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The Carnivore Diet: What is it, benefits and downsides

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What is a Carnivore Diet?

The carnivore diet has started to draw curiosity, especially after Mikhaila Peterson swore by the benefits she has received from it. It is an all-meat diet that requires you to eliminate all fruits, vegetables, grains, and seeds from your diet and get all your daily calories from proteins, fats, and close to zero carbohydrates. This means that the carnivore diet consists of red meat, fish, organ meats, poultry, eggs, bone broth, lard and tallow, and bone marrow.

There are different variations of the carnivore diet, but the classic and strictest carnivore diet requires you to restrict plant-based beverages, seasonings such as salt and pepper, and some dairy products. The conventional recommended diet requires you to eat food from all food groups (carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals). For people who are just hearing about the carnivore diet, you may have various questions and concerns; and rightfully so. We’re going to take an in depth look at the carnivore diet and focus on the facts only.

Foods to eat on a carnivore diet

The carnivore diet is in general an all-meat diet. This means that you should only eat meat and animal products in all your meals. A well-designed carnivore diet will provide you with nutrients that are high in animal-based proteins i.e. calcium, potassium, magnesium, vitamin K, etc. These animal products include beef, chicken, bone marrow, pork, fish, lamb, turkey, organ meats, and limited amounts of dairy products such as heavy cream, cheese, butter, lard, and ghee.

Although it might seem unsustainable in the long-term, its restrictive nature has had numerous health claims that are beneficial for some people but they have few scientifically proven facts and evidence based studies to back them up.

Foods to avoid on the carnivore diet

While you are allowed to eat a limited amount of dairy products, the carnivore diet strictly restricts all plant-based foods. These include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, spices, and herbs. It is important to note that there are no proven negative effects of plant-based foods, but dieters on the carnivore diet mainly refrain from plant-based foods due to the need for diets that cater to their food sensitivities and lifestyle choices.

Health benefits of the carnivore diet

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Weight loss

The carnivore diet is a low-carb diet, but it does not work in the same way that the ketogenic diet works due to the high protein intake that prevents your body from entering ketosis. In essence, low-carb diets generally induce weight loss. The carnivore diet is a low-carb high-protein diet that can be used for weight loss if the calorie intake is reduced. It works by reducing insulin production which in turn promotes weight loss and prevents fat storage (Foster, 2020).

Numerous studies have proven that processed sugar promotes weight gain. The carnivore diet eliminates sugar intake, therefore promoting weight loss. In addition, high protein diets reduce hunger and increase satiety. This reduces cravings and appetite, which is a crucial aspect of weight loss. (Sayer et al, 2018)

Muscle gain

Most people who want to gain muscles such as body builders, athletes, and strength trainers tend to opt for the carnivore diet. This is attributed to the fact that proteins are necessary for increased energy, recovery after intense workouts or injuries, and maintaining muscle mass. Athletes who eat more meat tend to gain more muscle mass. Protein, a nitrogen-containing substance formed by amino acids, is the major structural compound of muscles and other tissues. As such, it is important to consume proteins in order to gain lean muscles.

As an added advantage, protein can be used as a source of energy. Although it is not the primary source of energy, proteins can be used to fuel the body. Amino acids are also essential for the repair, maintenance, and growth of body tissues. However, out of the twenty amino acids, eight amino acids can only be acquired through the food you eat, i.e. high protein foods that make up the carnivore diet. (Hoffman and Falvo, 2004)

The carnivore diet also provides essential nutrients such as Vitamin B6, B12, and iron which are vital for people who are prone to the risk of nutrient deficiency, especially female athletes.

Elimination of toxic foods

Although processed meats are also allowed in the carnivore diet, it is always recommended eating natural animal products and refrain from canned and processed foods. This ensures that you eat healthy fats instead of trans fats and other toxins found in processed animal products such as sodium and hydrogenated oil.

As an added advantage, the restriction of baked goods, pastries, sodas, candy, and other high-carb foods reduces your intake of processed sugars and empty calories. This is especially beneficial for people who are diabetic, obese, or suffering from other lifestyle diseases.

The elimination of salt also lowers LDL cholesterol and therefore helps you maintain a healthy blood pressure and improve your cardiovascular health.

It is important to note that you should always consult your doctor before starting the carnivore diet to prevent any health conditions that you may be prone to due to other pre-existing conditions.

Downsides

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Lack of certain macro nutrients and beneficial plant compounds

The animal based diet eliminates all plant-based foods which contain highly beneficial nutrients and minerals. While meat is nutritious, it does not contain fiber, which is only found in plants. Fiber is crucial for gut health and bowel movement, as such, the lack of high-fiber food in your diet can lead to constipation.

Restrictive

The carnivore diet might be a bit too restrictive for people who like to explore various food options. However, if you are willing to give it a try, you might need to maintain consistency and follow the guidelines.

The carnivore diet must be well designed in order to promote health and overall wellness. With a seasoned nutritionist, you will be able to get all the nutrients you need in order to have a healthy lifestyle. While there are few studies supporting the carnivore diet, you can get a detailed nutritional guide tailored specifically for you from your nutritionist. If you are already healthy with your current diet, there is no need to switch to the carnivore diet.

Conclusion

This article aims to provide an unbiased review of the carnivore diet. It is important to understand that although there are scientific studies showing certain benefits of this diet, but it cuts out a lot of vitamins and minerals which can lead to hormonal imbalance. As a result, this may also lead to tiredness, mood swing, lack of energy and de-motivation. Seek professional opinion before attempting this diet. Comment below to let us know which diet you are currently attempting and why! We are interested to get to know you.

References

Foster, J. (2020). 11 Carnivore Diet Claims: Anecdotes & Evidence – SelfHacked. [online] SelfHacked. Available at: https://selfhacked.com/blog/carnivore-diet-benefits/ [Accessed 14 Feb. 2020].

Hoffman, j. and Falvo, M. (2004). Protein – Which is Best?. [online] 3(3). Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3905294/ [Accessed 14 Feb. 2004].

Sayer, R., Peters, J., Pan, Z., Wyatt, H. and Hill, J. (2018). Hunger, Food Cravings, and Diet Satisfaction are Related to Changes in Body Weight During a 6-Month Behavioral Weight Loss Intervention: The Beef WISE Study. [online] 10(6). Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6024699/ [Accessed 14 Feb. 2018].

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