The carnivore and keto diets are two of the top trending low-carb diets nowadays. They are not exactly the same though. While maintaining several similarities, they also have many drastic differences.
The main difference is that on a keto diet, plants and plant-derived products are eliminated while on a carnivore diet the idea is to consume animal products exclusively. So, to put it in other words, the ketogenic diet is a low-carb diet while the carnivore diet is a zero-carb diet if followed strictly.
In today’s article, we’ll talk about the carnivore diet more in-depth, its benefits and downsides, and the differences with the ketogenic diet.
What is the carnivore diet?
Before we get in deep with the pros and cons, let’s see what is the carnivore diet exactly. The carnivore diet is an eating plan consisting of cutting your meals to only meat and animal products while eliminating carbohydrates and plant-based foods.
So, basically, in this diet plan, you just eat meat or animal products for every meal eliminating completely fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, grains, and seeds. You must also limit or eliminate your intake of certain dairy products containing the sugar lactose to remain true to the zero-carb plan of the diet.
The products that you can eat while following a carnivore diet are, as we said: meat, fish, eggs, some animal products, and some dairy products (lactose-free).
Many carnivore diet advocates believe that most of today’s health issues are caused by eating too many carbs, and by ingesting plant toxins, while animal foods are the best source of nutrients for humans.
One thing to keep in mind if you want to start following a carnivore diet is that you’ll have some cravings and mood swings while your body is adjusting to the change. The major temporary adaptations that you’re likely to notice are:
- Fluid imbalance. The carnivore diet results in fluid and electrolyte imbalance in the body. You’ll notice a massive weight loss during the initial few weeks, as the body begins to shred a lot of retained water.
- Hormone fluctuations. You’ll notice changes in your hormones, especially cortisol, resulting in mood swings and irritability.
- Cravings. In the first few weeks, you’ll quickly notice that you’re craving carb-rich foods. This happens when your body is struggling to get energy from stored fat in your body.
Benefits of the carnivore diet
The carnivore diet will help you stay away from refined carbohydrates that are high in calories and very low in beneficial nutrients for your health. Following this diet has also a lot of benefits, so let’s take a look, shall we?!
1. Improvement in body composition
The carnivore diet is mainly known for its effectiveness in weight loss in the form of fat since you get rid of all the high-carb foods and focus only on protein meals. Plus, it’s been shown that a diet low in carbohydrates aids in diabetes prevention and control of the progression of type-2 diabetes in the long term.
Reducing the high-carb intake also reduces inflammation.
2. Increase satiety
Protein foods increase metabolism, keep you satiated for longer, and burn more calories. Studies have shown that the consumption of protein-rich food increases satiety and keeps you away from binge eating and craving high-carb foods.
3. Amino acids and more nutrients
Proteins are the source of most of the amino acids that are essential to help with the nutrients that our body needs.
Meat and meat products are a good source of essential amino acids. Lysine, histidine, and phenylalanine are amino acids present in meat that help to carry out several physiological functions in our body.
4. Eliminates sugars and sweeteners
Processed sugars and sweeteners are quite addictive, so by eliminating them you’re eliminating an addiction that does no good for your body. You’ll feel more energized, you’ll notice that you’re in a better mood and it’s easier for you to focus, you’ll have less inflammation, you’ll lose weight faster and, once you eliminate sugars and sweeteners from your diet, you won’t have cravings.
5. Eliminates grains, gluten, vegetable and, seed oils
These foods are known to cause inflammation and are linked to a leaky gut. A lot of doctors say that inflammation and leaky gut are the root of most of our diseases, especially the autoimmune ones.
6. Provides more collagen
By eating a meat-based diet, with a variety of fatty meat, red meat, and other animal meat, you will be naturally consuming more collagen. If you drink bone broth on a regular basis, that intake increases even more.
7. Helps to improve insulin resistant
Losing body fat and gaining more muscle mass is one of the best natural ways to improve your blood sugar and reverse insulin resistance. The carnivore diet helps manage this process. You can also combine it with intermittent fasting to further reduce insulin resistance.
Controversies to the carnivore diet
Despite having a good amount of benefits, the carnivore diet also has its downsides, due to its highly restrictive nature and complete elimination of the majority of food groups.
High in fat, cholesterol, and sodium
Since the carnivore diet consists of animal foods, it can be high in saturated fats and cholesterol. As we all know, saturated fat may raise your LDL, aka, bad cholesterol, which may increase your risk of heart disease.
Moreover, some processed meats like bacon or breakfast meats, contain high amounts of sodium, which has been directly linked to an increased risk of high blood pressure, kidney disease, and other negative health outcomes.
Eating too much processed meat can also increase the risk of colon, stomach, and rectal cancer.
Fiber is a non-digestible carb found only in plant foods. Even though it's non-essential, it promotes gut health and healthy bowel movements and helps our body eliminate what it doesn’t need.
Moreover, fiber is extremely important for the proper balance of bacteria in our gut. Having bad gut health can lead to several health issues and to weakened immunity. Overall, following a carnivore diet may harm your gut health in the long run.
When starting a carnivore diet, you may not be used to the number of fatty foods. These foods can cause you diarrhea in the first days until your body adapts to the change.
Lack of certain micronutrients
As we’ve seen, the carnivore diet eliminates fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains, all of them being highly nutritious foods that contain beneficial vitamins and minerals for our body and overall health.
It’s true that meat is nutritious as well and provides micronutrients but it can’t provide the ones coming from plant-based foods. That means that following such a restrictive diet may lead to deficiencies in some nutrients and overconsumption of others.
Usually, when going on a carnivore diet, and the weeks start to pass, you might start gaining weight. By eating nutrient-dense and a high amount of protein, your muscles grow, and they get heavier.
There are also studies that have related the carnivore diet with obesity if it’s followed for a long period of time.
Change in your body temperature
You will experiment with “meat sweats” this happens because protein is the hardest macronutrient to digest, so with a massive influx of protein, the body goes into overdrive to break it down, causing you to sweat more than usual.
Carnivore diet vs. Keto
As we’ve seen, the keto diet and the carnivore diet are quite different. The main difference is that the carnivore diet encourages eating as much as you want, as long as it’s strictly animal products. While the keto diet requires a more specific breakdown of macronutrients consumed per day.
Despite the differences, they do have some similarities, for example, both diets replace carbohydrate intake with higher amounts of fat and protein to efficiently and effectively lose weight.