More and more people are singing the praises of a carnivore diet. They say it helps them with weight loss, that it cures issues they have with their gut, cures problems with their skin and even more extreme health issues such as joint pain and rheumatoid arthritis have been cured. Some have also claimed it has cured autoimmune diseases. People have also reported improved moods, a dissipation in anxiety and depression.
On the other end of the spectrum are people who say that a meat-only diet is the worst thing you could do. They say it causes inflammation, it contains too much saturated fat, it raises your level of triglycerides, it moves you closer to cardiovascular disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes. Most regulatory agencies around the world suggest you should increase your intake of fruits and vegetables and reduce your consumption of fatty meat, and only eat meat that is lean. They also say to reduce saturated fats.
In this blog, we will endeavor to answer the question of whether a meat-only diet is harmful, who it may help, and why. If it does work for us, the next question is whether this is the optimum diet for us and if so, for how long should we pursue this?
The most common objection to the carnivore diet is that it will lead to a deficiency in vitamins and minerals because we all believe that fruits and vegetables are the best sources of these vitamins and minerals. The belief is that meat does not contain these things. The reality is that meat does have vitamins and minerals provided you eat enough. One kilogram of meat has 60 percent of your required thiamin, 150 to 920 percent of vitamin B, 120 percent of potassium, 200 percent of iron, and 30 percent of vitamin C. As far as vitamin C is concerned, if you add organ meat like liver into your diet, you get to 100 percent of your recommended daily requirement. You will notice that we are still below 100 percent in a few of the vitamins and minerals. What you need to consider is that when you reduce carbs and focus only on meat, your body becomes more efficient in using its vitamins and minerals because it is no longer competing with glucose.
Another point is that we are not 100 percent sure how RDAs were calculated. What we do know is they were tested on mice. In addition, actual food was not used. Scientists made use of synthetic isolates. The bottom line is that we don't know if the same results would be seen in humans using real food. This is not to say that the RDA is useless but there are solid reasons to not follow these guidelines religiously. In reality, people who have tried this diet have not experienced scurvy, have not displayed adverse symptoms, and have found this as a life-saving diet after having tried almost every other diet.
Another objection to the carnivore diet is the lack of fiber. We have been led to believe that fiber is the only thing that enables our bowels to move - it is the only thing that provides volume to your stool. New research is showing this to be false. While some notice problems initially, with time these issues of constipation go away, and by and large most people do well.
Why may the carnivore diet help? Most people will only try this if they are really not feeling well and are open to anything. They have tried increasing their vegetable intake, they have cut out junk food, they have tried keto which is no carbs and high fat and protein, and they have tried intermittent fasting. Most people in this situation will start to feel better. But what happens if this doesn't help? Those with autoimmune issues then cut out foods with lectins and if even that fails, they go carnivore which is the ultimate elimination diet. You are literally cutting out everything except for meat. Meat is the neutral food there is. Very few people have meat allergies. The only people that will have problems with a meat-only diet are those that do not have enough stomach acid to digest the meat.
The carnivore diet is a high-fat and low-carb diet. So who might benefit from this diet? If you experience chronic bloating, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammation, skin rashes, or any autoimmune disease, this diet could work for you. Maybe you are simply curious about how you will perform on this diet.
If you do decide to take this route, the next question is for how long. Humans do tend to take the approach of all or nothing. Is a carnivore diet optimal forever? Maybe not, but try for a week, or a month or 6 months. Thereafter you can start to add a little variety. Start with some neutral plants - if they make you feel bad, then remove them.
When it comes to vegetables, consider the following. Plants are living organisms and they want to continue living. The big disadvantage they face is that they are not very agile in getting away from predators because they are rooted in the ground. They have defenses in the form of poisons and this is why most plants in the world are inedible. There are thousands of toxins and defense chemicals that they use. The most common are lectins, cyanide, phytates, tannins, oxalates, hormone disruptors, and nutrient blockers. Plants and animals are in an evolutionary arms race. The plants are trying to be more and more poisonous so that fewer and fewer animals are able to eat them. Animals are also adapting so that they are able to stomach more plants. Brussels sprouts alone contain over 100 carcinogens. Have you ever wondered why they cause belly pain, gas, and either diarrhea or constipation? No wonder hate these things - on some subconscious level, they know they are going to kill them. This view believes that plants are trying to kill us. Let's dig a little deeper into this to see if there could be some truth in this.
There are 340,000 different plant species in the world, yet the panda only eats one type of plant, grazing animals only eat one type of grass, giraffes know what they can and cannot eat, and they know that if they eat the incorrect plant, it will make them ill or even kill them. Another thing you need to take into account is pesticides. When you hear that word, the natural reaction is to think of industrial pesticides. It has now been found that plants generate their own natural pesticides and that they have 10,000 times more natural pesticides by weight than industrial-sprayed pesticides, and these natural pesticides are more likely to cause cancer in humans than industrial pesticides. Twenty of the forty-two toxins tested in rats were carcinogens and included apples, bananas, carrots, and mushrooms. Mushrooms are a good example. There are 10,000 kinds of mushrooms of which only five are edible - the rest will kill you or give you a hallucinogenic experience. Humans assume that those other five that do not kill us or get us high are not only edible but they are also good for us. That is quite a wild assumption to make. But don't take my word for it, you are more than welcome to look on the website of the World Health Organization. They say that natural toxins cause a wide range of adverse health effects and pose a serious threat to humans and livestock. Acute effects include diarrhea, allergic reactions, and even death. Long-term effects include immune and reproductive issues and even cancer.
Lectins are proteins and antinutrients in plant foods. Antinutrients are compounds that can interfere with your body's ability to digest and absorb other nutrients. Legumes, like beans and lentils, have especially high amounts of lectins. Eating raw foods that contain lots of lectins can cause digestive problems. Other foods high in lectins include nightshade vegetables, such as tomatoes, potatoes, goji berries, peppers, peanuts, and peanut-based products, such as peanut butter and peanut oil.
Consider now the cassava root - an important staple food for many people in tropical regions. It is the primary source of calories for half a billion people in the world. Consuming cassava in its raw form or improperly prepared can lead to cyanide poisoning. Symptoms of cyanide poisoning can include headache, dizziness, confusion, nausea, vomiting, and in severe cases, seizures, and coma. Another lethal vegetable is bitter almonds which also contain a very high level of cyanide and can be toxic if consumed in large amounts.
Then we have oxalates. Oxalates are a type of organic acid found in many plant-based foods. They are naturally occurring compounds that are present in varying amounts in a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and grains. Oxalates can form crystals in the body when they bind with calcium, which can lead to health issues such as kidney stones and other related conditions. Some foods that are high in oxalates include spinach, rhubarb, beets, nuts (such as almonds and cashews), chocolate, and tea. Excessive consumption of tannins, especially from certain sources such as unripe or undercooked fruits, can cause gastrointestinal distress, interfere with nutrient absorption and contribute to the formation of kidney stones. Tannins can also potentially bind to proteins and reduce their digestibility, which may affect the availability of certain essential amino acids. Foods and beverages that are high in tannins include red wine (especially those made from varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Shiraz), tea (black tea, green tea, and oolong tea all contain tannins, with black tea having the highest tannin content), coffee (coffee beans also contain tannins, especially those that are roasted longer and have a darker color), grapes, nuts, dark chocolate and certain fruits and vegetables (apples, blackberries, blueberries, persimmons, and eggplant).
Then we need to talk about seed oils. Some seed oils, such as soybean oil, corn oil, and sunflower oil, are high in omega-6 fatty acids, which in excess can promote inflammation and contribute to the development of chronic diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. Additionally, some seed oils are extracted using chemical solvents, which can leave behind harmful residues in the oil. Therefore, it is important to choose high-quality seed oils that are cold-pressed or expeller-pressed and preferably organic to ensure that they are free of harmful chemicals and contaminants.
Finally, there are chemicals that will mess with your reproductive system. These chemicals can be found in various products, including some foods. Here are some examples of foods that may contain hormone disruptors: Conventionally grown produce (non-organic fruits and vegetables can be exposed to pesticides and herbicides that may contain hormone disruptors) and soy products (soy contains isoflavones, which can have estrogen-like effects in the body.
So, give the carnivore diet a go for a week and see how you feel!