What Is The Carnivore Diet? Foods Benefits and Risks

The carnivore diet is a diet plan that is high in animal protein with zero accommodation for carbohydrates. If it sounds familiar, it's because it was inspired by the ketogenic diet — another low-carb diet that promotes high-fat intake. Keep reading to learn more about this new trend so you can decide if it’s the right approach for you.

Key takeaways:

Diet categories

In the animal kingdom, species can be categorized by their diet. These classifications are:

  • Herbivores. Only eat plants.
  • Carnivores. Only eat meat (i.e., other animals).
  • Omnivores. Eat a variety of plants and meat.

Most humans are omnivores and eat various foods from plant and animal sources. However, vegans (and some types of vegetarians) are herbivores because they only eat plant foods.

Now, some people are choosing to only eat animal meats by following a fad diet called the carnivore diet.

What is the carnivore diet?

The carnivore diet favors protein and fat and rejects carbohydrates. The diet was inspired by the ketogenic diet, another low-carb diet that became popular for weight loss. The carnivore diet is more restrictive and much newer to the nutrition landscape.

The carnivore diet was created in 2019 by Shawn Baker. He is a physician specializing in orthopedic surgery, and he experimented with the carnivore diet himself before releasing his book.

Critics and peers in the medical field are not all on board with Baker's book. Eating meat can be expensive and not appealing to many people. Additionally, it lacks essential nutrients to keep you healthy. If you are curious about the carnivore diet, you should ask your doctor if it is appropriate for you.

Foods allowed in the carnivore diet

Small amounts of high-fat dairy products and certain foods are allowed in the carnivore diet:

  • Poultry
  • Beef
  • Lamb
  • Pork
  • Seafood
  • Fish

Benefits of the carnivore diet

From a data perspective, there is very little evidence to show the metabolic benefits of the carnivore diet. It is simply too new.

According to self-reported accounts from people following the diet, people felt better overall after following the carnivore diet. Some people had lower blood sugar levels which is consistent with other low-carb eating patterns.

Risks of the carnivore diet

Anytime you exclude foods from your diet, you expose yourself to potential nutrient deficiencies. The carnivore diet is missing vegetables, fruits, and grains, which all contribute to your vitamin and fiber intake.

Low fiber

A low-fiber diet can affect your health, including an increased risk of bowel cancer, digestive diseases, heart disease, weight management problems, and constipation.

In 2017, data found that 95% of Americans were not meeting their daily fiber needs. The carnivore diet makes it even harder to hit your daily fiber requirements.

Heart health

A study that reviewed over 2,000 people also found that cholesterol levels trended upward in people who ate a diet high in animal meats and by-products. This isn’t new information but a good reminder for people trying to improve their heart health. The current heart health guidelines recommend decreasing meat intake and adding more plant-based proteins.

Supplements for the carnivore diet

As mentioned above, eliminating foods exposes you to several vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Knowing how your body will react while following this diet is impossible, but you may need a few supplements to stay healthy.

You should complete bloodwork before starting a supplement to ensure you take the right dosage.

Vitamin CInadequate Vitamin C levels hinder your immune function, decrease collagen production, and decrease wound healing. Vitamin C supplements are readily found at most pharmacies.
FiberThere are several different types of fiber supplements on the market. You can pick the option that fits your budget and your tastes. Drink extra water to help the fiber easily pass through your digestive tract.
General multivitaminTaking a broad-spectrum vitamin can help you cover several nutrient bases. However, many multivitamins have relatively low absorption rates and can be expensive. You can ask your pharmacist to recommend a high-quality option to increase absorption.
CalciumSome dairy is allowed in the carnivore diet, but not a lot. A calcium supplement can help you meet your goals and maintain healthy bones as you age. This is especially important for people with a family history of bone disease.

Should you try the carnivore diet?

The carnivore diet is a highly restrictive approach to eating. There are very limited food choices, and following this diet is difficult. All the restrictions may lead to a nutrient deficiency, worsening your health.

The most important thing when making a diet change is to be educated. Learn everything you can from your healthcare team to ensure you are safe.

The USDA states that the healthiest diet is one that you can easily follow and aligns with your cultural preferences. If you want to improve your health, you should focus on building a diet plan that makes you feel satisfied, energized, and happy.

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