There have been many wonder diets that have come and gone, but now we have one that flips the whole idea of diet upside down. When we say that the carnivore diet breaks all the rules, we mean it.
The carnivore diet is exactly what it sounds like — an eating plan that completely omits pretty much anything that isn’t meat or an animal product. The basis behind this diet is the idea that before agriculture we would eat primarily animal-based foods. So, is this diet a modern miracle or should it have stayed in the stone age? Read on to find out.
What is the Carnivore Diet?
With a general love for meat and other animal-derived products in the western world, it makes sense that a diet comprising of nothing but these products sounds enticing — especially with the promise of weight loss, increased mental clarity, improved digestion and more. So, is this diet too good to be true? What are the potential benefits?
The main aspect of the diet that is consistently touched on as a benefit is the lack of carbohydrates. Since meat is naturally carb-free, there are no restrictions on how much meat you’re allowed to eat in a day or how often, according to the diet’s rules. Other animal-derived products, carb-free condiments and drinks are a grey area. Ultimately, it is up to the individual on what other foods besides meat they want to include.
Are There Benefits?
It should be mentioned that no studies have been done on this diet and all accounts are anecdotal. The carnivore diet may boast major weight loss because of the lack of carbohydrates. The main idea is that without carbohydrates, your blood sugar won’t rise and drop as much. Without as much insulin being shuttled around your body whenever you eat – apparently – none of the calories you consume will go into fat storage.
The only issue with this is that protein does actually release insulin into your bloodstream to be moved into cells. In the absence of carbs, the process of gluconeogenesis will convert protein into glucose for energy and when consumed in excess, for fat storage.
Finally, a few smaller benefits that have been noticed include reduced inflammation, increased testosterone and increased muscle mass. If you end up feeling more full and consume a daily calorie deficit as a result, then yes you will lose weight. If you end up still eating surplus calories though, you will lose no weight.
Can You Eat Fruit and Vegetables?
The argument against eating fruits and vegetables is that they include ‘antinutrients’ which hinder the body’s ability to digest certain nutrients. For example, phytic acid binds to certain minerals such as iron, zinc, magnesium and copper and effectively makes the nutrients pass through your body without being absorbed.
Some other examples of antinutrients include:
Glucosinolates, which prevent the absorption of iodine and are found in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower.
Oxalic acid, which prevents the absorption of calcium and is found as rhubarb, spinach, and other vegetables. Foods high in this anti-nutrient include nuts, grains, and seeds.
What this diet doesn’t focus on is the amount of nutrients you will get from vegetables and fruits, which far outweigh the antinutrients that these foods will provide. Basically, you don’t need to worry about antinutrients if you consume a varied and wide range of foods.
Fats and Nutrients
The amount of saturated fat you consume and the lack of nutrients on the carnivore diet are concerning. Health risks such as high cholesterol, heart attacks, strokes and diabetes have been linked to consuming too much dietary fat.
Meats and other animal products contain a high amount of nutrients. They contain B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, vitamin A in liver and other organs, but lack many others. Vitamin C is vital for a working immune system, potassium for balanced electrolytes, vitamin K for healthy blood clotting, and vitamin E for healthy hair and skin — these are all absent in the carnivore diet.
Take Home Message
At first, this diet might finally satisfy your appetite, but all good things must come to an end. Like every other fad diet that came before it, the carnivore diet has its shortcomings that will more than likely lead to a crash and quit.
Instead, take up a diet that you can actually stick to. Eat things you actually want, with an emphasis on whole and nutritious foods. If you want to lose weight, then count your calories to make sure you are always in a deficit. Don’t restrict any food and don’t be afraid to cheat every once in a while for your own sanity.