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Most People Shouldn’t Try the Carnivore Diet

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Meat lovers might be interested in the carnivore diet, where meat and animal products are on the menu for every meal. Unlike the keto diet, which allows a limited amount of carbs each day, the carnivore diet shoots for zero carbs.

That means no fruits, veggies, grains, legumes, nuts, or seeds.

But is it healthy to go without carbs altogether? The carnivore diet claims to offer weight loss, improved mood, and better blood sugar regulation by cutting out high-carb foods. But there are also drawbacks to consuming only animal protein.

Carbs get a bad rap, but they are your body's preferred energy source. That's why when you don't eat enough carbs, your body burns fat instead. While some people may feel good on a low-carb diet, it's worth noting that too much animal fat can also be inflammatory.

While the absence of carbs leads to weight loss on the carnivore diet, it's not a sustainable or healthy long-term solution. Plus, cutting out entire food groups can have serious side effects. Ultimately, the best diet for you balances a variety of nutrient-dense whole foods, including both plant and animal products.

Not All Carbs are Created Equal

While some carbs get a bad rep, the truth is carbs provide fuel for your body. Some carbs are even loaded with fiber, vitamins, and minerals that are great for your health. The best carbs are the ones that are as close to their natural form as possible, like fruits, veggies, and whole grains.

But beware of simple carbs like sugary desserts, candy, and baked goods. These foods are typically packed with preservatives, white sugar, and flour, which can cause inflammation and weight gain. Eating too many simple carbs can contribute to health issues like Type 2 diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure.

Eliminating all carbs from your diet can actually be harmful to your body.

Cutting back on simple carbs can help you lose weight and feel better by reducing glucose fluctuations. But eliminating all carbs from your diet can actually be harmful to your body. So instead of cutting out all carbs, focus on incorporating healthy carbs into your meals, like fruits and veggies, and limiting your intake of simple carbs.

Carnivore Diet Drawbacks

The carnivore diet might sound like an easy way to lose weight, but it's a really strict and limiting diet. You're bound to experience some negative consequences when you cut out entire food groups.

For example, because the carnivore diet is super low in fiber, you may have difficulty going to the bathroom. But constipation isn't the only risk you should be aware of. If you have any pre-existing health conditions, like high blood pressure or cholesterol, you definitely shouldn't try this diet.

And if you struggle with digestive issues, this diet can actually make things worse. That's because all the protein and fat in the meat takes a lot longer to digest than other foods.

Eating a lot of saturated fat, common on the carnivore diet, can also raise your bad cholesterol levels and put you at risk for heart disease. And processed meats, like bacon and lunch meats, are often high in sodium, leading to kidney problems and high blood pressure. Plus, they've even been linked to certain types of cancer. So be careful if you're considering the carnivore diet, and make sure to talk to a doctor or dietitian first.

Should You Try the Carnivore Diet?

The bottom line is: no.

The benefits of the carnivore diet are heavily outweighed by the health risks, and excessively restrictive nature of the diet. What's more, plenty of diets out there are easier to maintain and have all the benefits of the carnivore diet without the risks.

William H. McDaniel, MD

Dr. Robert H. Shmerling is the former clinical chief of the division of rheumatology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), and is a current member of the corresponding faculty in medicine at Harvard Medical School.

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