Carnivore Diet: Why would it work? What about Nutrients and Fiber?
Recently the “carnivore diet” has become
quite popular, thanks in part to the famous
University of Toronto professor Jordan Peterson,
as well as his daughter Mikhaila having used
this meat-only diet to alleviate certain health
“and she said to me quit eating greens and
I thought Oh, really?!
I’m eating cucumbers, lettuce, broccoli, and
chicken and beef.
It’s like I have to cut out the goddamn greens?
Within a week I was 25% less anxious in the
Within 2 weeks I was 75% and I’ve been better
every single day.
Disclaimer number 2, I am not recommending
this to anyone.”
Needless to say, this diet steps on a lot
of toes, especially if you happen to advocate
for a plant-based diet.
Even if you’re on a low carb or keto diet,
this still probably sounds extreme considering
you can’t even have avocadoes or macadamia
Dr. Shawn baker, a big carnivore diet advocate
has been on the diet for about 7 years and
runs a website called meatheals.com.
As of August 26th, 99 people have shared their
stories of how they improved their health
by eating only meat – healing things like
depression, various gut issues, and rheumatoid
arthritis with 77 of them experiencing weight
loss, 61 of them commenting on improved mood
and 31 people seeing improvements in their
And, There are plenty more stories to be found
elsewhere on the internet.
So, whatever diet camp you happen to be in,
investigating why this diet seems to help
people could provide some useful information
that you may apply to your own diet, even
if you have no intention of eating a bunch
So what about this diet is causing so many
reported improvements in health?
In this video, we’ll look at:
Why a lack of plants may be beneficial to
help some people
The first concern you may have is: if you’re
only eating meat, won’t you get scurvy or
some Vitamin deficiencies?
In the 1960 book “The Fat of the Land”
by Vilhjalmur Stefansson, he describes his
experience living with the Inuit of Canada
beginning in 1910.
He explained that “If meat needs carbohydrates
and other vegetable additives to make it wholesome,
then the poor Eskimos should have been in
But, to the contrary, they seemed to me the
healthiest people I had ever lived with..”
He also said that the Inuit remained completely
scurvy-free, “except for a few who worked
for white men, [and] ate their food…”
First of all, certain animal parts like the
liver contain vitamin C, so you could simply
eat some liver or if you’re more adventurous,
the adrenal gland, brain and spinal cord of
animals are high in vitamin C.
But… it seems that some of the recent advocates
of the carnivore diet are scurvy free and
doing just fine while rarely consuming organ
It was discovered by Birch and Dann in 1953
that even the the skeletal, cardiac and smooth
muscle of animal meat contains Vitamin C,
but that’s somehow been forgotten.
However, is this small amount enough?
An interesting thing to consider is that your
body works differently on this type of diet.
Because glucose (carbohydrate) and vitamin
C are structured similarly, they actually
compete for glucose transporters, so too much
glucose can inhibit vitamin C transport.
Simply put the less glucose you consume, the
more efficiently you can utilize Vitamin C,
so the less Vitamin C you require.
The near zero carb nature of the carnivore
diet should help people maintain proper levels
of other nutrients as well.
This paper looking at 50 people doing a paleolithic
ketogenic diet found that all but one person
had adequate levels of magnesium without supplementation.
Considering up to 50% of Americans are magnesium
deficient, this is significant.
The study also found that the lower people’s
glucose, the better their magnesium levels.
Other studies have found glucose to lower
levels of plasma potassium, so the carnivore
diet should also help maintain good potassium
Here’s a sample day of carnivore eating
– Beef, Beef Liver, Egg Yolks, Gouda Cheese
and Clams – I’m not saying this is the ideal
mix of foods, but it will easily cover pretty
much all your RDI’S.
Magnesium and Potassium seem pretty low, but
as I just mentioned, the nature of the carnivore
diet should have you doing fine on the relatively
low dietary levels of magnesium and potassium,
and we’ll get to fiber in a minute, but
insoluble fiber can bind to magnesium so the
lack of fiber in this diet can actually help
with magnesium status.
Nonetheless, if you experience cramping after
the adaptation period you might want to supplement
these minerals or get your levels checked.
Also, 70g of salmon roe or just 2 tsp of cod
liver oil will easily cover Vitamin E and
D and boost your Vitamin A. If you don’t
want dairy in your diet, you can get more
vitamin K2 from grass fed beef tallow – and
you’d want to make sure and supplement in
more fat from tallow or bone marrow anyway.
Also, I would really recommend wild caught
or pasture raised animals eating a natural
nourishing diet and be wary of fish oil oxidation.
But wait a minute…
Thiamin is looking a little low at just 54%
of the RDI.
This brings us to another example of more
efficient usage of nutrients on this diet.
As Dr. Chris Masterjohn explains in this video
of his: Burning carbohydrate for energy requires
twice as much thiamin as fat, so your requirements
for thiamin are going to be drastically lower
and easier to meet on this diet.
The next concern you may have about this diet
is… whether you could actually make any
progress on the toilet.
After all, it’s “common knowledge” that
fiber is necessary for preventing constipation.
And people have been frightened by the ill
effects of constipation for literally thousands
A paper by James Whorton states that As far
back as the 16th century BC, an Egyptian pharmaceutical
papyrus – the Ebers Papyrus, explains that
constipation could lead to the poisoning of
the body by material released from decomposing
waste in the intestines.
This theoretical condition was called autointoxication,
and it influenced medicine for more than three
As James Whorton says, this fear of autointoxication
lead to the marketing of all kinds of anti-constipation
foods and drugs in the early 1900’s when
“Literally hundreds of brands of bowel cleansers
competed for consumer dollars.”
But Jump forward to 2011, despite bowel irregularity
occuring in 15% of adults and 9% of children,
this preface to “Best Practice & Research:
Clinical Gastroenterology,” says “our
understanding of the pathophysiology of constipation,
both in paediatric and adult populations remains
But I thought the cure for constipation was
The makers of Bran cereal have been telling
us with their television commercials starting
in the 1950’s to just chuck some fiber down
“Kellog’s Cracklin’ Bran, High Fiber Good
“It helps keep you fit inside.
“Experts recommend increasing your dietary
fiber intake as a drug free way to promote
“A few weeks ago, I was having problems staying
But, is fiber really the answer?
“When we have a look at the current governmental
advice, they consider that fiber is the best
available treatment for constipation…”
Dr. Paul Mason presents here a case controlled
study that looks at 63 patients with constipation
and high and low fiber diets were compared
“And this also included a zero fiber diet
that required the complete cessation of all
vegetables, cereals, fruits, and rice.”
As we can see, people experienced worsened
symptoms on a high fiber diet, then on a reduced
fiber diet, people experienced a modest reduction
So the question is, what happened to those
on the zero fiber diet?
“This is not a mistake.
I didn’t just forget to put something in the
Not one patient on the zero fiber diet had
And these findings were highly statistically
Every single person in the low zero fiber
group ended up having one bowel action per
day every day.
Those in the high fiber group?
One bowel action on average every 6.83 days.”
Now, herbivores eat a huge amount of fiber
without getting constipated, …but their
digestive tract is designed for this: they
generally have much bigger cecums for fermenting
And for some people fiber may seem to help
get things going, but you have to remember
it also increases your need to have bowel
movements as you’ve increased the amount of
indigestible material that needs to be expelled.
This might not be enough for you to challenge
fiber’s rule over the bowel, so I recommend
watching the full talk by Dr. Paul Mason or
reading the book “Fiber Menace” by Konstantin
At this point you may be worried about the
Wouldn’t cutting out fiber kill off all
our good bacteria?
Not necessarily – bacteria have specific conditions
for their growth, some prefer oxygen, some
Some like fiber, some don’t and so on.
This study found that Canadian Arctic inuit
still maintain a diverse microbiome but they
do have lower diversity in the Prevotella
Prevotella has been shown to improve glucose
Meaning their diet may worsen their glucose
metabolism a bit, but remember they consume
hardly any glucose in the first place.
And… prevotella is linked to chronic inflammatory
conditions, such as arthritis.
In any case, as Dr. Paul Mason points out,
research is really not at a point to make
definitive claims about fiber causing changes
in the microbiome that are necessary for good
Though, It is apparent that nuking your microbiome
with antibiotics is very likely a bad idea.
When I first heard about this diet, I wasn’t
surprised that some people had benefits – after
all, the diet cuts out processed food, wheat,
soy, sugar, and vegetable oils.
Zero Fiber is one thing, but what really surprised
me was that people were experiencing improvements
after going from simply meat and greens to
So, why would cutting out greens from an already
clean diet help?
Well, it comes down to a simple fact of biology
– living things really don’t like being
Just like a gazelle has predators, so do plants:
“But none attacks its prey with more fury
than the seaweed shark.”
A gazelle can run away to avoid being eaten,
but what can a plant do when a bug or human
While we are masters of locomotion, plants
are fantastic chemists.
I’m talking about secondary metabolites,
or “plant toxins.”
One of the perks of us humans being intelligent
is that we’ve learned to avoid the highly
poisonous plants and have developed methods
for deactivating the toxins of others.
Though in certain cases, some people can have
problems with plant food toxins which don’t
affect the rest of the population.
For example, I grew up in the heat of Texas
yet didn’t have any problems with the photosensitizers
in Lime or Celery.
Unfortunately, these poor girls did…
Experiencing “Second degree burns from limes.”
Photo sensitizers, technically called “furanocoumarins”
are toxins in plants that make animals and
humans sensitive to light.
And virtually all plant foods we normally
consume have some level of defense against
According to this 1990 paper titled “Dietary
pesticides (99% all natural)*,” led by Biochemist
Bruce N. Ames, “99% of the pesticides in
the American diet are chemicals that plants
produce to defend themselves.
Only 52 natural pesticides have been tested
in high-dose animal cancer tests, and about
half (27) are rodent carcinogens; these 27
are shown to be present in many common foods.”
The paper goes on to list 57 different.
plant foods with these carcinogens and Table
1 identifies forty-nine natural pesticides
and metabolites found in cabbage alone.
Now, Before it sounds like I’m saying shopping
in the produce section is slowly killing you,
let me point out that we’re not rats and
that hormesis has to be taken into account.
Hormesis is essentially the concept of a “good
stress” – that is, “the dose makes the
poison,” or “what harms me in the right
way and not too much makes me stronger.”
For example, just like you or me, broccoli
really doesn’t like to be chewed on.
So, when broccoli is cut or chomped on, glucoraphanin
in the broccoli is activated through an enzyme
myrosinase to form an isothiocyanate, a toxin
This molecule is designed to kill small living
creatures, but for us, it can be good, it’s
a mild stress that our bodies gear up for
and the end result is we wind up stronger.
Dr. Rhonda Patrick has an extensive video
explaining the vast and impressive potential
benefits of this compound: everything from
preventing cancers, ameliorating existing
cancers to lowering inflammation and preventing
But we can’t say all the defense mechanisms
of every plant food result in a hormetic effect
This table, from a presentation done by Dr.
Maelan Fontes shows a couple different types
of Bioactive Plant compounds that can be damaging.
One is the antinutrient Phytic acid, or “phytates”
which come from grains, nuts and legumes and
bind to nutrients like Calcium, Iron, Potassium,
Magnesium, Manganese and Zinc, making them
But, the phytic acid doesn’t just impair
you from absorbing the nutrients in the seed
itself, it also impairs absorption of nutrients
from other foods you eat.
For example, as this study found, when you
consume zinc rich oysters with black beans,
you’ll absorb about half of that zinc.
And when you consume them with corn tortillas,
you’ll absorb almost none of that zinc.
Another substance found in common plant food
with low level toxicity is oxalate – it is
found in Bran, Beets, Soy, Blueberries, Lime
Peel, Orange peel, Nuts and several other
Since oxalate is usually more concentrated
in the leaves of plants, Spinach is particularly
high in it.
According to Haschek and Rousseau’s Handbook
of Toxicologic Pathology, “ Insoluble plant
oxalates include calcium oxalate.
When animals eat these plants the crystals
are immediately irritating, causing mechanical
damage to the oral cavity and gastrointestinal
Obviously the levels in food that we normally
eat are way too low to cause any immediately
apparent effects, but high levels of oxalate
are no joke.
In 1989, a 53 year old diabetic, alcoholic
man died after having 6g worth of oxalate
from sorrel soup – this is the equivalent
of about half kilo of spinach.
However, keep in mind this person was already
severely metabolically impaired.
About 2.5 kilos or 5.5 pounds of spinach has
a 50% chance of killing a healthy person.
However, as Sally Norton argues in this talk,
while the oxalate levels found in food may
not produce any quickly apparent effects,
problems can arise when you repeatedly expose
yourself to oxalates through your diet by
eating things like spinach, almonds and cashews.
“You can easily exceed your tolerance for
oxalate, even though it looks like your kidneys
are just fine.
4% of what you’re eating is being retained
in tissues left behind causing issues.”
Tiny oxalate crystals can accumulate in the
body and you can find them in the bone, the
skin and the glands.
Accumulation in the thyroid impairs thyroid
function, accumulation in the breast has been
linked to cancer, and accumulation in the
kidneys leads to kidney stones.
70 to 80% of all kidney stones are made of
So if you have kidney stones, poor kidney
function or poor thyroid function, you may
feel better on a low, under 50mg oxalate diet.
This means no more than six leaves of spinach
There are so many secondary metabolites we
could about, but the point is plants really
don’t want you to eat them and these defense
mechanisms are in virtually every single plant
The gliadin protein in wheat disrupts the
physical barrier of the gut causing inflammation.
Protease inhibitors in things like grains,
nuts, seeds, and soy inhibit some of the enzymes
that help us digest protein.
Soy also contains phytoestrogens which bind
to estrogen receptors and cause hormonal issues.
Goitrogens are found in soy, other legumes
and cruciferous vegetables and hamper thyroid
Saponins, which are found in soy, beans, peas,
lentils and other legumes are used as emulsifiers
in the food and cosmetic industry and can
damage the gut lining, making it more permeable
There’s also a huge variety of plant lectins
that some people can be very sensitive to.
But of course there are tons of studies talking
about the vast benefits of all kinds of plant
And A lot of people seem to thrive on a plant
So, surely it comes down to how each person
responds to these substances.
One level of a secondary metabolite from plants
may be a beneficial hormetic stress for one
person while at the same time being a detrimental
toxin for another.
When dealing with some chronic ailment, many
people try several different elimination diets
to find out what’s triggering their symptoms.
So if you suspect you have some sensitivity,
you could just do all of the elimination diets
at once and add foods back in later.
The carnivore diet happens to be a low lectin,
low FODMAP, low sulphite, low oxalate, low
salicylate, low phytate, super low carb and
no fiber diet.
“I haven’t heard any negative stories about
people doing this.
Well I have a negative story.
One of the things that both Mikhaila and I
noticed was that when we restricted our diet
and then ate something we weren’t supposed
to, the reaction was absolutely catastrophic.”
Now this video only scratches the surface
of this diet – there’s still many things
to discuss like nutrient density and bioavailability,
but surely one key factor in why many people
are experiencing improvements is this meat
only diet acts like the ultimate elimination
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