take a closer look anyway.
What is the Carnivore Diet
As stated previously, the Carnivore Diet is a diet restricted to only animal products without exception. This encompasses eating large amounts of meat, fish, eggs and in some cases dairy, though this is a point of contention for some as dairy is a source of carbohydrates.
There are many reasons why somebody would undertake such a diet but speaking in general terms, proponents of the diet claim it is beneficial for weight loss, digestive issues, cardiovascular health, hormone balance and curing/reserving/preventing a whole myriad of diseases. In short, it’s pretty much a cure-all.
Many report elevated mood and energy levels, enhanced physical performance and an overall sense of wellbeing when following the carnivore diet. It might be a good idea to point out at this point that absolutely none of these benefits or claims have been proven through scientific research and pretty much every claim about the diet is anecdotal.
Carnivores like to enthuse about how the diet is a return to our primal ancestors who were, healthy happy and disease free (apparently). Of course, options were pretty limited back then and those who survived off animal-based diets did so because that was the only option they had, not because it was the best thing for their health.
SUMMARY: The Carnivore diet is an animal-product based diet which exclused all forms of carbohyrates except for those found in dairy. The diet has many alleged benefits, none of which have any basis in medical science.
IS IT GOOD FOR YOUR HEALTH?
There is no scientific evidence to support the theory that the carnivore diet is healthy or beneficial in any way. The diets prolific popularity has stemmed from social media “gurus” and fitness fanatics spouting the wonderous benefits the diet offers.
Meat is made up of pure protein and fat. Red meat especially is very high in saturated fat which is a known risk factor for cardiovascualar disease. Different people react very differently to saturated fats, it can have a dramatic impact on the cholesterol levels of one individual and a negligible one on another, but the general consensus dictated by many large scale studies conducted over many years is that saturated fat has a detrimental effect on the body’s lipid profile.
You’ll all too frequently see people use the argument that “You don’t need X to survive”, X in the case of carnivore followers being fruits, vegetables or whatever. To a certain extent, this is true — of course, we don’t need plants to survive, but that doesn’t mean they are not beneficial or conducive to a long and healthy life.
Many people claim that they feel much better eating only meat so the only logical explanation is that meat is the best food source for optimal health to the exclusion of all else. This is dangerous thinking and outright false in many cases.
It’s true that exclusion diets can make people feel much better, especially in the short term, but this may not be due to the actual diet, it can be simply relief attained from the removal of whatever food was causing the discomfort. The problem with this is, while you may have excluded one source which was causing issues, you have also eliminated a plethora of foods which may have been providing a wide range of benefits.
Foods Present in The Carnivore Diet
Since it consists of animal foods, it is easy to tell the foods present in this diet. The beauty of this diet is that there are no rules that deal with portions, macronutrient breakdowns, and food timing. The idea is to consume as much animal products when you are hungry. The following is a list of carnivore diet foods.
- Whole eggs- There will be a lot of fat present in the egg yolks.
- Fish- Go for the fatty fish such as the sardines and salmon.
- Meat- This is the main food source for people practicing in this diet. They include red meat, burgers, and steaks. It is essential that you consume all the calories since the carbohydrate intake is low. Therefore, go for fatty meats such as the organ, sausage, bacon, and poultry meats.
- Dairy- They include butter, yogurt, cheese, and milk, among others. Most dieters tend to omit these foods or regulate their intake since they view it as a version of the ketogenic diet where dairy is allowed because of the lactose content. Make sure you experiment with dairy as you monitor your body’s response. This is because the aim of this diet is to remove the nutrients that are not optimally processed.
- Bone Marrow- Bone broth is the best option for this diet.
- Supplements- This diet does not support the consumption of supplements even those that come from animals such as creatine and whey protein. This is because this animal product diet guarantees that you will meet all your dietary needs. Red meat already contains creatine.
- Condiments- Your best bet in this category is pepper and salt. This is because some herbs, mustard, horseradish, and salsa do not meet the standards of this category. Condiments that have sugar cause digestive issues for most people. Thus, focus on using sugar-free condiments because they are eaten in small servings and come from plants. Meat contains a lot of flavors thus salt and pepper will work perfectly on their own. You could include a small amount of butter for some taste.
- Fatty meat products- These meat derivatives such as lard, tallow, and other foods that are fat dense. Make sure you consume animal products that are of the best quality. This will prevent you from introducing chemicals that will affect the normal functions of the body and cause more harm and negative results.
Benefits of The Carnivore Diet
Eating a meaty diet may sound like a nightmare for most doctors and health experts. However, I would be remiss if I did not tell both sides of the story. This diet has many purported benefits and anecdotal claims attesting to its efficacy. There are many professed beneifts to this diet:
- Loss of weight – Just as the ketogenic diet reduces weight, so does the carnivore diet. This diet limits the consumption of carbohydrates which reduces blood sugar levels and causes the body to use stored muslce glycogen for fuel, this will result in a dramatic loss of weight initially which will taper off as the glycogen is used.
- Boosts heart health – Many carnists claim that there is evidence showing that saturated fat can boost heart health, though I’ve yet to see this evidence. However, some people who have heart disease have recorded improved results after subscribing to this diet.
- Inflammation reduction – Inflammation is the source of most diseases including cancer. This benefit may not be as convincing to most vegans since they swear that animal foods are the source of inflammation. This is not true. The reality is that animal foods actually lower inflammation. A 2013 study that focused on the comparison of people who ate a diet rich in fat and low in carb and those who ate vice versa. Evidence shows that consuming more proteins that are gelatinous such as gelatin, collagen, and bone broth since they can boost the health of cartilage.
- Higher testosterone – Diets that are rich in fat boost testosterone levels. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study shows that men who subscribe to low fiber and high-fat diet had higher testosterone levels than those who ate vice versa.
- Less digestive issues – Even though most doctors recommend fiber, but studies show that less fiber improves the symptoms of chronic constipation such as bloating, reduced gas, and straining. The compounds in the plant foods that are rich in fiber have been suspected to increase the symptoms of chronic constipation. Plants have natural deters that are meant to keep off predators and this causes a person to experience the effects of chronic constipation.
Diabetes and The Carnivore Diet
Insulin resistance is one of the main characteristics of diabetes. Insulin resistant patients have trouble maintaining normal blood sugar levels and as such, require higher than normal amounts of insulin to maintain normal blood sugar levels.
Insulin resistance is complex and unfortunately, often misunderstood. It’s widely believed that excessive carbohydrate consumption is the leading cause of insulin resistance.
When carbohydrates are consumed, insulin is released from the pancreas to remove and store the glucose for energy use. In the case of diabetics, this process is highly inefficient because the body is resistant to insulin. This results in extended periods of high blood-glucose concentrations which people blame on the carbohydrates they have consumed but this is simply a side-effect and not the cause.
A common trait in insulin-resistant patients is excess fatty acids. These fatty acids blunt the insulin response and over time lead to insulin resistance and consequently diabetes.
So, where does this fit in with the carnivore diet? Well, it’s been touted as the ultimate diet for diabetes sufferers with people claiming they’ve been able to ditch the meds and cure themselves of their affliction.
But, labeling the carnist diet as a cure is a total misnomer. Sure, you will, of course, reduce your blood-sugar levels in the absence of carbohydrates and yes, you may no longer need insulin shots after an extended period without carbs but unfortunately, you’re simply masking the problem and not curing it — far from it, you may be exacerbating the problem.
As soon as you return to carbs, you will once again notice your blood-sugar skyrocket and likely, once again, blame the carbs. However, the truth is, excess fat is the real culprit for blunting your insulin response and as you can imagine a fat-based diet like this one won’t do you any favours.