The impact of diet on disease is becoming increasingly important but in an age where we have no time to prepare meals, and an abundance of confusing diet fads, could a meat-only diet solve all your problems?
An exclusively, or nearly exclusively, meat diet has emerged over the past few years called the carnivore diet. The carnivore diet is somewhat of a counterculture movement to the ever popular vegan and plant-based diets.
The two extreme diets share one similarity: the promised health benefits. Those who promote the carnivore diet boast benefits including increased energy, weight loss, rock hard abs, clearer skin, improved depression, cured autoimmune diseases, and so on.
Who wouldn’t want that?
How can it be that all the information we were raised with about the importance of variety and produce is a lie? Perhaps we have had it wrong and these carnivores have all the answers.
The carnivore diet generally includes all types of meat, eggs, and some dairy products. However, certain “carnivores” take it step further by eliminating the dairy or only consuming red meat.
You’ll notice this could be considered an extreme form of the keto diet with the low-to-zero carbohydrate intake, or a more restrictive paleo diet if excluding dairy.
To better understand the craze from Youtubers, Instagrammers, and even some doctors about this diet, let’s break it down to see if it lives up to the hype.
Meat is nutrient dense
Meat is high in protein, fat (depending on the kind of meat), B vitamins, and many other vitamins and minerals. It also contains cholesterol, saturated fat, and no fiber.
Simplifies preparing meals and grocery shopping
Following the carnivore diet certainly makes trips to the grocery store simple; you only need to visit the meat and dairy sections.
You no longer have to worry about how many bananas you can eat before they spoil, or accidentally grabbing three boxes of cookies from the dessert isle. Additionally, you will never have to cut a vegetable again!
Get ready to order that burger for every meal out… only without the bun, ketchup, or even a lettuce wrap. Oh, and hold the fries.
Chances are, with little variation, you’ll find the repetition of the diet restrictive and enjoying meals with others will be a challenge.
Blood pressure and Cholesterol
The American Heart Association warns that frequent consumption of products high in saturated and trans fats is tied to an increase in cholesterol and blood pressure.
While chicken and fish have lower cholesterol levels, a diet of either of the two would still far surpass the recommended intake, by nearly six times.
When income increases, meat is one of the first items to show up more in a household. That is to say, meat is costly, even the “cheap” stuff.
Most “carnivores” report eating roughly 2lbs of meat per day, or roughly 2,000kcals. A pound of chicken breast is close to $3, with steak being around $10. That’s $13 per day, or $94 per week.
If you are trying to eat local, organic, or antibiotic free, the price can easily double or triple.
Many influencers who have tried the carnivore diet have graphic descriptions of how the diet impacts their digestive system. With a diet containing zero fiber, you can assume the rest.
In Conclusion, There is No Evidence
The carnivore diet is a form of extreme diet that follows the patterns of nearly all diets: they don’t have the desired outcome, the benefits are unproven, people cannot successfully stay on them for long periods of time, and the health risks are unknown.
While there are a few self-reported people living “their best life” from only consuming meat, there are thousands of studies showing ongoing health is best supported by a varied diet.
- “Processed Meats Increase Colorectal Cancer Risk, New Report.” AICR, American Institute for Cancer Research, 20 Sept. 2017, www.aicr.org/news/processed-meats-increase-colorectal-cancer-risk-new-report/.
- “Prevention and Treatment of High Cholesterol (Hyperlipidemia).” Www.heart.org, American Heart Association , 2020, www.heart.org/en/health-topics/cholesterol/prevention-and-treatment-of-high-cholesterol-hyperlipidemia.