What Is The Carnivore Diet? Benefits, Food List And More (2024)

With its emphasis on animal products and social media claims that it helps lower blood sugar, prompts better sleep and reduces joint pain, the meat-focused carnivore diet is garnering some enthusiasm as a weight loss tool and cure-all. “The popularity of the carnivore diet might be because it’s simple,” says Chrissy Arsenault, a registered dietitian in Indianapolis who tried the diet for two weeks.

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What Is the Carnivore Diet?

The highly restrictive carnivore diet is loosely based on the animal-only diets of indigenous people. Interest in it ebbed and flowed for decades, but the diet gained legions of new fans in 2019 with the publishing ofThe Carnivore Dietby Shawn Baker, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon. In his book, he touts the benefits of eating only meat, fish and other animal products like dairy products and eggs while excluding foods like fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, legumes, bread, pasta and grains.

The weight-loss selling point for the carnivore diet boils down to a single concept, Baker says: Everything you eat will be high in protein, which makes you feel full, and low in total carbohydrates, which makes you feel more sluggish.

“Frankly, this diet is neither desirable nor fun,” says Sandy Younan Brikho, a registered dietary nutritionist in San Diego. “Ultimately, I think if it works it’s because there are very limited options to eat, thus reducing the likelihood that people will overeat.”

Research Surrounding the Carnivore Diet is Lacking

Little data surrounding the safety of this extremepaleo-type dietexists. Meanwhile, most evidence suggesting its effectiveness for weight loss is largely anecdotal. Those who promote the diet tend to base their claims on the premise that individuals function best on animal-derived fat and protein.

“The carnivore diet is not well-studied and we do not have much research on the long-term effects of eliminating all these important food groups,” says registered dietitian Natalie Allen, a clinical assistant professor of biomedical sciences at Missouri State University in Springfield, Missouri.

There’s a healthy amount of controversy surrounding the carbohydrate component of the carnivore diet as well. It aims for net-zero daily carbohydrates, according to Baker, allowing for no more than 10 grams. This range contrasts dramatically with the Food and Drug Administration’s recommendation of 275 grams of carbs a day for someone consuming 2,000 calories a day.

What About the Carnivore Diet Health Claims?

In addition to dropping pounds, Baker and followers tout theanti-inflammatory componentsof the diet. Chronic inflammation has been linked to many diseases, including cancer.

It’s true fish, which is acceptable on the carnivore diet, is rich in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. “These fatty acids fight off inflammation in many different ways and reduce the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines,” says Arsenault.

However, red meat, high in saturated fat, is also allowed on the diet. Saturated fats cancause inflammation. Additionally, a high-protein diet (such as the carnivore diet) can be harmful to the kidneys—and can even promote gout and kidney stones.

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Carnivore Diet Food List

The short list of foods considered acceptable in the carnivore diet includes:

  • Beef
  • Lamb
  • Pork
  • Chicken
  • Organ meats (such as kidneys, liver and intestines)
  • Fish
  • Bone broth
  • Dairy, including eggs, butter, hard cheese and heavy whipping cream (though some purists don’t allow dairy at all)
  • Pink Himalayan sea salt
  • Black coffee
  • Water

Restricted foods include everything else, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and grains, alcohol, any drink besides water and black coffee and seasonings of any sort.

An Example Carnivore Diet Meal Plan

Below are examples of typical breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks for someone following the carnivore diet:


Eggs (scrambled, omelet, etc.) and bacon with no seasonings except pink Himalayan sea salt, black coffee

Grilled steak, chicken breast or pork chops

Beef burger with a slice of hard cheese, chicken thighs, chicken liver or turkey burger

Parmesan cheese squares, beef jerky, pork rinds, tuna fish, deli meat, bone broth or sardines

Risks of the Carnivore Diet

If you’re considering trying the carnivore diet, know it’s associated with some very serious risks, says Nicole Harkin, M.D., a cardiologist in San Francisco. These include:

Heart Disease

The carnivore diet can lead to an increased risk of developing heart disease because it prioritizes foods that are high in saturated fat, such as fatty steaks, which can elevate cholesterol levels, Arsenault says.

Meanwhile, eliminating fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds couldincreaseyour risk. “These food groups have been shown time and time again to be linked with lower rates of heart disease and other chronic diseases,” Harkin says.

Other risks associated with eliminating fruits, vegetables and whole grains is that it can promote metabolic acidosis—a condition in which there is too much acid in your body fluids—which, in turn, can impact your kidneys and increase your risk of diabetes.

Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies

You may also experience vitamin and mineral deficiencies because this diet is so restrictive, Brikho says. Without plant-based nutrients, it will be challenging to get the vitamins A, C and B12 you need into your daily intake.

Digestive Health Issues

Expect to experience nausea and other side effects that come with limiting your diet to only animal products. You may experience constipation as well, due to the decreased fiber intake since fruits, vegetables and whole grains are restricted.

In fact, the lack of fiber most concerns Alison Acerra, a registered dietary nutritionist in San Francisco. “This sets the stage for digestive health issues and imbalances in the gut microbiome that, over time, increase risk of chronic physical and mental health problems,” Acerra says.
Serious health implications of a low-fiber diet include coronary heart disease, hypertension and even some forms of cancer.

Complications for People With Certain Conditions

Anyone who takes multiple medications should follow this diet only under the care of a licensed healthcare provider.“Some modifications may also be required for certain populations, including people without a gallbladder, anyone with cardiac issues, [people with] diabetes and pregnant and nursing women,” Baker says.

What Our Experts Say About the Carnivore Diet

In the end, our experts can’t recommend the carnivore diet.

“There are other significantly healthier and more balanced eating strategies that include plant-based foods, which can be used to elicit the same purported results,” Acerra says. “[You] can also get those same results in a way that will improve your health, protect against chronic disease and be more environmentally sustainable.”

As someone who tried the carnivore diet, Arsenault, too, recommends against it. “Since meat and animal-based foods are low in fiber, it’s really hard to have regular bowel movements,” she says. “The pros are that it’s really filling but the cons are that since it’s so low in carbs, I felt irritable and constipated.”

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On Noom's Website


Baker S.The Carnivore Diet.Victory Belt Publishing; 2019.

Interactive Nutrition Facts Label – Total Carbohydrate. Food and Drug Administration. Accessed 5/24/2021.

Chronic Inflammation. National Cancer Institute. Accessed 4/4/2021.

What Is The Carnivore Diet? Benefits, Food List And More (2024)


What Is The Carnivore Diet? Benefits, Food List And More? ›

On the carnivore diet you cut carbohydrates and eat nothing but meat and other animal products, like beef, chicken, pork, fish, and eggs. The idea is that by cutting all carbs, your body will burn fat for energy and you'll lose weight.

What foods are good for carnivore diet? ›

Foods to eat

Meat: beef, chicken, turkey, organ meats, lamb, pork, etc. Fish: salmon, mackerel, sardines, crab, lobster, tilapia, herring, etc. Other animal products: eggs, lard, bone marrow, bone broth, etc. Low-lactose dairy (in small amounts): heavy cream, hard cheese, butter, etc.

Can you eat more on carnivore diet? ›

Can You Eat as Much as You Want on the Carnivore Diet? Thinking that you can eat as much as you want on the carnivore diet is a big mistake. Eating too much on this diet will likely result in weight gain and other health issues. It is essential to be mindful of your portions and understand how much your body needs.

What is the best meat to eat on a carnivore diet? ›

Meat: Choose fatty cuts of ruminant grass-fed meat like ribeye and NY strip steak, 80/20 ground beef, t-bone, lamb, and goat. For pork, choose pasture-raised, and fatty cuts like pork belly. Fat: A key to remember is that your body will be using fat as its main energy source, not protein.

What is the carnivore diet menu? ›

The carnivore diet plan is simple; you only eat animal foods and products. Everything else is restricted. That means no fruits, no vegetables, no bread or grains, and limiting your dairy intake to low-lactose foods. It's almost the complete opposite of a vegan diet.

Is Rice OK on carnivore diet? ›

Grains and Legumes: Foods such as wheat, rice, oats, corn, beans, lentils, and other grains and legumes are not consumed on a carnivore diet. Processed and Refined Foods: Processed and refined foods like bread, pasta, crackers, cookies, and other packaged foods containing plant-based ingredients are avoided.

How unhealthy is the carnivore diet? ›

Following the Carnivore diet long-term could increase your risk for a number of serious health conditions, such as colorectal cancer and heart disease.

Can I drink coffee on a carnivore diet? ›

Yes, you can drink coffee on a carnivore diet. Despite its plant origin, many followers of the carnivore diet still consume coffee, considering caffeine's stimulating properties. However, caution must be taken as excessive intake of caffeine may add stress to the body's metabolism and disrupt sleep patterns.

How many eggs a day on a carnivore diet? ›

You can also consider just consuming egg whites to lower your calorie and fat intake. In general, though, many on the carnivore diet consume between 2 to 6 eggs daily as part of their meal plan. This range generally offers a good balance of nutrients without overconsumption.

How long does it take to see benefits from a carnivore? ›

Steady Progress: Typical Timeline of Noticeable Changes. Once your body has adapted to the carnivore diet, you'll begin to notice more profound carnivore diet results around the 3-6 week mark. Weight loss can become apparent during this time, as your body continues to burn fat for energy.

How to get enough protein on a carnivore diet? ›

The Carnivore diet macros ratio is about 50 to 75 percent fat, 20 to 35 percent protein, and 0 to 5 percent carbs. To hit these macros, prioritize fatty cuts of meat (chuck, ribeye, chicken thigh), fatty fish (salmon, sardines, anchovies), and eggs.

Can you eat salad on a carnivore diet? ›

So, I mean, if you're eating fruits and vegetables, you're not on the carnivore diet. I recommend going 30 days eating only meat, eggs, butter, salt, and seafood.

How to get vitamins on a carnivore diet? ›

Multivitamin — This is another supplement that you should take if you're following the carnivore diet. This is because this supplement will help you get enough of all of your other vitamins and minerals that you would normally get from fruits and vegetables.

What did Joe Rogan eat on his carnivore diet? ›

Joe Rogan's daily intake, while on the Carnivore Diet, primarily consisted of meat. He often mentioned consuming elk, bison, and other game meats, along with more traditional meats like beef. Organ meats, particularly liver, were also a part of his diet.

Can I eat avocado on a carnivore diet? ›

While strict carnivores eat ZERO fruits and vegetables, non-sweet fruits like avocados (a fat we love!) and cucumbers are usually considered permissible on more relaxed carnivore plans. Some dieters include fruits and vegetables to aid digestion.

Is coffee allowed on a carnivore diet? ›

Yes, you can drink coffee on a carnivore diet. Despite its plant origin, many followers of the carnivore diet still consume coffee, considering caffeine's stimulating properties. However, caution must be taken as excessive intake of caffeine may add stress to the body's metabolism and disrupt sleep patterns.

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