Carnivore vs. Animal-Based: What’s the Difference?
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Carnivore vs. Animal-Based: What’s the Difference?

Carnivore vs. Animal-Based: What’s the Difference?

Posted 15 days ago

SaVanna Shoemaker, MS, RDN, LD

SaVanna Shoemaker, MS, RDN, LD

By now, you’ve probably heard about the all-meat Carnivore diet. You may feel horrified about the idea, curious about it, or maybe a little bit of both.

Carnivore has gained a lot of traction lately, though, because many people who try the diet say they feel better than ever before when they only eat meat.

However, the diet may be too extreme for people unwilling to give up other types of food.

Animal-based is an alternative to the Carnivore diet that includes all of the same foods, plus some ‘non-toxic’ plant foods like fruits and vegetables that most people tolerate well.

In this article, we’ll help you figure out which of these diets may be a better fit for you.

What Is the Carnivore Diet?

The Carnivore diet is a strict Keto-style diet that includes only meat, eggs, seafood and small amounts of dairy foods.

Carnivore has grown in popularity as an eating style, especially for people dealing with chronic inflammation, autoimmune issues, or digestive problems.

Some people may find certain plant foods difficult to digest because they contain inflammatory or “anti-nutrient” compounds like gluten, phytates and lectins.[*][*]

Therefore, Carnivore simply removes all of these potentially problematic foods.

Some people also follow the diet for weight loss. Although it’s stricter than regular Keto, it offers a much more simplified approach to figuring out which foods are OK to eat while following it.

Benefits

There’s a large online community of people who say that Carnivore has had amazing benefits for them — such as weight loss, improvement of chronic disease symptoms, reduced inflammation, better blood sugar, clearer skin, and more.

Unfortunately, there haven’t been a lot of studies done on the Carnivore diet. However, it has a basis in human history. It’s thought that during the Ice Age, most humans ate a primarily Carnivore diet. Therefore, it may be far superior to today’s highly-processed, high-carb diets because it’s what our genes have adjusted to over a significant portion of human history.[*]

Regardless, as the diet’s popularity grows, more research will be dedicated to studying it.

Right now, the best way to know if Carnivore would benefit you personally is to try it for yourself. 

Downsides

Carnivore may not be right for everyone. It’s a strict diet plan that can be difficult and expensive to follow, especially if you purchase higher-quality meats like grass-fed beef.

Additionally, some people may have allergies or intolerances to dairy or eggs, which further limits what they’re able to eat on Carnivore. Likewise, although rare, some people can develop an allergy to meat (called “Alpha-gal Syndrome”) after getting bitten by a certain type of tick. For any of these people, following a Carnivore diet may be too limiting.[*]

And although there are a lot of anecdotal reports of success with the Carnivore diet online, there’s little scientific evidence of its safety — and no studies that we could find showed that it improved autoimmune, inflammatory, or digestive conditions.

What Does a Carnivore Diet Meal Plan Look Like?

Some people on Carnivore also follow an intermittent fasting diet pattern, so they may only eat one or two meals per day. 

Meat is very filling, making it easier to fast between meals. Many people on Carnivore don’t snack either.

Therefore, a typical day on a Carnivore diet may look something like this:

  • Fasting window: Fast and drink water for 16-20 hours
  • Eating window: Have one or two substantial meals, for example, a large ribeye steak and/or a large salmon filet cooked in butter

Carnivore-friendly snacks — for those who do choose to snack — may include things like beef jerky, pork rinds, hard-boiled eggs, and hard cheeses like cheddar and parmesan.

Is the Carnivore Diet Safe?

Although it may sound extreme, Carnivore actually appears to be safe for most people — based on what we know so far.

In the past, researchers have studied communities that follow a traditional Carnivore-style diet, such as some Greenland Inuits (who depend heavily on fatty fish and sea mammals as a food source) and the Maasai (whose traditional diet consists almost exclusively of meat, milk, and blood), and found that their diets appeared to be nutritionally adequate and they had relatively low rates of chronic disease.[*][*]

Additionally, a recent analysis of the Carnivore diet also found that — when carefully planned — the diet was nutritionally sufficient and could provide all essential vitamins and minerals.[*]

Still, if you plan to try Carnivore be sure to clear it with your healthcare provider first, especially if you have any underlying conditions or are taking any prescription medications.

What Is an Animal-based Diet?

Animal-Based is a more flexible version of the Carnivore diet that was developed by Dr. Paul Saladino. 

Animal-Based is low in carbs, but not necessarily Keto — because it does allow for some higher-carb foods like fruit, squash, and honey.

On an Animal-Based diet, you eat mostly high-quality meats and animal fats, but you are also allowed small amounts of plant foods that are considered “Low Toxic” or on occasion, foods considered “Medium Toxic.” These are foods that are generally well-tolerated by most people, according to Dr. Saladino.[*]

However, most vegetables are categorized as “High Toxic” and should be avoided completely or only eaten in small quantities.

Additionally, Dr. Saladino emphasizes “nose to tail” eating, which involves including a variety of organ meats in your Animal-Based diet.

Benefits

One of the key benefits of the Animal-Based diet over Carnivore is that it offers a much larger variety of foods, including some fruits, vegetables, and even a small amount of white rice if tolerated. In fact, some of the vegetables on the “Low Toxic” list are staples of the Keto diet — like avocado and zucchini.

Animal-based also takes into consideration your personal response to certain plant foods. For example, you can include more Medium Toxic or High Toxic foods into your diet if they don’t affect you personally.

Like Carnivore, many people online have reported a number of positive changes from following the Animal-based Diet. However, there’s no published research to support the diet. Regardless, you might experience health improvements from following this diet — you’ll have to try it for yourself to see how you personally respond.

Downsides

Like Carnivore, the Animal-Based diet can be expensive and difficult to follow. It, too, has a large focus on food quality — so the meats and other foods you include may be more expensive than conventional meats and grocery items. 

And again, there is no published research to support the potential benefits of the diet — only anecdotal reports online. However, there are a number of resources on Dr. Saladino’s website that explain his reasoning behind the diet.

What Does an Animal-based Diet Meal Plan Look Like?

Like Carnivore and Keto, people may take many different approaches to following an Animal-based Diet. They may choose to fast or not fast, or to snack or not snack — although fasting and Carnivore/Keto approaches do tend to go hand-in-hand.

Here’s what a day of Animal-based eating may look like:

  • Fasting window: Fast for 12-16 hours
  • First meal: Eggs and bacon cooked in butter, with sliced avocado
  • Second meal: small steak cooked in avocado oil, with sauteed zucchini
  • Third meal: Beef liver and grilled shrimp
  • Snack/dessert: Handful of berries and heavy cream

How To Choose the Best One For You

Here are a few questions to ask yourself that may help you figure out which is a better fit for you:

  • Am I willing to only eat meat? If the answer is yes, and you don’t think you’d get sick of eating only meat, seafood, eggs and perhaps a little dairy, then Carnivore may be a good fit.
  • Do I enjoy bone broth and organs? Bone broth and organs are extremely nutrient dense and virtually essential for the Carnivore diet. Organ meats are an important part of the Animal-Based Diet too. If you can’t stomach these foods, it may be worth considering a diet like Keto or Paleo that doesn’t depend on them so heavily.
  • Do I enjoy vegetables and other non-meat foods? If you really want to include some vegetables or other foods in your diet, then Carnivore may be really tough and Animal-based would probably be a better fit.
  • Am I looking for results as fast as possible? If weight loss is your primary goal and you’re looking for results as fast as possible, Carnivore may be a better choice. Unlike Animal-Based, Carnivore will keep your carb intake at zero or near zero and make it easier to limit your calorie intake.
  • Do I want to keep things simple? Finally, if you prefer simplicity over more complicated rules or guidelines, Carnivore would probably be a better fit.
  • What are my health goals? There’s not a great deal of research available on either diet yet, but - based on experiences that people have shared online - Carnivore may be a better option for people trying to alleviate autoimmune symptoms. Still, you may also want to consult an integrative healthcare provider if you are struggling to manage your autoimmune disease.

Thinking through these questions can give you clarity about which would be a better fit for your lifestyle. While I have no problem with Carnivore, I would probably lean towards Animal-based myself because I love vegetables and I think I would get tired of eating only meat really quickly.

Recipes

Ready to get started? Why not experiment with some of our delicious Animal-Based and Carnivore Recipes.

Animal-Based:

Carnivore:

Takeaway

Although the names sound interchangeable, there are some key differences between Carnivore and Animal-based. Carnivore is inherently a low-carb Keto diet, but Animal-based can actually be higher in carbs from fruits and other high-carb foods like white rice and honey. 

Both of them keep the focus on high-quality animal proteins, though. If you value flexibility and options, Animal-based may be a better fit for you. But if you want to keep it simple and see quick results, Carnivore may be the best approach.

Regardless, Carb Manager has all the recipe and meal planning tools you need to succeed with either one.