What is the carnivore diet? - Harvard Health (2024)

What is the carnivore diet? - Harvard Health (1)

Question: What is the carnivore diet, and is it safe?

Answer: The carnivore diet meal plan only allows consumption of meat, poultry, eggs, seafood, fish, some dairy products, and water. You need to exclude all vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, seeds, and nuts. That's why it is sometimes referred to as the "zero carb" diet.

The carnivore diet is a type of "keto," or ketogenic, diet. Keto diets work like this: The contents of a keto diet do not provide enough calories from glucose and other forms of sugar. To compensate, the body burns fat that creates ketones as an energy source. Ketones are released into the bloodstream, which lowers the normal acid-base balance in blood to make it more acidic, a state known as ketosis.

A typical keto diet plan suggests approximately 70% to 75% of daily calories come from fat, 20% from protein, and no more than 10% from carbohydrates.

A carnivore diet is the most ketogenic diet because it allows for almost no carbs. Fat content is not specified; it's whatever fat is contained in or consumed along with the meat, fish, poultry, and dairy.

What are the risks of a carnivore diet?

While some keto diets can emphasize the intake of healthier mono- and polyunsaturated fats, that's not the case with carnivore diets. Animal fat is mostly saturated fat, which is the unhealthiest type of fat because it raises levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol.

The disadvantage of all keto diets is they tend to raise LDL cholesterol levels in both the short and long term. Other longer-term concerns about keto diets, especially the carnivore diet, include the increased risk of kidney stones, gout, and osteoporosis. Also, the very high protein intake associated with the carnivore diet can lead to impaired kidney function.

Because keto diets induce the body to burn fat, all keto diets can jump-start a weight-loss program. But I would never recommend a carnivore diet for this purpose.

What is the carnivore diet? - Harvard Health (2024)


What is the carnivore diet? - Harvard Health? ›

Answer: The carnivore diet meal plan only allows consumption of meat, poultry, eggs, seafood, fish, some dairy products, and water. You need to exclude all vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, seeds, and nuts. That's why it is sometimes referred to as the "zero carb" diet.

Is there any evidence for the carnivore diet? ›

It's said to aid weight loss and several health issues, but no reliable research backs these claims. What's more, it's high in fat, contains no fiber or beneficial plant compounds, and is difficult to maintain long term. Overall, the carnivore diet is unnecessarily restrictive.

What do doctors say about the carnivore diet? ›

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 could increase your risk.

Is the Harvard study on red meat debunked? ›

The study reported that longstanding research connecting red meat consumption to heart disease and cancer is not supported by strong scientific evidence.

What is Joe Rogan's 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.

Did Harvard do a study on the carnivore diet? ›

The Takeaway From the Harvard Carnivore Study

Though the outcomes of the Harvard carnivore study likely come as no surprise to carnivore dieters, the overwhelmingly positive responses should compel further studies that will corroborate these reports and elevate the carnivore diet further into mainstream consciousness.

Is carnivore diet bad for gut health? ›

By skipping fruits and vegetables, people likely won't get enough fiber in their diets, which can affect gut health. They also will miss out on carotenoids and polyphenols, substances with antioxidant properties that have been linked to lower risk of chronic diseases such as Type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer.

What is the most unhealthy meat in the world? ›

Least healthy meats

Processed Meats: Notably, there are over 200 types of cold cuts and processed meats. These include hot dogs, bologna, and Vienna sausages. Processed meat is often made of less healthy organs like the stomach, lips, and heart.

What is the healthiest meat to eat? ›

While meat can be a part of a healthy diet, not all sources are created equal. The leanest and healthiest meats to eat include poultry, pork, fish, and seafood. Eating a balanced diet is one of the keys to a healthy lifestyle, which means choosing various foods from different food groups, like proteins.

What is the most ethical meat to eat? ›

Choose welfare-certified chicken and pork over beef and lamb. Source seafood that was farmed using sustainable fishing practices. Reduce how much meat, dairy and fish you eat overall.

Why did Joe Rogan quit carnivore? ›

Rogan shared with Huberman, “The problem that I had with pure carnivore was that I workout very hard.” The main issue with this diet that the podcaster faces is his struggle and low-energy with his workouts. He continued, “And when I workout very hard with pure carnivore. I was struggling. I din't like it.

Can you 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.

Are any celebrities on the carnivore diet? ›

Joe Rogan: The podcast host has publicized his experience with the carnivore diet, reporting positive changes in his health, including improved energy levels and weight loss. Jordan Peterson & Mikhaila Peterson: Psychologist Jordan Peterson and his daughter Mikhaila are perhaps the most vocal proponents.

Is carnivore diet supported by science? ›

Beyond anecdotal evidence of miraculous effects of an all-meat diet, science does not back up the other claims of the Carnivore Diet, and most doctors recommend avoiding it.

Is the carnivore diet nonsense? ›

Like many other fad diets, the carnivore diet is nothing more than a “quick fix,” Zelman says. “It's very restrictive, unsustainable, and there's no evidence to support its claims.” What's more, it can lead to nutritional deficiencies.

What is the success rate of the carnivore diet? ›

The researchers concluded, “Contrary to common expectations, adults consuming a carnivore diet experienced few adverse effects and instead reported health benefits and high satisfaction.” The positive health benefits including: 93% improved or resolved obesity and excess weight.

What is the carnivore diet hypothesis? ›

When you're hypothyroid, a meat- and protein-heavy diet can have some potential benefits. The high amount of protein in the carnivore diet plays a critical role in converting the thyroid hormone T4 to its active form, T3.

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