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Carnivore Diet Rules

By Liam McAuliffe Updated on

The carnivore diet is a prime example of beauty in simplicity. Carnivore diet rules are straightforward and easy to follow: eat only animal products and eliminate everything else. That means no fruit, veggies, grains, legumes, spices (except for salt), sweeteners, or any beverages other than water. 

But if you’re like us, you don’t take rules for granted. So let’s explain each of the carnivore diet rules and how they support your carnivore diet journey. We’ll also touch on some gray areas and times when it can be ok to bend the rules. 

Table of Contents

The Philosophy Behind Carnivore Diet Rules 

Eating a diet of only animal foods may sound extreme if you’re coming from a modern post-agrarian diet based in grains, seed (vegetable oils), and sold on the misinformation that meat is bad and veggies are good. 

But if you were a human at nearly any point over the vast majority of our 2 million years on earth –an all-meat carnivore diet was the status quo.

image of various cave paintings

That’s right, humans evolved by first scavenging, and then hunting extremely fatty meat from giant animals (megafauna). It wasn’t until 10,000 years ago that we began settling down and growing grain. 

ancient people hunting mastodons

The philosophy behind the carnivore diet rules views this change from hyper-carnivorous hunter-gatherers to settled grain eaters as the single most catastrophic event in the history of human health. 

graph showing changing disease types over time in America

Our brains and bodies shrunk and weakened, and we developed the so-called diseases of civilization, including osteoporosis, heart disease, various cancers, gastrointestinal disorders,  type-II diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases, and numerous other inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. 

Human evolution: increase in brain size

These are called the diseases of civilization because they didn’t exist for our carnivorous hunter-gatherer ancestors. 

The carnivore diet (often combined with intermittent fasting) is viewed as a way to realign our metabolism with the eating patterns we humans evolved to thrive on. 

Now that you understand a bit more about where the carnivore diet rules come from, lets explore their main tenets. 

Rule #1: Eat Fatty Meat and Fatty Animal Products

food pyramid for carnivore diet

Fatty meats are the most nutrient-dense foods on earth, and they’re enthroned at the center of a well-formulated carnivore diet meal plan.

A carnivore diet is a high-fat low-carb way of eating, which makes it a type of ketogenic diet

As with other keto diets, meeting your carnivore diet macros requires selecting fatty foods–in this case, meats–and adding animal fats

Fatty meat is also loaded with essential nutrients, many of which are found only in meat

If you do not eat enough fat on keto/carnivore, you will overload your body with protein leading to your body turning protein in to sugar and potential “protein poisoning”–this is a serious and even deadly condition. 

So remember this rule of thumb: Fat, not protein, is your primary source of energy on a carnivore diet. 

Boosting your fat on carnivores is the first approach to overcoming any carnivore diet side effects. 

Here’s a list of some amazing fatty meats with a majority of their calories from fat:

Carnivore Diet MeatsCalories FatProteinCarbs%Calories from fat% Calories from protein
Ribeye steak3102520o73%26%
Pork Belly5886010.4092%7%
Rack of lamb3302230063%37%
Sweetbreads35633.614.6082%18%
Chicken Wings3202230.4062%38%

If you have any questions as to whether saturated animal fats are healthy, click here. 

Foods You Can Eat on The Carnivore Diet

Carnivore diet concept. Raw ingredients for zero carb diet - meat, poultry, fish, seafood, eggs, beef bones for bone broth and words Carnivore Diet on gray stone background. Top view or flat lay.

Your shopping list gets very simple (and nutrient supercharged) on the carnivore diet. A carnivore diet food list will include: 

  • Fatty Meat: Most of your calories will come from fatty cuts of steak like ribeye, NY strip, short ribs, 80/20 ground beef, lamb chops, and pork belly. 
  • Fatty fish: Atlantic mackerel, anchovies, king salmon, and arctic char are among the fattiest fish out there
  • Seafood: Though not as fatty as fish, seafood like salmon roe, oysters, mussels, shrimp, and crab are rich sources of hard-to-get nutrients like zinc and potassium. And they’re delicious when drenched in butter. 
  • Animal fats: Use butter, ghee, tallow, and lard for cooking and to drench your meats in. Butter on its own also makes an excellent carnivore snack
  • Eggs: Another great carnivore staple and snack, eggs are loaded with a near-perfect blend of fats, protein, and vitamins. 
  • Organ meats: many carnivores incorporate a nose-to-tail approach that includes superfoods like beef liver, bone marrow and bone broth, along with pancreas, spleen, and brain
  • Full-fat dairy: Grass-fed butter and ghee, creamy carnivore cheeses, heavy/whipping cream, and even keto-friendly yogurt (boosted with heavy cream) can make an appearance on a carnivore diet for those of you who tolerate dairy well. Many people will start out carnivore as an elimination diet that cuts out dairy, then add it in gradually after a month or two. 
  • Salt: salt is an essential nutrient responsible for many critical physiological processes. On keto/carnivore it is very important to salt your food liberally. When you cut out processed food on carnivore, you’re eliminating your main source of salt, which will need to be replaced. 

Rule #2: Eliminate all Plant Foods and Additives

Food sources of plant based protein. Healthy diet with legumes, dried fruit, seeds, nuts and vegetables. Foods high in protein, antioxidants, vitamins and fiber.

If you’ve read this far you’re probably excited about the delicious, nutritious, succulent, and savory foods that are bound for your shopping list and your belly. 

Now comes the carnivore diet rule that’s a little trickier for most people: Eliminate all plant foods and additives. 

This means no vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, sugars, and spices. 

Here’s a reminder why: Plant foods expose your body to chronically high doses of toxic carbohydrates (sugar), plant toxins, bacteria, and insoluble fiber.  

Similarly, many plant foods contain antinutrients like phytic acid which sequester nutrients and prevent the absorption of critical vitamins and minerals.

Phytic Acid Reduced Absorption of Zinc

That’s right, you’re getting rid of nearly all fiber. Yet, contrary to popular belief, fiber is actually responsible for constipation and GI disorders. Read more on the fiber myth here.

Together carbs, fiber, and plant toxins cause systemic inflammation, hormonal imbalances, glycation (binding of carbs to proteins) and infections at the root of most modern diseases.  

Common-Plant-Chemicals-and-their-Effect-1-1536x1314-1

Foods to Avoid on a Carnivore Diet

Here’s a rundown of the foods that a carnivore diet rules out:

  • All fruits: Apples, bananas, berries, tomatoes, avocados–all these and all the rest 
  • All vegetables: These include the usual suspects like broccoli and spinach, along with vegetable broths
  • All sugars: added, natural, doesn’t matter. If it’s a sweetener, it’s off the table
  • All additives: Processed foods that have nitrates, nitrites, MSG, gums like guar, and oils like lecithin
  • All grains: wheat, rice, buckwheat, quinoa etc. 
  • All nuts, seeds, and legumes: almonds, pistachios, peanuts, flax seed, all beans etc.

Carnivore Diet Rules: FAQs

In this section, we’ll take on some frequently asked questions about the finer points of our carnivore diet rules.

Q: Can I drink alcohol on carnivore? 

Alcohol is fermented from grains and fruits, which means it is not a carnivore diet food. 

Alcohol on the carnivore diet disrupts fat metabolism, is obviously addictive, and its overuse is associated with numerous health problems.

Do you have a history of using alcohol in ways that cause you or others harm and difficulty? Do social situations easily pressure you into overindulging? If you answer yes to these, then it’s best to look at carnivore as a factor in helping you avoid these problems. 

That said, if you do drink once in a while on carnivore, there are likely no major health consequences. 

Q: Can I drink Coffee on carnivore? 

Coffee on the carnivore diet is a gray area. 

On the one hand, coffee is the extract of a fruit seed. That makes it plant food, so it’s technically off the table. 

Many coffees also contain mycotoxins (toxic molds) that can be harmful when ingested over time. 

Yet there are numerous health benefits to drinking coffee and almost no drawbacks when selecting mycotoxin-free coffee. 

So if coffee is part of your daily ritual, is the worst of your vices, allows you to otherwise stay happily on the carnivore diet, and you can’t imagine going without it, then there are not a whole lot of reasons to give it up. 

Q: Can I use spices on the carnivore diet? 

Technically no. Spices are plant foods, often in a very concentrated form. They are eliminated along with all other toxin-containing plant foods. 

Of course, if you’re eating an all-meat diet with just a bit of spice on your meat, then you are still going to be in vastly better shape from a dietary standpoint than 99.9% of all humans.

Can I drink milk on carnivore? 

Milk is an animal product so it’s technically approved on a carnivore diet. However, milk is high in carbs, is not keto-friendly, and is thus most often eliminated on a carnivore diet. 

Heavy cream on the other hand is highly fatty with very little carbs and can be an excellent “supplement” or side to a fatty carnivore diet.

Q: Can I have honey on carnivore? 

Honey is made by bees so some people consider it an “animal product,” acceptable on the carnivore diet. But bees make honey from plant nectar–which is supersaturated sugar. 

Because honey is high in carbs and not really an animal food, most people eliminate it. 

The hunter-gatherer tribes that consume honey do so sparingly and rarely. 

One place honey is allowed on carnivore is as a topical healing substance.

Q: Can I eat processed meat on the carnivore diet? 

Processed meats usually contain additives that do not belong to the animal kingdom and reduce the quality of meat.

Processed Meat Ingredients

For this reason, we recommend avoiding processed meats.

That said, traditionally cured meats like prosciutto are minimally processed, made with just meat, salt, and time and can be an excellent carnivore snack.

Q: How long does it take to adapt to carnivore

Though the exact adaptation period differs from person-to-person, it usually takes a couple of weeks to one month.

Biologically speaking, humans are facultative carnivores.  This means we are evolutionarily adapted to consume an all-meat diet.

When coming from a high-carb, modern Western diet, it will take time for your body to upregulate bile production, rebalance electrolytes and intestinal flora required to metabolize the increased fat load, and curb your cravings for carbohydrates. 

Q: How much should I eat per day on a carnivore diet?

The carnivore diet is explicitly not about calorie-counting. The idea is that you eat until you are full.

Your body will tell you when you’ve had enough of these highly satiating foods. 

Most people end up eating fewer calories on carnivore because the foods are so rich and nourishing. 

Many people integrate carnivore with intermittent feasting (fasting). Practicing OMAD (one meal a day) combines the benefits of OMAD with the benefits of carnivore

The Bottom Line on Carnivore Diet Rules

Carnivore diet rules are straightforward and easy to follow. 

  1. Eat fatty animal products, mostly ruminant meats, supplemented with pork, fatty fish, fatty cuts of poultry, eggs, animal fats, and full-fat dairy for those who tolerate it.
  2. Eliminate all plant foods, processed foods, spices, and additives.

Following these carnivore diet rules will realign your eating habits with the dietary patterns that humans evolved to thrive on over nearly two million years.

Recreating the congruence of diet and evolutionary metabolism reduces inflammation and nourishes your body with the healthiest foods on earth, providing the most bioavailable nutrients in perfect proportions to our bodys’ needs. 

 

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