If you haven’t heard of the Carnivore diet, you can probably guess what it’s all about. On Carnivore, you eat only animals and animal products.
Many folks are raving about this meat-centric regimen. They report less stomach trouble, less hunger, more fat loss, and a host of other benefits.
These benefits align with the benefits of Keto. The Carnivore diet is, after all, a form of Keto diet.
In the next five minutes, you’ll learn what you need to know about the Carnivore diet: allowed foods, potential benefits, potential concerns, and how to decide if carnivore works for you.
What Is the Carnivore Diet?
The Carnivore diet is a high-protein Keto diet without any plant foods. It’s high in fat, high in protein, and extremely low in carbs.
Carnivore is a diet of meat, salt, fish, animal fats, eggs, and sometimes dairy. Keto staples like low-carb vegetables, nuts, and avocados are strictly forbidden.
Carnivore gathered steam after Shawn Baker’s book, The Carnivore Diet, hit bookstores in 2019. Baker has subsequently appeared on Joe Rogan’s uber-popular podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience, along with Carnivore advocates like bestselling author Jordan Peterson and his daughter, Mikhaila Peterson.
Because it disallows the majority of food groups, Carnivore is considered an elimination diet. (Elimination diets are typically used to reduce gastrointestinal symptoms). More on that soon.
Meat is the focus on a Carnivore diet. Many Carnivores consume only meat, skipping eggs and dairy for gut health reasons.
Let’s explore the Carnivore menu now.
Carnivore Diet Foods
On a strict Carnivore diet, you can only consume animal products, water, and salt. This limits your options.
The main category is fatty cuts of meat like ribeye, lamb leg, and chuck roast. Unlike leaner cuts of meat, fatty meats have the proper macros—both protein and fat—to keep you in the unique fat-burning state called ketosis.
They also have enough fat to keep you energized. On a lean-meat-only program, most of your macros would come from protein. And while protein is crucial for building muscle and synthesizing hormones, your body is better at synthesizing ATP—the energy coin that powers all living things—from carbs or fat.[*]
And so on carnivore, marbled meat and fatty fish generally comprise the bulk of one’s calories.
Other Carnivore-approved foods include:
- Offal. Organ meats like liver, kidney, and heart are exceptionally nutrient-dense foods. They provide vitamins (like folate) that usually come from plants.
- Animal fat. Lard, tallow, ghee, and butter are sanctioned for cooking and consuming on Carnivore. You’re not supposed to have olive oil and coconut oil, but nobody’s calling the carnivore police if you enjoy these Keto-friendly fats.
- Eggs. If tolerated, eggs are a perfect Keto food. High in fat, high in protein, high in nutrients like choline. But many carnivores have trouble digesting eggs (or egg whites) and avoid them.
- Dairy. Dairy is an animal product, but carnivores with gut issues often avoid it due to casein or lactose intolerances.
- Fish. Fatty fishes like salmon, sardines, and mackerel make excellent additions to your carnivore menu, plus they contain omega-3 fatty acids for brain health.[*]
- Honey. Since honey comes from bees, some carnivores eat it. But since honey is pure sugar, it’s definitely not Keto. Up to you.
Carnivore Diet Benefits
The potential benefits of Carnivore are similar to the potential benefits of Keto. There isn’t much research on the Carnivore diet, per se, but the research on Keto provides a good proxy.
#1: Gut health
Those with chronic gut issues like IBS, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis have reported improvements in gas, bloating, abdominal pain, and diarrhea on the Carnivore diet. What’s driving this?
As discussed earlier, Carnivore is an elimination diet. When you eliminate all plant foods—grains, fruits, vegetables, etc.—you eliminate many foods that can cause inflammation and symptoms in a sensitive gut.
Also, eliminating sugar and fiber on Carnivore can starve pathogenic gut bacteria of their fuel. This is why folks with IBS often do well on low-carb, low-fiber diets.[*][*] Check out this article on Keto for gut health for more on this topic.
Carnivore is a very low-carb diet. And when you keep carbs very low, it signals your cells to start burning fat and making ketones.[*]
#3: Weight loss
Why may Keto be an effective weight loss diet? Here are a few reasons:
- Carb restriction keeps the hormone insulin low, decreasing fat storage.
- Hunger hormones are suppressed in a ketogenic state.[*]
- Keto limits empty calories (like sugar) that are easy to overeat.
Let’s move on to concerns now.
Concerns About The Carnivore Diet
Some worry that eliminating plants will cause micronutrient deficiencies. This is a valid concern, but it can be mitigated by eating organ meats. Beef liver, in particular, is like nature’s multivitamin.
Another concern is that a long-term low-fiber diet could negatively impact the gut microbiome. This is also a valid concern, and the proper response will depend on the person in question.
Fiber can feed good gut bacteria, but it can also feed bad gut bacteria.[*] If your gut feels best on carnivore, you’re probably on the right track. Listen to your body.
There are a handful of concerns about meat too. For instance, consuming saturated fat may elevate LDL cholesterol levels, but the real-world population data still doesn’t show a link between dietary saturated fat and heart disease.[*][*][*]
Cooking meat at high temperatures also generates potential carcinogens like heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and advanced glycation end products (AGEs).[*] To minimize the formation of these compounds, cook your meat low and slow.
Animal-Based Eating vs. Carnivore
Animal-based eating is a more flexible variation of the Carnivore diet. When you eat an animal-based diet, you consume meat and organ meats (like on Carnivore)—but you’re also allowed a small amount of “nontoxic” carbohydrates like fruit, some tubers, and honey.
Animal-based advocate Dr. Paul Saladino recommends consuming 1 gram of red-meat-based protein and 0.5 to 1 gram of non-0toxic carbohydrates per pound of target body weight if you’re metabolically healthy.[*] But if you’re struggling with obesity or diabetes, he recommends keeping carbs close to zero.
Deciding If Carnivore Makes Sense For You
You might want to try a carnivore diet if…
- You have chronic gut issues.
- You love meat and want to simplify your Keto diet.
- You’re curious how carnivore will affect your energy, fat loss efforts, bloodwork, etc.
If you decide to go Carnivore, make it a proper experiment. Give it two to four weeks. Get bloodwork before and after, and pay careful attention to how you feel at all points in time. Be sure you are meeting all your micronutrient needs by including organ meats in your diet, and if necessary, work under the guidance of a health practitioner.
Did things move in the right direction? The answer to this question will determine your next move, including your next shopping list.