The Definitive Guide to the Carnivore Diet

carnivore dietBy far the most exciting health trend to hit the scene in the last few years is the Carnivore Diet. Tens of thousands of people are adopting it. Passionate online communities devoted to discussing and extolling the virtues of exclusive meat-eating have sprung up. And while in raw numbers it isn’t as big as keto, “carnivore diet” is running neck and neck with “vegan diet” on Google Trends for the past year. It’s one I’ve been watching for a long time.

Over ten years ago, I addressed the idea of a zero-carb carnivorous diet right here on this blog.

A few years ago, I went over the advantages and shortcomings of the carnivore diet and even gave my suggestions for making it work better.

Earlier this year, I explored the notion of a seafood-based carnivorous diet.

Today, I’m going to pull it all together and give an overview—a definitive guide, if you will.


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Okay, so what is the Carnivore Diet?

It’s quite simple (which is part of the appeal and effectiveness). You eat meat and don’t eat plants.

If it explored three-dimensional space by hoof, claw, wing, or tail, had live kin or laid eggs, and defended itself with direct action, non-violent resistance, or by fleeing, you can eat it (and its products). If it rooted itself to the ground, reproduced by bee, consumed sunlight and water, and defended itself with chemical compounds, you cannot eat it (or its products).

If it sounds extreme, you’re right. The carnivore diet is unlike anything most people have ever considered.

But adoption rates aren’t exploding because everyone’s deluding themselves: People are reporting real benefits.

Clearer thinking: If a carnivore diet induces a state of ketosis, it will also increase mitochondrial biogenesis in the brain and reduce brain fog. This allows your brain to generate more energy and clears out excess ammonia which slows down the thinking process.

Improved gut health: A carnivore diet is an extreme elimination diet. It eliminates all the most common triggers of gut inflammation, including fiber, lectins, grains, legumes, sugar, seed oils, and in some cases dairy. If any of those foods are the cause of your gut inflammation, removing them from your diet will improve your gut health and even allow it to heal.

Weight loss: Weight loss gets a whole lot easier when you’re not starving. Most people who go carnivore find they’re unable to eat enough to gain body fat; the diet that is most satiating while still being nutritious will almost always come out ahead without even trying.

What Do You Eat On a Carnivore Diet?

At the heart of it, the carnivore diet is very simple: eat only animal foods and do not eat plant foods.

Do Eat

Meat: beef, lamb, bison, pork, chicken, turkey, venison

Seafood: fish, shellfish, shrimp, crab, lobster

Animal foods: eggs, bone broth, animal fat, bone marrow, organs

Eating food from all three categories on a consistent basis is important for obtaining all the nutrients you need.

The following foods are contentious and not all carnivores eat or accept them.

Dairy: milk, cheese, cream, butter; some carnivores avoid lactose and only eat low-lactose dairy like hard cheeses and butter and cream.

Honey: since honey comes from bees, which are animals, honey is technically a carnivore-friendly source of carbohydrates.

Most carnivores allow salt and pepper. Some use herbs and spices and even things like garlic. Some carnivore dieters avoid coffee, tea, and alcohol because they’re made from plants. Others permit them.

Carnivore vs. Keto

If carnivore sounds a lot like keto, you’re right. There are many similarities between carnivore and keto.

They’re both lower-carb and higher-fat than other diets.

They may both help you reach ketosis.

They both involve eating a lot of animal products.

The main difference is that keto contains plants and carnivore isn’t necessarily low-carb.

You could be keto and eat entire salad bowls full of leafy greens.

You could be carnivore and eat 100 grams worth of carbohydrates from milk.

You could be carnivore and eat more protein and more moderate amounts of fat, while keto is by definition a high-fat diet.

But, as commonly practiced, the two can be very similar. Most carnivore dieters eat close to zero carbs, a good amount of fat, and are in ketosis much of the time. Most keto dieters eat more animal products than the average person. It’s very easy to combine the two. In fact, there’s a clinic in Hungary called Paleomedicina that does exactly this, using a high-fat “paleolithic ketogenic” carnivore diet (2:1-3:1 fat:protein ratio) to treat patients with otherwise intractable chronic autoimmune diseases like type 1 diabetes, Crohn’s, and rheumatoid arthritis. Not only are they getting great clinical results, they’re getting great results and closely tracking relevant biomarkers.


Read next: What the Research Says About the Carnivore Diet


Which leads me to the next section…

Who Should Try Carnivore?

Anyone can try it. Populations for whom carnivore seems to work best are people with autoimmune or immune ystem diseases like eczema or rheumatoid arthritis, and people with gut disorders like IBS or Crohn’s.

Why?

People with autoimmune and gut disorders almost always have dysfunctional and dysregulated gut biomes, and carnivore represents a hard “reset” for the gut. You pull out all the fermentable fibers and sugars and carbohydrates and gut-disrupting antinutrients found in plant foods and go back to square one.

Carnivore Diet Pros

Animal nutrients are more bioavailable.

Plant nutrients usually undergo a conversion process before humans can utilize them, and not every human has the same conversion capacity. Meanwhile, animals and their constituent parts contain nutrients in the perfect form for other animals to absorb. Retinol is the “animal form” of vitamin A, and it’s far more effective than beta-carotene, the plant form. Long-chained omega-3s found in seafood are far more effective than shorter-chained omega-3s found in plants, which must be converted to the longer “animal form.” Name a nutrient, and it’s probably more bioavailable in animal form.

Animal foods contain unique nutrients you can’t get in plants.

Some of those essential and/or helpful nutrients only occur in meat, like creatine, carnosine, taurine, or vitamin B12. If you don’t eat meat, there’s literally no realistic way to obtain these essential (or conditionally essential) nutrients without relying on supplementation, which didn’t exist until the last hundred years.

Animal foods have no toxins.

Because animals can run and bite and claw and fly to get away from predators, they don’t need to employ kind of passive chemical warfare that many plants use to dissuade predation. Plants cannot run. They cannot move, and so they must manufacture chemicals that irritate guts or outright poison the animals who seek to eat them. There are no phytates, lectins, gluten, oxalates, or other problematic compounds in a ribeye. Except for blatant allergies and intolerances to red meat, like the ones that arise with a Lone Star tick bite, meat is safe from a toxin standpoint.

Eating meat made us human.

When hominids ate very little meat, maybe grabbing a leg bone here, a lizard here or a mouse there, our brains were much smaller and less impressive. As hominids progressed and grew more intelligent, their diets changed to include more and more animal food. They started out as scavengers, cracking bones and skulls left behind by more obligate predators. They developed thrusting weapons.  They became incredible throwers and developed lethal projectiles. They developed language and tactics to coordinate assaults and lay traps. And as the meat poured in, the brains grew. Humans as we are them today emerged stepwise with meat.

My take is that it was a combination of a few things:

  1. Animal meat, fat, and animal-based nutrients. The human expanded as we ate more and more meat, although the causality isn’t clear . It could be the nutrients, protein, and calories found in animal foods provided a stimulus for brain expansion. It could be that our desire for meat necessitated an expanding brain to enhance our intelligence, cunning, tool-making, and hunting ability—that those humans whose brains expanded were better adapted to hunting. It could be all of that at once (my guess).
  2. Fire. With fire, we could extract more calories from both plant and animal foods—cooked tubers are more digestible than raw and fire allowed us to access the residual calories bound up in bones and connective tissue. Paleo-anthropologists call this “grease processing”: boiling pulverized animal bones in animal skins to extract every last drop of fat, gelatin, and protein.
  3. Seafood. Early humans were coastal dwellers. Researcher Stephen Cunanne has been beating this drum for over a decade, showing through anthropological and neurological evidence that the long-chain omega-3 fatty acid DHA was necessary for human evolution and brain development.1

The point is undeniable, though: the expansion in human brain size and intelligence clearly coincided with the rise in meat consumption.

Now, none of these arguments confirm that we should only eat meat and eschew all plant foods. They do confirm that meat is a natural part of the human diet—and a major part.

Carnivore Diet Cons

Detractors point out some potential cons to the carnivore diet. How do they hold up?

No fiber.

Detractors say carnivore is unhealthy because it precludes fiber. Is this true?

For one, it’s not quite true that carnivore diets contain no fiber at all. Animal fiber exists in the form of gristle, cartilage, and connective tissue, and at least in other obligate carnivores like cheetahs, can provide prebiotic substrate that enriches the gut bacteria.2

Two, it’s unclear whether fiber is necessary. Clearly, it’s not essential in the sense that you will die without it. And there’s evidence that “more fiber” isn’t necessarily helpful in digestive disorders, and may even be harmful. But there is good evidence that prebiotic fiber offers beneficial metabolic and gut health effects in the average person eating an average omnivorous diet. And no, it’s not just about fecal hypertrophy. There is real evidence that feeding your gut bacteria soluble and prebiotic fiber can enhance health and produce beneficial metabolites.

Where the question remains is whether those benefits occur in carnivorous dieters, or whether carnivorous dieters need fiber. Is fiber necessary only on omnivorous diets? Perhaps. I suspect we’ll learn more as time goes on.

Micronutrient deficiencies.

While meat is a great way to get bioavailable sources of most B vitamins and many other unique nutrients, plants are the primary sources of folate, magnesium, potassium, and vitamin C in the diet.

If you’re not careful, a low-carb diet can lead to low levels of folate.3 Dr. Ted Naiman has seen this in carnivore patients of his who are otherwise healthy and robust. The best sources of folate on a carnivore diet are liver (which you can’t eat every day because of excess vitamin A) and egg yolks (which must be pasture-raised or follow a specially-formulated diet to be really rich in folate). Eggland’s Best Organic eggs are actually a decent source of folate and readily available if you can’t get pasture-raised.

There are no great animal sources of magnesium, with the best probably being halibut and cod. Snails and fish eggs are also good sources.

Meat is a good source of potassium but you have to make sure to consume all the juice. That means eating your meat rare and letting it rest before cutting into it.

Chris Masterjohn had a great talk with Paul Saladino about the vitamin C/carnivore issue. Chris’ stance was that while a well-made carnivore diet can provide enough vitamin C to avoid scurvy, it might not provide enough vitamin C to be optimal and do the “extra stuff” vitamin C can do. Paul was more skeptical of the need for higher levels of vitamin C. Where both agreed is that a carnivore must eat organ meats (liver and kidney, especially) to obtain enough vitamin C.

If you don’t eat dairy or bone-in small fatty fish, you risk calcium deficiencies—so consider incorporating them.

The potential exists for micronutrient deficiencies. Eating a bunch of turkey breast or ground beef won’t cut it.

No vegetables.

In previous posts, I’ve supported the idea that plants are important to eat, or at least incorporate as medicinal inputs—in marinades, in teas, in small amounts.

I stand by that assessment. I still like vegetables. They don’t affect me in a negative way and they taste good. They’re low-carb, provide helpful micronutrients, and reduce the formation of harmful fatty acid peroxides in the digestion process.4 Used in marinades and sauces, plants and herbs can reduce the formation of carcinogens during the cooking process. And every traditional culture we’ve ever seen—even the Inuit and Masaai—consumed plant foods on a regular basis and considered them important and even essential.

If you are someone who reacts poorly to the plant compounds found in vegetables, you may be better off not eating any. Vegetables aren’t required for survival like meat and animal fat are required. But if you can tolerate vegetables, it’s a good idea to eat them. To me, the benefits are great enough that I recommend most people (even carnivores) sample vegetables until they find some they can tolerate. Remember: there’s a difference between eating vegetables for calories and eating vegetables for medicinal purposes.

There are also acute issues that sometimes arise with carnivore diets.

Carnivore Constipation

What happens if you’re not pooping like you should?

Confirm you’re actually constipated. Carnivore is a low-residue diet. There’s not much left over after you absorb everything. You’re not eating loads of fiber and most of the nutrients you’re taking in are highly bioavailable. No matter what happens, you won’t be practicing fecal hypertrophy like you were on an omnivorous diet containing fiber. Your “lack” of pooping may be totally normal.

Get more electrolytes. Salt, magnesium, and potassium all impact your digestion. Potassium and magnesium in particular are required for optimal muscle contractions, including the muscle contractions that move food along the digestive tract. Salt provides the chloride we need to produce hydrochloric acid, aka stomach acid.

Check your fat intake. A mistake some people make when starting a carnivore diet is eating too much lean meat. Adding in fattier cuts of meat can speed things up. If you’re eating sufficient fat, constipation could be a sign you’re not digesting your fats properly.

Give it time. Your gut biome is adjusting to the new environment. Things may take awhile to normalize. Resistant starch can help here.

Carnivore Diarrhea

Back when Joe Rogan went carnivore for a spell, he had incredible energy and body composition shifts but first had to get past the “explosive diarrhea.” Reports from others around the Internet suggest that this isn’t rare for people just starting out. What to do?

Too much fat, too fast. Increase fat intake more gradually.

Rapid shifts in the gut biome. Suddenly removing all the substrate your gut bacteria were eating can throw things off. Give it some time.

Resistant starch if it persists. If the diarrhea lasts longer than a couple days, try a little raw potato starch (for resistant starch) to improve consistency.

If you noticed, the reasons for diarrhea track closely with the reasons for constipation. Changes to the gut biome can manifest differently along the same diarrhea/constipation spectrum and often have the same solution.

Carnivore Diet Supplements

If you do it perfectly, a carnivore diet should contain all or most of the nutrients you need to thrive. But supplements can make it easier, and they may optimize your experience. A few to consider:

  • Magnesium
  • Mineral water
  • Freeze-dried organs
  • Fish oil
  • Collagen
  • Broad-spectrum polyphenol blend
  • Electrolytes

Magnesium: Important electrolyte, vital participant in over 300 physiological functions, and rather hard to get on a pure carnivorous diet. Almost everyone should be supplementing with magnesium.

Mineral water: A good mineral-dense sparkling water like Gerolsteiner is a nice way to obtain hard-to-get minerals like magnesium and calcium.

Freeze-dried organs: The ideal is to eat liver, heart, kidney, and/or spleen on a regular basis. They’re more nutrient-dense and contain wide ranges of nutrients you won’t find elsewhere in the animal. If you can’t or won’t eat fresh organs, you can get freeze-dried capsules.

Fish oil: If you’re not eating seafood, you need a source of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids. Fish oil is the most straightforward way to get them.

Collagen: Collagen is necessary to balance out your intake of muscle meat—which will be elevated on a carnivore diet. In the absence of a steady intake of gelatinous bone broth or direct consumption of connective tissue, collagen peptides become essential.

Broad-spectrum polyphenol blend: The carnivore people go back and forth on polyphenols. Are they plant poisons? Plant pesticides? The point remains that the evidence in favor of polyphenol intake is quite robust. And yes, polyphenols are stressors. They act as plant toxins that our bodies interpret as hormetic stressors and trigger a beneficial response. I wouldn’t take something like this every day (nor do I), but I would take it intermittently as a stand-in for intermittent plant consumption.

Electrolytes: Electrolytes are essential, especially on any carb-restricted diet (keto, low-carb, carnivore, etc). There’s this dedicated electrolyte supplement that Robb Wolf helped design, or there’s my own Collagen Quench mix that also contains collagen, vitamin C, and polyphenols (from fruit powder) in addition to the potassium and sodium.

So, Does Carnivore Work?

Carnivore appears to work.

A big part of staying healthy in the modern environment is the erection of artificial boundaries and the self-administration of artificial hardships. We could eat 10000 calories of junk food a day if we wanted. We could sit on the couch and be entertained and have all our food delivered to us if we wanted. Most of us never have to do an iota of actual physical labor if we don’t want to. But because doing that would make us sick and fat, we limit ourselves to moderate amounts of healthy real food, we go the gym, and we make it a point to take walks. These are artificial interventions we enact to emulate the ancestral environment to which we are adapted. These are boundaries.

There isn’t a simpler boundary to set than “eat animals, don’t eat plants.” And therein lies the power.

Now, I’m not going carnivore anytime soon. Although I have shifted my eating in that direction, I’ll always die on the “Big Ass Salads are great” hill (even if I’m loading them up with extra meat and cheese). Carnivore is exciting because it reveals that there’s room for extremes:

It shows that eating only meat won’t kill you—and it may make you stronger. It won’t give you diabetes, colon cancer, heart disease, or make you obese. A diet based on animal foods is safe and, for many people, optimal.

Gut health is paramount. Health starts in the gut, as Hippocrates said, and extends to every manifestation of your wellness. Carnivore might not be the only way to fix a leaky, dysfunctional gut, but the fact that it’s so good at improving gut health-related conditions should give you pause.

Plant foods are not benign. The popular conception of a “healthy diet” is one awash in leafy greens, broccoli, whole grains, and other plant foods. Mountains of produce, a “baby’s fist-sized piece of lean meat.” Even those of us who’ve been weird enough to eat low-carb diets rich in animal fat for years often have a tough time washing that stereotype from our consciousness.

Carnivore repudiates what all the health authorities tell us to do. It’s the exact opposite of what our moral and scientific “betters” have been preaching for decades. And because I’ve always been an iconoclast, someone who bristles at the thought of being told what to do, this appeals to me. I’ve never been convinced by the shoddy evidence that meat is bad for us. That entire legions of people are eating nothing but meat and failing to come down with the colon cancer and heart disease they’re “supposed to” is endlessly satisfying.

Once more, I don’t think carnivore is necessarily sustainable for a lifetime, especially if you don’t take special care to eat nose-to-tail-to-tendon-to-tripe-to-skin. But I do think it’s worth a hard look for people with autoimmune diseases, gut disorders, or those people for whom no other diet has worked. I think carnivore-adjacent eating will become a thing. I think carnivore cycling paired with cycles of omnivory will prove useful for a great many people.

What about you, everyone? Have you tried the carnivore diet? Would you?

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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74 thoughts on “The Definitive Guide to the Carnivore Diet”

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  1. Maybe missing the word “little” after evidence in this statement, or replace and with but?

    And there’s evidence that “more fiber” is necessarily helpful in digestive disorders, and may even be harmful.

      1. Here is what Holly meant to say (I believe):

        And there’s little evidence that “more fiber” is necessarily helpful in digestive disorders, and may even be harmful.

        OR

        And there’s little evidence that “more fiber” is necessarily helpful in digestive disorders, but may even be harmful.

    1. “isn’t” is the missing word: “isn’t necessarily helpful…”

      1. Yes, it looks like that’s the missing word. Mark, can you fix it?

  2. I doubt that I’d ever try the carnivore diet, mainly because I’m happy with 80/20 to 90/10 primal. It’s almost effortless as diets go, and it works well for me. I can’t see turning my body into a lab experiment without sufficient reason. Although I do eat some type of animal protein with every meal, I also eat a lot of vegetables, salads, and a little fruit on a daily basis. I’d say stick with what works until it doesn’t, then try something else.

    1. Agreed so much. I follow the exact same plan. There are certainly days where I have more meat than others and then I always find myself craving a salad. Maybe it is all mental but I just cannot let go of the idea of eating a BAS. I also seem to feel much better on the days that I get a lot of vegetation. I also thrive on red meat so steak and broccoli it is!

      1. me 3
        importantly, i find for me, that the only way to fight infections and colds is with lots of green plants and green juices…for me, these plants are highly anti-inflammatory. (and i eat no sweets or sweeteners other than whole fruit once i a while…)

  3. Thanks for this. I don’t like very many vegetables and have been cycling carnivore with omnivore for a little over a year. Organ meats can be hard to come by where I live though. Ancestral Supplements beef organs capsules look like a good way to fill in the gaps until I can find a reliable source of fresh organs

    1. Me too! I’ve been carnivore just over 12 months. The first half I did without organ meats and I still noticed modest improvements in skin, energy and gut health. After adding in organ meats, EVERYTHING got better including my mood, mental clarity and sleep. The only problem was finding good quality (grass fed/grass finished) organ meats and preparing them in a consistent, palatable way. Then I found Ancestral Supplements and started taking their Beef Organs mix and Bone Marrow.

      I’ve been taking these supplements for almost 6 months. When I run out, I really notice an energy lull. When I add them back in, everything improves again. Organ meats are the way to go!

  4. Yes, I have, for a bit over four months. I only stopped coffee and wine for a few days. I like them, so I consume them. All was reasonably fine for the first two months. The problem came with combining carnivore with IF (otherwise known a “skipping breakfast”). I do a moderately strenuous workout (thanks to your push-up, pull-up, and squat tutorials!) three times a week, about two and a half hours, and a four to six hour hike in the woods once a week. I discovered that I couldn’t hike fasted, and by the third month I would feel hypoglycemic in the morning. I don’t need to lose weight, rather to gain body fat. I started eating three squares a day, and adding back some plants, mainly garlic, onions, herbs, and some potassium-rich fruits such as prunes, figs, dates, and tamarind. I simply wasn’t getting enough calories! All is well now. I do pay attention to all the minerals you’ve listed. Poo is more normal than it has been is many years. By the way, after almost seven years I routinely do three sets each of 20+ push-ups, 16-18 pull-ups, and 25 squats. Makes me feel like a million dollars at 71.

    1. I also routinely do the primal exercise, 2-3 times a week while walking along the beach, usually totalling about 35 pushups, 65 squats, 2x1minute planks. I go to a kids’ playground to do the pull-ups which are a very poor 2×5 underarm version, or just try to hang for as long as I can! Makes me feel strong at 68.

  5. Yes, I’m mostly carnivore. It’s the one that includes some dairy. I don’t do a lot of dairy because it can make me more sensitive to trees and flowers in the spring and fall.

    I eat eggs, I presently drink one cup of coffee in the morning as a “protein drink” that includes butter, collagen, egg and coconut oil. Oh and a pinch of salt goes in the coffee.

    I do it mostly because it’s easier than being keto or omnivore, but tried it out because I was not reacting well to the veggies that I ate. I’ve always had to “cook” them first but it had gotten a LOT worse on my gut the last few years. I got tired of all that “drama” in my gut and just leave them out of my diet now.

    My hope is to eat them now and then without the “drama” but not for now. I lost the last 8 pounds to get to my “normal” weight and size by removing the vegetation, nice side bonus! Also, gas, pain and bloating are a thing of the past unless I get some vegetation in my food for some reason, it happens at work, on the road, etc.

    I’m thinking of trading the coffee for some bone broth. I also supplement with C, D, K2, NAC and of course Mag, Calcium, potassium and salt. I like it so far.

  6. I love meats of all sorts, but I am strongly suspicious of an all-meat diet. Part of that may be that it sounds overly self-indulgent! However, I have been trying to follow the principles of Dr. Terri Wahls’ Autoimmune Protocol, figuring that a diet that maximizes nutrients for neural tissue and mitochondria health should be great for everyone… That diet ends up being made up of a lot of vegetables, and some high-quality meats, including organ meats. But if you think the Wahls Protocol is ideal for health, a carnivore diet cannot be.
    I understand that the carnivore diet can heal various issues. But I cannot believe that it would be great over the long term, or great for everyone.

    1. I don’t love meat much–was happily a vegetarian with ill health for over 15 years–and certainly didn’t want an all-meat diet to play any part of my life. Alas, the universe has no mercy… Having started on a beef and salt (no dairy, no eggs) version of carnivore in January, I can tell you this diet is the opposite of self-indulgent. Eating nothing but beef is actually repulsive. I’ve had many days it’s been a true fight to make myself eat because the thought of one more bite of beef was just intolerable.

      However, it has completely changed my health and well-being The devastating depression that, for some odd reason always worsened with keto/low carb primal/paleo, finally went away. Aches in joints are completely gone. My skin and teeth are so much healthier. I supplement folate, magnesium, potassium, and vitamin D because I don’t want to risk deficiencies, but I can tell you I have never in my life experienced a diet that supported my health like this one does.

      It’s not for everyone. And eating beef is the opposite of fun, but I wouldn’t dare change it. The depression I had on low carb primal/ancestral health/paleo was going to leave me dead. I don’t know why I developed depression on it. (It happened both times I committed multiple years to it, so it doesn’t seem mere coincidence. There are theories out that there some of us have an autoimmune version of depression and that plant matter exacerbates this. I think that’s the most plausible explanation I’ve seen.) I can only say this strict version of carnivore has saved me and the fact that I have to eat only food I don’t much enjoy is a price I am *delighted* to pay to be rid of my depression.

  7. Cycling carnivore sounds like a good idea. I’ve noticed the less vegetables I eat the flatter my stomach is and I just generally feel lighter. But I couldn’t afford to eat enough on a strict carnivore diet so eating only meat a day or two here and there sounds good. I actually didn’t eat any vegetables today just a lot of chicken and some peanut butter and I’m not bloated at ‘re end of the day like I usually am. It feels nice to not be bloated. I do love vegetables too, but almost all cooked. Roasted Brussels sprouts are my current favorite but they do bloat me noticeably. But only $0.99/lb frozen at Trader Joe’s! Anyway. Thanks Mark for writing about this more! I always enjoy your sensible view on things.

  8. Great article, Mark! I love when you spell out the research on health trends.
    I went carnivore for 3 weeks back in March mostly to figure out how it might impact my body composition. The cliff notes version would be
    -after 2 weeks, an upset stomach for a weekend, then totally normal
    -zero bloating
    -really even energy
    -sort of boring on the “palate-pleasing” side of things
    -sleep was not great – I tend to need some carbs or else I wake up feeling almost panicked around 4 a.m.

    I keep wondering if the ideal for me would be making my plate mostly meat most meals, and possibly cycling in a week (or two or three) of carnivore every once in a while…possibly with some honey in tea in the evening to help with sleep. Excessive roasted veggies (which are my kryptonite) leave me feeling really full and heavy, but I cannot overeat meat the way I can broccoli.

    1. Oh my god yes. I feel full and heavy from roasted vegetables too but they are delicious.

  9. It is interesting that you say “Carnivore appears to work.” Not your usual endorsement. You usually post links to scientific studies to boost a point – none in this article – why? Also, most meat is loaded with hormones, synthetic estrogens and testosterone are the most common. Steroid hormone implants are also commonly used for growth. With most animals penned in to get them fat quicker it has been shown that the B12 usually obtained from meat is almost non existent and meat eaters need to supplement B12. The cost of grass fed, free range meats make it difficult for most and I would imagine very difficult is only eating meat. Until I see more than anecdotal stories and peoples personal thoughts I will refrain.

    1. Grass fed beef is actually only marginally better for us nutritionally than grain fed beef and is FAR WORSE on the environment. You are right that there are no long term studies on the Carnivore Diet. There is PLENTY of evidence that whole food plant based diets are the best for us long term.

      1. grass fed beef is NOT worse for the environment. done right; it is by contrast, ESSENTIAL for the environment to thrive. we don’t have enough wild grazers anymore to help the plants grow via fertility and disturbance. google Holistic Managed Grazing and Permaculture for more info…

      2. You are wrong there – grass-fed beef tends to look more like regenerative agriculture and the carbon in those fields is held into the soil, making it very good for the environment – much better than grain-fed beef on the environment. This is because grain is almost always a mono-culture using synthetic fertilizers that strips nutrition from the soil and does little to add it back in. For further reading, you may be interested in reading “Sacred Cow” by Diana Rogers and Robb Wolf. They can explain it far better than a blog post can.

      3. Please watch “Kiss the Ground” documentary on netflix. Cattle grazing on pasture while chickens peck and scatter the cow manure on the previously grazed pasture enriches the soil and sequesters carbon. Amazing how the circle of life can work! Humans eating the plant matter that the cow digested for us in it’s ruminant stomach is far better nutritionally than us eating grain/junk fed beef.

  10. I have just done so well with a “basic” primal template I do not see much of a need to change it up.
    There are certainly days where I seem to have mostly meat and eggs and I always end up craving a Big Ass Salad.
    I think a primal diet is ideal for most folks. Nothing against those who are going carnivore, the science seems to add up.

  11. I have been on a gut reset effort for the last 3.5 weeks that has included 85+% primal eating, at least 7.5 hrs of sleep, stress reduction efforts, and no alcohol. Very few refined foods and very few grains, no bad oils at all. Although I have seen some improvement in bloating and IBS, that improvement has been quite minimal. I think I am ready to try carnivore. Could you outline in a future post how to do a carnivore reset? How long to go, things to consider, etc.? I am a Primal Health Coach and if I am successful I would like to use this as a tool for my clients. Thank you.

    1. The basic carnivore starter diet is to eat meat (usually beef) to satiaty and drink water only for 30 days. After that, experiment with other ruminants, fowl, fish or shellfish.

      It helps to keep a journal during this time to note not only weight changes and digestive differences, but skin, hair and nail changes, cognitive differences, etc.

  12. Thank you Mark !!! I, a 43 year old mother of 2 have been almost 100% Carnivore for over 3 years,.. I love it !! It has healed issues with my gut, cycles/PMS, brain fog and anxiety from decades of being Vegetarian. It has been a great fit for me and as a Functional Nutritional Therapy Practitioner I have full faith in how our bodies work and utilize this protein based method of nutrition. Appreciate the article !! Everything is worth a try !

  13. I enjoyed eating a Primal diet and still love reading this page, but carnivore has been a huge step improvement for me. On top of the time savings and simplicity you’d expect, I’m also not getting the DOMS I’d get with Primal, feeling more consistent with energy levels in spite of a huge lifestyle change/stress increase since then, and might even be saving some money even though I eat ribeye just about every day.

  14. Well I would try it, or resort to it, if I was in need of results that I wasn’t getting from other diets attempted.

    Basically it would come down to – “Okay, let’s try THIS and see if it works…”

  15. Hi, Mark. I went to a mainly keto diet and am curious about the carnivore diet but my reason for keto was due to my double set of APOE4 genes, and now I am reading that due to this – I should stay far away from saturated fats as much as possible. What are you reading? I just want my best chance of avoiding Alzheimer’s as much as possible.

    1. I am a 3/3 but have two men I love who are double 4’s, so I’ve read everything I have found on this issue. Applying an ancestral lens, there’s cognitive dissonance with the notion that saturated fat from animals is bad for the oldest APOE genotype (APOE4). Consider whether what we think we know about saturated fat and dementia comes from populations with insulin resistance, populations with glycolytic metabolisms. I strongly suspect that carnivory will turn out to be best for long term brain health and that there’s no reason to fear animal fats, in a very low carb context. I urge you to keep researching and keep eating our species appropriate, optimal diet. Good luck!

  16. The most fascinating book I’ve read to date concerning diet is “Eat Like the Animals” by two brilliant biologists, Stephen Simpson and David Reubenheimer. 35 years of experimentation have resulted in the one result for all living creatures, including us! It should be on the front pages of all newspapers.

  17. In 2007, I tried a very low carb diet. I was a 49, 5’0″, and weighed 186 lb. woman. When I noticed I was having a hard time losing fat, I incorporated a zero carb diet. That’s when the fat flew off my small frame in 5 months losing 52 lbs. with no hunger whatsoever and eating 4 meals a day. Today, I am 62 and have basically kept most of the weight off. Since then, I have incorporated intermittent fasting also. Little did I know that my zero carb diet had a name, Carnivore, which I only discovered a few months ago. Funny thing was that during those early years of eating zero carb, I used to tell people that I was a carnivore without knowing that was really a thing. I currently still eat a basic carnivore diet but do enjoy my avocados from my trees and a few crackers now and then, plus some dark chocolate. I am now at the beginnings of losing 25 lbs using ADF along with strict Carnivore. That should take no more than two months or less. I currently weigh 140 and my goal is 115 lbs. Pandemic or no pandemic, I will be strutting my 115 lb. body come New Year’s Eve.

    1. I didn’t know how to edit my comment so I replied to it to make a very important point. I was diagnosed with PSOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) at age 17. I never, ever had a pain free, regular menstrual cycle until I lost the 52 lbs. on the zero carb diet. At the ripe age of 50, my menstrual cycle was on queue every 28 days like clockwork, no cramps, and regular menses. At 52, I transitioned over to the other side with menopause with no problems whatsoever – my menses simply stopped coming every 28 days; it’s been ten years, and I can’t say I went through menopause because, in reality, it was such a breeze.

  18. ‘there’s evidence that “more fiber” is necessarily helpful in digestive disorders’….

    Shouldn’t that read “is *not* necessarily helpful”?

  19. Mark,
    You comment on what the nutritionist “moral” and “scientific” betters have been preaching for years implying that they have been unfairly critical of what you claim is a super nutritious (albeit very unnatural) diet. You seem to miss the biggest moral problem with such a diet, regardless of its nutritional value: the immorality, in a world unable to feed and provide satisfactory water sources to a majority of its inhabitants, of exclusively consuming a food product that requires far more energy, water, and Human Resources than any other food product on earth. See Michael Pollin’s book “Omnivors Dillema”. The problem deserves at least some consideration in your piece.

    1. The water required for cows and many other ruminants is a high amount of rainwater. That water will fall on the field regardless of whether or not you choose to run animals there. And unlike plants that have to stay in place and be watered, a farmer can move the cows to various fields, rotating them through, not unlike how the Great Plains were once populated with bison. Once the bison went away and the farms came in, the soil errors and the nutrients left. They are now added in synthetic manners, even for organic items (they just spray organic, which arguably is better, but still ends up in mono-cropping). Michael Pollin didn’t factor in the cost of the tractors (on the environment, as well), or the factories to create the synthetic fertilizers in any of his calculations. It’s always apples to oranges when comparing meat, which usually is run on land that can’t grow agricultural crops, or else is grown within a regenerative system that uses them to help hold carbon in the soil. His book looked at food, but didn’t really get into great depths of the agricultural system. If it had, and he had understood it, then I suspect he may have come to a different conclusion. What is often lost in these discussions is that nature is a cycle. We have multiple factors in play to make these systems work, and it’s not really plants vs animals – we need both of them to rotate through and do their part for a healthy ecology.

    2. Peter.
      The arguments you cite are typically based on a very poor understanding of how agriculture works.

      The vast majority of the earth’s land surface is not suitable for regular plant-crop production. The rain that falls on it does not magically become available for cropping if we somehow removed all animals. The grass will continue to grow, the rivers will continue to run and the sun will continue to evaporate moisture. How anyone can call this “wasted water” with a straight face is beyond me.

      Likewise, 95% of the material consumed by animals is not human-quality food. There is no vast reservoir of human food waiting for us if only we stop feeding it to animals. If you think otherwise, go spend a month eating grass alongside my livestock and tell me how you get on. The reason why animal-agriculture is so popular and universal is that animals are the best way to turn plants tgat we cannot eat, into something that we can.

  20. I have done every diet I can think of, and I research lots before hand. I transitioned from standard keto and fasting to carnivore and ended up with burning tongue syndrome and a constant buttery taste in my mouth. My gut wasnt happy but the reason I stopped veg was because I wasnt breaking those down either. 7 years later and looking at the gut biome I am finally eating normal and treats dont kill me like they used to.

  21. Mark, I’m curious, have you noticed any change in your skin since supplementing with collagen?

  22. I am a 66 year old female, nose to tail carnivore for years. when you first start this woe you will probably have some muscle cramping. it’s my understanding that our bodies use magnesium to metabolize carbs, so until you completely detox, you will need to take some electrolytes. and the diarrhea. . . when you stop eating fiber your colon needs time to re-adjust. fiber will “soak” up the fluids in your colon, so no fiber means too many fluids, but your colon will adjust to this in a few days. and yes, your bowel movements are much smaller and less frequent, your body utilizes almost everything you eat, whereas carbs are almost all waste resulting in larger bowel movements. within a week or two you will experience AWESOME energy, sleep, muscle growth, brain clarity, healthy hair and nails, clean teeth with no bad breath, no body odor, and glowing skin. give it a try!!!

    1. I also wanted to add. . . if I join my friends at our local Mexican restaurant and indulge in corn chips, I always take electrolytes for a few days or I will experience muscle cramps. but, other then that, I never have any cramps. I also don’t feel very well if I eat stuff like that which is incentive not too 🙂

  23. I started carnivore after obsessing over Paul Saladino podcasts and reading his book. I love the simplicity and not having to spend a lot of time planning meal preparation or feeling badly for having rotting veggies in the fridge. I did have some trouble getting enough calories and fat at first. Sorry, but I’m not going to eat a spoonful of tallow. Yuck.
    I got bettter at the calories and found two big meals were satisfying. I’ve never previously been able to go longer between meals, even on keto. I did struggle with the lack of variety, however. I’m also not sure that zero carb is good for me. I understand that low carb can mess with hormones in women. I’m peri menopausal. I wasn’t sure how to add honey- just take a few spoonfuls? Hmmm.
    So, I am now carnivore-adjacent. My diet is focused on meat (primarily beef) and I am starting to include lower toxin plants (based on the Bulletproof road map). It is nice to not feel like I HAVE to eat vegetables. I am also taking a beef organ supplement from Heart and Soil (Paul Saladino’s new brand) in addition to a pile of supplements I was already taking.
    One other tip to share is to check out Force of Nature meats. They have a variety of Grass fed/pastured ground meats from regenerative farms including a blend that includes ground beef, liver and heart. It’s an easy way to get organ meat. You can mail order.
    Mark, thanks for the post. Good luck, everyone

  24. It would be impossible for (certain kinds of) bears to fatten up enough to survive the winter and emerge with two healthy cubs in the spring without a brief season of gorging on berries at the end of summer. It’s a beautiful system: don’t burn carbs …. store them in the form of a steady, clean burning fuel, … fat!

    I emphasize to my friends and relatives to try carnivore as the epitome of a safe, nutrient dense, well tolerated, elimination diet. If not fat adapted, they should include white rice or some other safe starch that they can tolerate well. When their health stabilizes, then gradually and tentatively add back-in the most nutritious plant foods as tolerated.

  25. Mark, you always offer a balanced and thoughtful opinion and I appreciated your summation here today. It’s why I’ll continue to follow you! I’ve been eating a carnivore diet for 8 months now and have CURED Type 2 diabetes, arthritis, IBS, and depression. My cholesterol is through the roof, but I’m not alarmed. At 65, I’m experiencing the kind of optimal health I dreamed of in my 20s and 30s.

  26. I have not done carnivore but I do eat grass fed meat, make and drink bone broth daily and eat wild caught fish. some cheese and yogurt from grass fed animals., a lot of above the ground veggies. Very few grains.

    I have learned from Dr. Terry Wahls and many other folks in functional medicine. And, I reversed the pain and swelling of arthritis AFTER a 3 level spinal fusion.

    I have learned about Gylcine and our innate immune system, about macrophages need this small and abundant amino acid for its inhibitory properties. And how their Host can develop low grade chronic inflammation or now called Inflammaging because it hastens aging.

    In 2020 what matters most with regard to eating animals is that 50% of the nutrients are in the muscle meat and the other 50% are in the rest. If one eats only muscle meat they will have problems unless they supplement with bone broth collagen or pure glycine. These are a many who have Inflammaging and are hospitalized or die of covid-19.

    Inflammaging is endemic in the US. Most of it can be reversed. The carnivore diet can do this if it all the nutrients are consumed. Even the 80th session of the American Diabetes Association mentions this a carivor diet but neglects to speck of the necessity to eat from head to tail. (brains are eaten by real carnivores but not the nose) – I learned from articles about the Blue Zones.

    You do not mention that we should not be eating CAFO animals. This is so critical to global warming.

    People have reversed so called incurable conditions such as MS with diet. Dr.Terry Wahls is the best example. But it is not totally carnivore.
    She eats a lot of above the ground veggies along with grass fed meat and wild caught fish.

    I realize you are just comparing different diet approaches but leaders in nutrient like you, need to get on the bandwagon to reduce our help reverse carbon emissions and reverse Inflammaging.

    Passively allowing CAFO animals to be part of an OK carnivore diet is not good for US.

    Thank you. I enjoy much of what I read here.

  27. Thanks so much for the fantastic overview.

    After a year of experimenting, I’ve shifted fully to a ~95% carnivore diet. It’s been really fantastic. My energy is great and extremely stable. My mind more clear. The simplicity is liberating.

  28. Amazing article… I love the carnivore diet. I actually used to be a long term vegan and became very nutrient deficient, my health and my kids’ health was suffering. My toddler had horrible digestive issues on a vegan diet, and a very bloated belly, even though we ate a super super clean Vegan diet. My second baby was born at 1/2 of normal birthweight (at full term). This shook me deeply and I was desperate to understand why we were suffering on what I believed was an optimal diet… through research and profound moments of mindfulness our family realized that we needed to eat more in line with our ancestors and the natural world and consume a primal diet… we started the carnivore diet and we gained all of our health and weight back. Our mental and emotional states are heightened and my husband put on 30 pounds of muscle in the last two years of the carnivore / animal based diet! We weren’t quite ready for eating organs at first but very quickly discovered Ancestral Supplements line of freeze dried organs. We were able to give our kiddos the nutrient dense organ meats in their morning raw milk and egg yolk smoothies. I couldn’t be more grateful for Ancestral’s products. My personal favorite is the Thyroid product. I have been able to optimize my hormones using the Beef Thyroid and a carnivore/ animal based diet, thank you for this article mark!

  29. Full Bore Carnivore …
    … when I get hungry …
    something’s gotta die

  30. ‘Vegetables aren’t required for survival like meat and animal fat are required.’
    Oh boy. A million vegetarians and vegans just stroked out.

  31. I am 3/4 through a 2-week experiment with carnivore. I was already doing alternate daily fasting so the switch to all meat, poultry, fish, eggs, some dairy is the only change I’m dealing with right now.

    My initial worries were: 1. I love vegetables so so much and thought I’d miss them and wouldn’t feel full enough to sustain 42-48 hour fasts. 2. I’d be constipated 3. I’d feel heavy and sluggish, low energy. I couldn’t have been more wrong!

    I am eating what feels like a lot but I never feel overfull, and I don’t miss the prep time involved with vegetables. I feel extraordinarily nourished, and I had a great diet before this. (TMI alert) I am having the most gentle and yet substantial bathroom trips of my life, just not every day. I am able to do long periods of cardio while fasting without hunger or fatigue – in fact most mornings after my 3 mile walk I feel like I could do it all over again.

    I still have about 40 lbs left to lose (lost 80 already) but my midsection is slimming out really nicely. In short, I feel fantastic in every way. This was just an experiment but I now I have to seriously consider doing this again, carnivore cycling. Also I am calling total BS on fiber! My digestion has never been this good.

  32. Great article! This is really helpful to share with people who want a basic understanding of carnivore. I’m trying to eat lots of healthy animal foods but I have a really hard time buying and cooking organ meats. As a long distance runner in his mid-50s, I have been benefitting from the Ancestral Supplements Male Optimization Formula with Organs. It has freeze dried testicle, prostate, heart, liver, and bone marrow and it’s designed to give a natural testosterone boost. I realize that running can cause T to tank, so I’m trying my best with diet, supplements, and healthy eating. If you aren’t eating a lot of liver and other stuff (be sure its always grassfed), the Ancestral Supplements MOFO and also Beef Organs could really help.

    1. Hm… Nothing like a bit of blatant advertising, Gil. This is the third comment I’ve read touting Ancestral Supplements. Has Mark bought them out?

  33. Mark, thanks for a very informative and well written article on carnivore eating benefits. Jamie Kilcollin

  34. I’ve been carnivore for 5 1/2 years. After decades of vegetarian / whole food way of eating with some meat and fish when wanted, I went high fat, low carb, and found myself going for weeks without vegetables, when I read ZerocarbZen, I became curious.. it took me a month to stop eating coconut oil and chocolate. I do eat dairy, eggs and fish. I drink coffee and wine, I use magnesium occasionally, mostly heavy weight days related, I love sea salt. As time goes by, I use less and less herbs and spices. Garlic really repeats on me. I love organ meats, taught myself to like liver, use biome stocks for casseroles. I love the simplicity of my life. After years of spending hours in the kitchen feeding my family, this is bliss. I eat twice a day, as in, I eat when hungry, eat it satiety and that’s it. I love the loss of sugar cravings. I look at veg, smell them, make stuff for family and friends, but have no desire what so ever to put them in my mouth. It’s quite strange. I don’t like the smell of sweet fruit, puts my teeth on edge! I rarely snack. If I inadvertently eat a piece of plant, I’m curious, but unlike my veggie days, I have no revulsion or feelings of being “unclean.” I feel so much more balanced emotionally eating this way too. I’ve come through a heavy menopause with massive fibroids, still intact. If I stopped the wine and coffee, and occasional raw Swiss and French cheese, 99% of my food would come from within 20 miles of where I live. So totally natural and in tune with what is available, not imported from 1000’s of miles away.

  35. 15 months carnivore after several years of Primal. For me, carnivore made weight loss significantly easier and lifted the Depression that had remained through my Primal years. It hasn’t been magic, some issues remain but no new ones have popped up.

    The debate about organ meats continues to be a hot one in the community. There are far too many long-term carnivores who eat little or no organs , to justify the claim that nose-to-tail eating is essential for everyone. Discussions based on ancestral diets are far too prone to assume that all historical diets were based on nutritional essentials, when we know that human beings are influenced by taste, custom (“only those weird people eat THAT!” 😀 ) and availability. The evidence that people can and have existed for extensive periods eating little or no organs – or plants – is sufficient.

    Nor is it reasonable to argue that muscle and connective tissue are two seperate things. Muscle includes connective tissue, some of it in significant amounts. Try a cut of beef Blade steak sometime, or shank (generally labelled Osso Bucco). Heart is also a muscle-meat.

    Honey, on the other hand, is not carnivore. I know that those trying to justify their carbohydrate intake and sweet tooth like to claim otherwise, but honey is plant-material processed by bees. It is no more rational to claim that this processing makes it an animal food, than claiming that the fermenting of sauerkraut by human animals turns that cabbage into an “animal food”.

    All that aside, I am at a point where I am occasionally experimenting , but nothing so-far has improved my health and well-being over a basic meat diet. My Doctor is happy with my bloodwork and comments that at 56yo, I am “strong as a bull”. Carnivore has been good for me, it is not difficult and I would encourage anyone to try it for 3 weeks or a month to see what happens. You may be pleasantly surprised.

    1. Hi, I’m new to this site and learning. I have a question. I have always loved meat- the fattier the better- but if I eat meat alone I get very hungry right afterwards and crave some type of starchy carb. If I have some sweet potato (with coconut oil and salt), then I feel satisfied.
      Anyone experience hunger with carnivore only?

      1. A different kind of hunger, Suzanne. My old carb hunger was an addiction-based crave. The new hunger is more like my body simply using me for sustenance.

      2. Susanne, you need to figure out whether you are actually physically hungry. There’s a difference between true hunger and carb-cravings. Your body will give you many clues if you pay close attention. For instance, if your body isn’t asking for food at all but your BRAIN is telling you to eat a sweet potato (which can be fairly high in natural sugars), then it’s most likely a craving.

        Most of the time cravings will disappear within a week or so if you don’t give in to them. If you’re new to the carnivore diet, your body is probably still trying to adjust. Give it a little time, but keep in mind that carnivore is an extreme way of eating that doesn’t work well for everyone.

  36. I did almost carnivore for a while and was very low carb. I’ve recently switched to a more prometabolic way of eating (somewhat Ray Peat style). The premise is that since your body runs on glucose, you should eat more carbs and that gluconeogenesis is stressful on the body. And that keto and carnivore can work short term but eventually lead to thyroid and hormone problems. I’d love to see you dive into this more in some future posts.

  37. Great Post, Mark! It demonstrates that although you have a successful blog on a particular subject you are still willing to go ‘out there.’.
    I am almost a month into pure CD, and it took a lot of convincing by my chief researcher and believed to convince me but so far.. goo! One kinda weird thing that has happened is that my hearing aids (I’m 74) suddenly increased in volume. Took a bit of thinkin’ to understand that – could it be -? my hearing has improved.

  38. About the grassfed beef organs (the Ancestral supplement), the container says to consume 6 capsules per day.

    Is this really necessary? Each and every day?

    Might it be sufficient to have 6 capsules daily on three days each week, or 2 capsules on each of seven days a week?

    Even if 6 every single day is “best,” won’t I get at least some benefit with less? Along with other supplements I want to take (like magnesium, krill oil, milk thistle, and a few others), I’ll be taking 15 – 20 capsules a day! Seems excessive.

  39. I think the purely meat diet can get you into as much trouble as a purely plant diet. Keeping the gut microbiome diverse seems to rely on both sources of food. 25 years of vegetarianism caused me to have nutrition deficiencies and I had to re-teach my body to be able to tolerate meat. I feel this same lack of diversity of food sources could create the same issue with just meat. I want to be resilient in tolerating my food choices especially now that the food supply is so threatened by so many things. All of it still comes back to nurturing a healthy terrain in the digestive tract.

  40. While I am skeptical that carnivore style eating is healthy on a long-term basis for most, it may be a healing modality for some people.

    I would also say that you would want to choose high quality meats and cook them in healthy ways (avoiding charring of meat, which results in carcinogens, for example).

    I think most people won’t be willing to eat enough variety (including the organ meats) to do this well. Will be interesting to see what we hear in the future on this!