It's no secret that people love eating meat. Worldwide meat consumption increased to almost 400 million U.S. tons in 2018, with beef, poultry, pork, and fish the most popular choices. Meat is loaded with protein, vitamins, and minerals, so many people agree that it's an important part of a healthy, well-balanced diet, and the carnivore diet takes this appreciation to another level.
Lean meats and poultry are a significant food group in many diets. Some people opt to strike a balance between plant-based and animal-based foods, while others consume a meat majority, including chicken, turkey, steak, hamburgers, lamb, pork chops, bacon, fish, and seafood.
The carnivore diet takes things to the next level. Instead of just having meat in every meal, this diet concentrates the bulk of each day's calories on animals, incorporating meat, eggs, and certain dairy products. The diet is designed to pump up the protein by restricting carbohydrates and eliminating fruits, veggies, nuts, and legumes. The dietary method has gained both positive and negative attention in the U.S.
A diet made up entirely of meat may sound extreme, but supporters of the carnivore diet argue that the restrictions lead to weight loss and better blood sugar regulation. Although there is no official research confirming these benefits, some people do follow this strict diet of beef, chicken, turkey, pork, white fish, sardines, and salmon. Small amounts of hard cheese and heavy cream are allowed, along with bone marrow, butter, and lard. Focusing on the fatty cuts of meat helps achieve the required energy intake, but increases saturated fats consumption.
Plant-based foods are not permitted in the diet, and this can be detrimental, considering their link to lowering the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. Soft cheese, milk, yogurt, and other high-lactose dairy products are restricted, as are grains like pasta, rice, bread. Other exclusions include beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, sugars, alcohol, and any beverages other than water.
Those who support the carnivore diet claim eating only meat helps them lose weight. Burning more calories then you consume achieves weight loss, and while this may be possible for some who strictly eat meat, it might not be sustainable in the long-term. Initial weight loss is easy compared to keeping the weight off for good, and people who succeed in shedding pounds may regain the weight later.
The carnivore diet cuts out all high-carb foods, including sugary sweets, sodas, and pastries. This can be a positive thing, as a diet with excessive high-carb foods is linked to a higher risk of metabolic syndrome, coronary heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. Opponents of the carnivore diet advise against the entire elimination of carbs because the fiber in healthy options is essential for many body functions.
Doctors warn that the carnivore diet misses out on many nutrient-rich foods for which additional meat intake cannot make up. Plant-based foods are important in preventing cardiovascular disease and lowering mortality rates in U.S. adults. Without the abundance of vitamins and minerals from fruits, veggies, and legumes, people on the carnivore diet may develop deficiencies as the micronutrients in meat are not sufficient.
The carnivore diet has a lot of saturated fats and LDL cholesterol, which can cause serious health concerns, elevating the risk of heart disease and stroke. Processed meats like bacon and breakfast sausage are high in sodium, and eating too much salt can also increase the chance of heart disease and high blood pressure.
The carnivore diet lacks the dietary fiber that is so important for the digestive system. Fiber naturally occurs in plant foods, and it supports a healthy gut and regular bowel movements. Without fiber, the chances of constipation go up, and gut bacteria may be thrown out of balance. Studies show that low fiber intake can harm colonic health and weaken the immune system.
The carnivore diet is an extreme choice that claims health benefits, but these claims have not been backed up by medical research. Some people may be better suited for a meat-based diet than others. The carnivore diet is not recommended for those with chronic kidney disease or other conditions that require limiting protein. People with cholesterol sensitivities may struggle with this diet, as well as pregnant women or young children who need extra nutrients.
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