The nutrition world has no shortage of controversial subjects. There’s veganism, the keto diet, fasting, and countless other diets that remain both criticized and praised – depending on who you’re talking to. The idea of “dieting” in general is controversial, and you will find plenty of people on both sides of the debate. And now we have what might be the most controversial diet to date: The Carnivore Diet.
Whether this is the first time you are hearing about the carnivore diet, or you’ve heard of this diet countless times ( Joe Roegan’s podcast, anyone? ) , the idea is intriguing. When I first encountered this all-meat diet, I was curious to say the least. I wanted to learn more. If you find yourself in that very same boat, keep reading.
In this post, we’re leaving our bias behind to cover the pros, cons, myths, and more of the Carnivore Diet.
What is the Carnivore Diet?
Before we make any judgments about the Carnivore Diet, it’s important to understand exactly what being on this diet means. The hardcore carnivore diet followers consume only animal flesh, bones, and fat. A less strict version of the carnivore diet may include eggs and dairy. This diet is marked by hardcore reliance on animals (adherents can only consume animal products) and heavy restriction ( no fruit, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts or seeds may be consumed).
Benefits of the Carnivore Diet
Compared to other diets that hit the spotlight, the Carnivore Diet is relatively new. Right now, very little scientific data exists to support the carnivore diet. That said, there is some anecdotal evidence that speaks to how effective this diet can be, especially under certain circumstances.
Mikhaila Peterson, daughter of Jordan Peterson, is probably the most popular adherent of the Carnivore Diet. In an effort to reduce the symptoms experienced from her autoimmune condition, she began removing certain types of foods out of her diet. What started as an elimination diet became a keto diet, and then eventually all other food types except animal protein were eliminated from her diet.
As a person who suffered with terrible bouts of gastrointestinal distress , arthritis flare-ups, and fatigue, the carnivore diet brought her incredible relief. According to Mikhaila, her digestion improved, she had less arthritic pain, her energy levels improved greatly, and she was more cognitively sharp. Put quite plainly, her life improved greatly by making this switch. She went from constant pain and discomfort to being able to live a much better quality of life.
There are other people who have reported similar experiences. It seems that many of them also found this diet for the same reasons Mikhaila did. Those it seems to help most are those desperate to address their extreme sensitivities or autoimmune concerns. By removing almost all other food groups, they remove the possibility of having their symptoms triggered by possible sensitivities.
Although this diet relies heavily on anecdotal evidence, we can’t disregard these experiences entirely. After all, the explanation makes common sense.
Of course these people are feeling better.
They’ve likely been consuming foods that have triggered symptoms which severely impacted their health and their quality of life. With those cut out, they avoid those symptoms associated. It gives those followers a chance at feeling better than they have in perhaps a very long time.
Is the Carnivore Diet Extreme?
The short answer: yes.
The long answer is a bit more complicated. This diet is extreme in that it eliminates so much that is essential to functioning optimally in terms of health. There are so many micronutrients found in other food groups that will essentially just be missing without them.
Obviously, those on a carnivore diet are not missing any protein. Followers of the Carnivore Diet will eventually make a metabolic change into ketosis (burning fat for energy), as this diet contains zero carbohydrates. This will allow them to function using alternate sources for energy, as opposed to carbohydrates which is the go-to for our bodies. However, this transition is not easy. This metabolic transition can make you feel irritable, lethargic, and generally unwell for a few weeks.
There are also many micronutrients found exclusively in plants. Being on the carnivore diet for an extended period of time may lead to nutritional deficiencies, which can affect your body functioning on many different levels. Issues related to this may take months or even years to appear.
Carnivore Diet followers will also be missing out on fibre, which is important for digestion and associated with maintaining a healthy weight. Although some proponents of this diet claim it can help with weight loss, there is a lack of evidence support this. Conversely, there is evidence to support how a high intake of fiber can support weight loss.
Due to it’s restrictive nature, those who have struggled to have a positive relationship with food may not be the best fit to try this diet. If you have struggled with disordered eating, I would not recommend trying the Carnivore diet.
Who would the Carnivore Diet be good for?
Some people may actually see some positive results from switching to the Carnivore Diet. Most likely, this would be the small population of individuals who have serious sensitivities, inflammation, and gastrointestinal issues that cannot be managed with any other diet.
There are people out there struggling with exactly these issues. They fear food because it doesn’t bring them energy or joy – it brings them pain.
The idea of a Carnivore diet is ultimately offensive to some. As a Holistic Nutrition Consultant, it’s important to put our moral judgements aside so that we can do what’s best for our clients – regardless of how we might personally feel about it. I think if we can look at it through the lens of people who are desperate to try an eating style that works for them, we can empathize with those who are attracted to trying it.
We could all benefit from dropping our judgement some when it comes to food. There is no one diet that works for everybody. We are all so uniquely bio-individual. That considered, it makes sense that a very small amount of the population could thrive on this diet.
Is the Carnivore Diet Healthy?
Like so many diets that make it to the mainstream, there are pros and cons of the Carnivore Diet. Although many adherents have made various claims about it’s benefits, virtually none of it is supported by science. That said, common sense can explain how it would help that small group of people who would benefit from what is essentially an extreme elimination diet.
The Carnivore Diet may be the best option for them, but we can’t generalize to say that this diet is healthy for everyone. If you are looking for a diet to support increased energy, or to combat skin issues, or to lose weight, there may be other more scientifically supported and less restrictive options out there for you. In that case, perhaps, the journey for you continues.
I would love to hear your thoughts on the Carnivore Diet! Feel free to share in the comments below. Don’t forget to connect with me on Instagram – @standingstrongwellness !