Before we start, I have a confession. The first time I heard about the carnivore diet, I thought this was a trendy name for the Keto diet or something similar. Well, it turns out the carnivore diet is precisely what its name implies, a diet that consists of meat and animal products. Those who follow it love its benefits, but can it be good for your gut health? We investigate.
What Is the Carnivore Diet?
In a nutshell, the carnivore diet is a restrictive way of eating that focuses only on meat, fish, and other animal foods. This diet aims for zero carbs, which is why people often compare it to the keto and paleo diets. The carnivore diet stems from the belief that human ancestral populations ate mostly meat and fish, and that high-carb diets are to blame for today’s high rates of chronic diseases.
Who are these ancestors anyways? Well, according to the carnivore diet followers they’re talking about:
- The nomads of Mongolia
- Gaucho Brazilians
- The Maasai from East Africa
- The Russian Arctic Chukotka
- The Sioux of South Dakota
- The Canadian Inuit
Foods You Can Eat
The carnivore diet is highly based on animal products, excluding almost every other food option out there. Someone following this diet eats:
- Other animal products
- Minimal low-lactose dairy products
Some followers allow salt, pepper, and seasoning with no carbs. Some people choose to eat yogurt, milk, and soft cheese, but due to their carb contents, these foods are often not included.
Foods You Stay Away From
Now, get ready to be shocked. Why? Well, the foods you’re meant to stay away from, resemble the list most people should incorporate in their diet. Someone following this diet avoids:
- High-lactose dairy
- Nuts and seeds
- Beverages other than water
While some people include some of these foods in small quantities, the true carnivore diet prohibits them.
The Pros and Cons of the Carnivore Diet
Those in favor of the carnivore diet support the fact that it excludes carbs, meaning you cannot eat cookies, candy, sodas, pastries, and other high-carb foods. Often, these foods are low in nutrients while high in calories, which means they should be avoided in a healthy diet anyway. In that scenario, they’re right. Limiting refined carbs and sugary foods are often recommended to control diabetes.
However, the carnivore diet is still extremely restrictive, and even those with diabetes still need smaller amounts of wholesome, high-fiber carbs to prevent spikes in blood sugar.
On the downside, its highly restrictive nature means you’re eliminating most food groups. With a lack of research to analyze the long-term effects of consuming high amounts of saturated fats, the effects on cholesterol are unknown.
Moreover, processed meats contain high amounts of sodium, which have been linked to increased risk of high blood pressure, kidney disease, and other adverse health issues, including cancer.
The Carnivore Diet and Your Gut Health
So, what does this all mean to your gut health? Switching to the carnivore diet can rapidly change your gut microbiota, sometimes called gut flora. One study analyzed the gut health of those following an animal-based diet; within 48 hours, they noticed significant changes in their gut microbiota.
The carnivore diet increased the abundance of bile-tolerant organisms. It decreased the levels of microbes known to metabolize plant fibers, as well as the outgrowth of microorganisms capable of triggering inflammatory bowel disease (IBS).
In the end, the results from the study demonstrate how quickly the gut microbiome can respond to altered diets.
A Word from GR8NESS
Not only is the carnivore diet extremely restrictive, but there’s also no research to back its claims of aiding weight loss and some health issues. Whether or not you believe its claims, the truth is the carnivore diet is unnecessarily restrictive. Instead, do your best to eat a balanced diet with a variety of healthy foods. And as always, consult with your healthcare provider to make sure the diet you’re following is what’s best for your body.