Can eating only animal products help you lose weight?

High-protein diets are a popular health trend right now, especially on social media, where influencers regularly share tips on how to pack more of the macronutrient into meals. One popular version of a high-protein eating plan is the carnivore diet.

The carnivore diet is pretty much what its name implies — lots of meat products and no carbohydrates. Its popularity is no surprise given recent demand for other diets focused on protein, like keto.

But is the carnivore diet too extreme? Does eating only animal products and no carbohydrates come with health risks? Here’s what to know.

What is the carnivore diet?

The carnivore diet, created by Dr. Shawn Baker, revolves around animal products — especially meat, eggs and a little dairy — as its only component. Following the carnivore diet means no vegetables, grains or any plant-based foods.

There is some anecdotal evidence, according to its proponents, that the carnivore diet can lead to weight loss and improve metabolism and autoimmune diseases. Baker also has said it can reverse diabetes. However, research has yet to bear out these benefits.

Baker’s website and 2019 book are the go-to resources for those trying out the carnivore diet thanks to his recipes, meal plans and other tools to follow the eating plan.

Carnivore diet food list

On the diet, you will eat:

  • Meat

  • Fish

  • Eggs

  • Some animal products (like yogurt and bone broth)

  • Seasonings like salt and pepper

Carnivore diet risks

One of the main risks that comes with following a carnivore diet is that it’s highly restrictive and may be difficult to maintain. And if you’re using it for weight loss, know that research shows you need to make lasting lifestyle changes to keep the weight off. That means that more balanced diets tend to be better for long-term health.

The carnivore diet also can lead to nutrient deficiencies because you’re cutting out all plant-based foods, which are high in fiber, antioxidants and many other vitamins and minerals. Also, not eating enough vegetables can lead to poor gut health and gastrointestinal issues, like constipation.

You’ll also be lots of saturated fat by following a carnivore diet, which can raise bad cholesterol and, in turn, increase risk of heart disease and stroke.

Carnivore diet benefits

The diet does eliminate any source of sugar, as well as refined grains and ultra-processed foods. Diets high in sugar, refined grains and processed foods have been associated with a risk of chronic conditions such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and potential adverse mental health impacts.

If considering a carnivore approach, aim for animal-based foods with the most significant nutrient density. For example, consider organic dairy, grass-fed beef and pork products, poultry raised without antibiotics, wild fish and shellfish, and pasture-raised eggs.

Carnivore diet meal plan

The following five-day meal plan is an example of a carnivore diet approach.

Day 1

  • Breakfast: 2 eggs, scrambled in butter, with ¼ cup cheddar cheese on top.

  • Lunch: 4 turkey breast slices rolled in mozzarella cheese, plus 1 cup of bone broth.

  • Dinner: Meatloaf.

Day 2

  • Breakfast: 1 cup plain yogurt and 2 hard-boiled eggs.

  • Lunch: Turkey burger and 1 cup of bone broth.

  • Dinner: Bison steak with a side of sautéed shrimp.

Day 3

  • Breakfast: Bacon and eggs.

  • Lunch: Soup (1 cup heavy cream and 1.5 cups bone broth with shredded chicken thigh meat in broth).

  • Dinner: 6-ounce wild salmon filet, baked or grilled, with 1 cup of bone broth.

Day 4

  • Breakfast: 2 fried eggs with 3 links of turkey sausage.

  • Lunch: 1 pound ground chicken mixed with cotija cheese.

  • Dinner: 3 large meatballs (1 pound of ground beef, 2 eggs, ¼ cup parmesan cheese, salt and pepper) plus 1 cup of bone broth.

Day 5

  • Breakfast: 3 slices of turkey bacon and 2 hard-boiled eggs.

  • Lunch: Wild salmon and crab burger (1 can wild salmon and 1 can crabmeat mixed with 2 eggs, 2 tablespoons butter, salt and pepper) sautéed with butter and topped with sour cream.

  • Dinner: Chicken crust pizza (1 pound of ground chicken, mixed with 1 egg and formed into a round shell, then baked at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes. Take the crust out and top with mozzarella cheese and turkey sausage, then bake another 15 minutes).

Carnivore diet snacks:

The bottom line: Is the carnivore diet healthy?

The carnivore diet has many anecdotal advantages, but the scientific data still needs to catch up to the proposed benefits. Since the diet is highly restrictive and cuts out entire food groups, it may not be a viable long-term dietary pattern for many individuals. Additionally, the safety of the diet has yet to be rigorously tested. The diet may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes due to the diet’s high intake of meat and low intake of plants. Speaking with your health practitioner about the potential risks and benefits is a good first step before embarking on any diet plan, especially one that is highly restrictive and cuts out entire food groups.

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