STARTING THE ANIMAL BASED DIET
For the next 30 days, I’m experimenting with a new way of eating. It has been coined the Carnivore Diet by Dr. Paul Saladino (aka Carnivore MD). I won’t be going full carnivore (i.e. eating ONLY meat), but I’ll be carnivore-ish, eating mostly animal foods and a few other foods like seafood, fruit, honey, fermented foods, and very limited amounts of root vegetables like sweet potatoes and squash.
The general premise for eating this way is:
- Animal foods are the most nutrient dense foods we have available to us (more on that later) and humans evolved to eat mostly meat in part because of how nutrient dense it is.
- Plants and ‘plant seeds’, which also include seeds, grains, nuts, and beans all have built in natural defence mechanisms that aren’t meant for humans to consume. They contain digestive enzyme inhibitors, lectins, high amounts of phytic acid - a molecule that binds phosphorus in plants, but can also bind other positively charged ions such as magnesium, zinc, calcium, and selenium, limiting their absorption. In addition to plant seeds, the nightshade or solanaceae family (tomatoes, eggplants, potatoes, goji berries, peppers, paprika, chili peppers) is also known to be a common immune trigger.
This isn’t too far off from how I already eat, but I’m interested to see how making some small changes will impact my overall health.
WHAT I’LL BE EATING
I’ll be practicing nose-to-tail eating, which means I’ll be consuming muscle meats, organs, animal fats like tallow, and of course, bone broth.
I’ll also have seafood, eggs, fruits, and honey. I’m cutting out almost all vegetables other than sweet potatoes and squash.
And that’s pretty much it. I may add in some dairy like goat or sheep feta from a local farm, but overall, it’s pretty simple.
Here’s a list of foods that I was consuming regularly that I’ll be cutting out for these 30 days:
- Leafy greens
- Nightshades including tomatoes and peppers
- Grains (sourdough and short grain brown rice)
- Nuts, seeds, nut milks, and nut butters
- Dark chocolate and other plant-based snacks
- Hot sauce
- Alcohol (I don’t drink much alcohol, but I might have a glass of wine or cup of mezcal once every few weeks so I’m just going to remove that for the purposes of this experiment)
Now you might be thinking most of the foods I just listed are generally considered healthy foods (except for maybe alcohol). It’s not like I wasn’t feeling healthy by eating these foods (other than nut butters, they for sure aren’t good for me) so I’m not here to tell you there’s anything wrong with eating them if you are. I’m just here to try something a bit different and see what kind of results I get from doing it.
The main differences here for me are:
- I’ll be eating about 2x as much meat as I usually do, which will be around 1 to 2 lbs per day including a lot more organ meats
- I’ll be eating a lot more fruit and honey, which I was barely eating any of prior to this
- I’m cutting out nut and peanut butters, which I was having quite a bit of lately
A big part of the Animal-Based Diet is to cut out seed and vegetable oils. I haven’t had these oils in years other than if they’re hidden in restaurant foods, which is super common because of how cheap these oils are. My main fat sources over the years have been beef tallow, grass fed butter, and high quality olive oil, but I wanted to make a note of this because it’s worth mentioning that if you are consuming any seed or vegetable oils in your diet, I’d recommend cutting them out immediately as there is mounting evidence to suggest that these oils are hurting us and a huge contributor to many of our modern day health problems like diabetes and heart disease.
WHY AM I TRYING THIS?
- Eating more nose-to-tail
Ever since I started sourcing my meats from local farmers over 10 years ago, nose-to-tail eating made a ton of sense to me. If we’re going to kill an animal, why in the world wouldn’t we use the whole thing?
I would usually purchase half a cow (or elk, or bison, or lamb) and store it in a large deep freezer. I wouldn’t just get the most premium cuts of steak, I’d also get the organs and the bones (which was actually what inspired me to start Broya).
- Supporting local farms
This can’t be overstated enough. It’s so important for us to be sourcing our food locally. Here are reasons why this process is near and dear to my heart and something I’ve been preaching for over a decade:
- Supporting a local farm is both better for the local economy and the most sustainable option.
- It brings me closer to my food and the farmers who work tooth and nail to provide for their families and the local community. You can really feel the passion when you walk the land with them and ask them questions about their farm.
- I know the animals I’m consuming are raised on pastures, eating grass, and are never being treated with antibiotics or hormones - it’s literally the highest quality meat you can find anywhere in the world.
- I only have to purchase meat once or twice every year and rarely have to worry if I have enough.
- It’s affordable when you purchase in bulk.
As you can tell there are many reasons why supporting local farms is an absolute no brainer for any one.
- Animal foods are the most nutrient dense foods on the planet
Animal foods are, hands down, the most nutrient rich food we have available to us. It’s one of the only foods we can get Vitamin B12 from. Without Vitamin B12, we run into a lot of problems including neurological issues, mental illness, nerve damage, and infertility.
Animal foods also contain iron, zinc, vitamin D (especially in liver), and other critical B vitamins like thiamin, riboflavin, folate, and others.
It’s also important to note that eating an animal based diet requires that you eat the whole animal otherwise you will run into some nutrient deficiencies. If you’re only eating steaks, there is a good chance you will be low on folate and vitamin C. If you’re getting organ meats in you’ll be getting enough folate and some vitamin C, but you’ll want to think about eating fish roe, shellfish like mussels, clams, oysters, and crab to get a good dose of that. I’ll be eating oranges as well so that should suffice.
It’s also super important to be eating the collagenous parts of the animal to get enough glycine in the diet. Glycine is not considered an essential amino acid but is considered a conditional essential amino acid. We synthesize a bit of it in our bodies, but fall short by 10-60 grams per day, which is a lot! So we want to make sure we’re having enough bone broth and collagenous cuts to get enough glycine in our system. Glycine stabilizes blood sugar when taken with a meal, and it helps with sleep by being an inhibitory neurotransmitter that helps calm and relax you. It’s also critical to collagen synthesis (i.e. bone, skin, connective tissue)
- Plants exist on a spectrum of toxicity and contain defence chemicals that may be damaging or toxic to humans
In order to survive their co-evolution with animals, insects, and fungi over the last 450 million years, plants needed to develop chemicals that protect them from unabated predation.
Now I won’t go on the record saying that eating vegetables is bad for us. I’ve been eating all sorts of vegetables for years now and haven’t felt any negative effects from many of them, but I am super curious what happens if we were to cut them out completely, which is something I have never done.
Who knows, maybe I will notice a huge difference. TBD.
- I want to eat like our ancestors ate
If we look back many generations, we see many examples of different tribes consuming meat including the Inuit people of the Canadian arctic and the Maasai tribes of Eastern Africa to name a few. Back then, heart disease and diabetes did not exist! That’s because refined sugars and seed oils were not around, but it’s also likely that it’s because they were eating a high protein, nutrient rich, nose-to-tail diet that included a lot of meat.
I’ll be writing about my experience over the next few weeks as I get deeper into this and share what I’m learning and noticing in my body.
Ideally, I’d be testing critical biomarkers before and after, but I didn’t get around to doing that this time so everything I report will be based on my subjective N=1 experience so take this with a grain of salt.
If you are interested in trying out the Animal Based Diet, I’d definitely recommend chatting with a Naturopathic Doctor about it beforehand. Or you can read more about it in Dr. Paul Saladino’s book The Carnivore Code.