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Carnivore Diet with Fruit and Honey? Risks vs. Benefits
The meat-based carnivore diet is as old as humanity, but it has only recently gained popularity with us modern humans. The relative newness of the carnivore diet has compelled some meat-based enthusiasts like “Carnivore MD” Paul Saladino and podcaster Joe Rogan to experiment with different approaches in a quest to find the version that best suits their genetics and health goals.
One of these approaches popularized by Dr. Saladino is the carnivore diet with fruit and honey. To be fair, the addition of fruit and honey bumps this way of eating out of the carnivore category. Saladino himself has admitted that his variation is best understood as simply an “animal-based” way of eating.
In this article, we’ll explore the addition of fruit and honey to the carnivore diet, including the types of lifestyles that it can potentially support, along with potential drawbacks and complications.
Table of Contents
What is the Carnivore Diet with Fruit and Honey?
The carnivore diet means eliminating all plant foods and eating only animal products.
Yet, fruit is a plant food, and though honey is produced by a bee, it is essentially just an added sugar. So this way of eating is best understood as an animal-based omnivorous diet.
Adding fruit and honey to the carnivore diet is an approach that Dr. Paul Saladino has been experimenting with since he moved to Costa Rica in 2020.
Dr. Saladino was one of the most outspoken carnivore enthusiasts. For years he ate a diet of only meat, including ample organ meats. And though it worked for a long time, eventually, he found that his electrolyte levels were off, and he was having trouble bringing them back into balance.
After adding in fruit and honey, Saladino found that his sleep, electrolyte, and hormone issues resolved. But the transition wasn’t entirely smooth.
Adding Honey Can Increase “Bad” LDL Cholesterol
After adding honey to his diet Saladino’s “bad” LDL cholesterol temporarily shot up to 500 (normal is less than 100). Though the role of cholesterol as a heart disease risk factor is being reconsidered, that’s a huge jump.
Eventually, Saladino’s cholesterol and blood sugar returned to levels in line with what they were when he was on an extremely low-carb all meat diet.
What Fruits Are Added?
The fruit Saladino eats are mostly tropical and local varieties of pineapple, mangos, and papaya. These constitute up to 200-300 grams of carbohydrates in a day.
Body Composition and Activity Levels Matter
It’s important to consider that Dr. Saladino is very lean and muscular, 5’9” 165, and has described his lifestyle as defined by copious physical activity, including surfing for 2-3 hours a day.
With more muscle mass and high activity levels, the body is much more efficient at metabolizing sugars and burning visceral fat. But most people don’t meet these criteria.
In a conversation about adding fruit and honey to the carnivore diet with Dr. Ken Berry, another prominent carnivore enthusiast, Dr. Berry insisted that adding fruit and honey would arrest the weight loss potential of the carnivore diet, and almost certainly cause Dr. Berry and most of his patients to gain significant weight.
Dr. Berry claimed that for most people, and especially those like himself who fatten easily, carb restriction is a key to the power of the all-meat diet to reverse type 2 and 3 diabetes, fatty liver disease, obesity, and chornic inflammation that leads to heart disease and various other autoimmune disorders.
Possible Benefits of a Carnivore Diet with Fruit and Honey
Adding fruit and honey to the carnivore diet is a recent experiment spearheaded by Dr. Paul Saladino. The sample size and time frame is remarkably small to determine any reproducible benefits.
However, for Dr. Saladino, there appears to be a positive effect on hormone balance that supports electrolyte retention and improves sleep. These benefits have come so far, with no side effects regarding fasting glucose, and only a temporary spike in LDL cholesterol.
For lean, hard-training athletes, adding some carbs in the form of fruit and honey may be an effective way to replenish glycogen (the glucose stored in muscle tissue). In fact, this approach to carb “refeeding” has been practiced and promoted by bodybuilders who want to benefit from the fat-burning of a ketogenic diet, but need glycogen in order to maintain muscle mass and growth.
Possible Drawbacks to a Carnivore Diet with Fruit and Honey
Though the potential benefits of adding fruit and honey to carnivore are untested and likely apply to very healthy and active people, the possible drawbacks are a bit more predictable.
This is because we know what happens to people who eat high-carb diets with added sugars.
Excess Weight Gain
High carbs diets interfere with sensitivity to the hormone Leptin which controls satiety and motivation towards physical movement.
Because fruit was rare and seasonal for most of our ancestors, our bodies are primed to binge on it and store the excess calories as body fat for when times are lean.
But in the modern world, high-carb food is abundant and cheap, making it easy to chronically consume carbs.
It’s also worth noting that the natural fruits that humans occasionally ate were generally far smaller, more fibrous, and less sweet than the bred and modified fruits of today.
Diseases and Disorders Associated with High Carb Intake
High-carb and high-sugar diets are associated with
- Chronic inflammation
- increased risk of type 2 diabetes
- Increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease
- Heart disease
- Cancer metastasis and resistance to chemotherapy
- Impaired immune function
- PCOS, insulin resistance
Let’s detail some of these risks.
Unstable Mental and Physical Energy
Consuming carbohydrates is associated with greater fatigue and poor mood.
A 2019 analysis of 31 studies with over 1259 participants revealed zero positive effects of carbohydrates on any aspect of mood at any point in time following their consumption. Conversely, the study found that carbohydrates were associated with higher levels of fatigue and less alertness compared with placebos. 7
The dramatic benefits of cutting carbs and consuming a high-fat, low-carb ketogenic diet–which is what the carnivore diet is by default– have been found to have profoundly positive effects on psychiatric disorders, including psychosis, bipolar disorder, and ADHD.
In fact, ketogenic diets gained popularity in the early 1900s for their effectiveness in treating drug-resistant epilepsy in children, and have since been found to protect the brain against cognitive decline.
One of the most common benefits that people report on the standard carnivore diet is mental clarity and sustained energy. Adding fruit and sugar would likely eliminate these benefits for most people.
Carnivore Diet With Fruit and Honey: The Takeaway
The carnivore diet is a relatively recent addition to the mainstream diet pantheon. This has led early adopters to experiment with different approaches, including adding fruit and honey.
The addition of fruit and honey negates the “carnivore” aspect of the carnivore diet and makes it an animal-based omnivorous diet, similar to many approaches to the Paleo diet.
Consuming high-carb fruits and honey contradicts one of the key mechanisms behind the benefits of a carnivore diet, mainly its low-carb, high-fat nutrient ratios.
That said, the carnivore diet with fruit and honey is significantly healthier than a Standard American Diet high in processed foods, refined grains, refined added sugars, and toxic seeds oils. However, its benefits may be likely accessible mainly to already lean people who have high physical activity levels.