After age 50, many of us face the same frustrating dilemma: Our appetites grow just as our metabolisms slow. A good solution could be a carnivore diet, say devotees of the increasingly popular, low-carb approach that bypasses veggies and loads up on dairy and meat.
How does the carnivore diet work?
It’s a surprising strategy “that delivers a perfect mix of nutrients to shut down hunger and activate faster fat burning in every single cell,” insists Paul Saladino, MD, author of The Carnivore Code (Buy from Amazon, $11.29). “I’d estimate it works about 40 percent more quickly than a traditional keto diet — and it blows other diets out of the water.” He adds that carnivore dieters flood their system with healing amino acids, so conditions like eczema, diabetes, joint pain, thyroid disease, and autoimmune issues often improve significantly. “You can end up slimmer and healthier than you were decades ago.”
Dr. Saladino knows when folks first find out that the carnivore diet eliminates veggies and all plant foods, they often wonder if it’s safe. “Not only is it safe for most of us, but I generally see it help people thrive,” he says. “One big reason is that plants contain inflammatory chemicals to defend themselves from being eaten by insects and animals.” These chemicals can secretly wreak havoc inside us. “It’s why GI problems often resolve when people adopt a carnivore eating style.”
How does it restore metabolism?
A carnivore diet works in part like a keto diet. As you prioritize animal foods over plant foods, you can’t produce enough blood sugar for fuel, explains Dr. Saladino. Your body starts running on ketones, a type of fuel made entirely from fat. “Keto is great. But carnivore takes it to a whole new level,” Dr. Saladino says. Credit goes in part to large amounts of stearic acid that carnivore dieters get from sources like salmon and marbled beef.
“Studies show that when we don’t get enough stearic acid, our body turns off fat burning,” he notes. And when we get loads of it after going carnivore? It reactivates little “engines” in our cells that have gone dormant “causing fat burning to spike,” he says. Other nutrients in animal foods — including coenzyme Q10, riboflavin, zinc and vitamins B6, B12, and K — have also been proven to enhance the body’s calorie-incinerating abilities. And getting plenty of protein stimulates the formation of metabolism-boosting muscle. Altogether, the effect is so powerful, a carnivore diet can bring a “dead” metabolism back to life!
How much weight can you lose on the carnivore diet?
At 265 pounds, “I had a slow thyroid, my rheumatoid arthritis and gout caused a lot of pain, and my hot flashes were miserable,” recalls Montreal mom Ruth Hovsepian, 55. She tried keto, but didn’t feel much better. “I heard about carnivore on a podcast. The expert said it helps with thyroid and menopause. It seemed like she was talking to me,” recalls Ruth, who switched to mix-and-match meals made with ingredients like eggs, salmon, and steak. “It was instantly clear veggies and fruit had been triggers for me.”
Her hunger, cravings, fatigue, depression, hot flashes, and pain disappeared; she began shedding up to five pounds a week. “The healing is amazing, and the weight loss is immediate!” Ruth has traded her size 22s for sixes. “And nutrients from animal sources won’t spike blood sugar and are easier to absorb, which is why carnivore eating makes us feel so satisfied.” Appetite control is so natural, you don’t have to track anything. Just eat all the animal foods you want. “Fossils of ancient humans show that eating mainly meat spurred rapid brain development,” notes the doc. “Our bodies love to be fueled this way.”
What do you eat on the diet?
Whether using the carnivore diet as a jumpstart or long-term, the goal is to avoid processed food and plants. Dairy, eggs, fish, poultry, and meat are staples. Spices, extracts, and a little stevia are fine. Want to include some plants for variety? Stick to those with few inflammatory compounds, such as olives, berries, and squash. Get a doctor’s okay to try this plan, especially if you have kidney or iron issues.
Now, this doesn’t mean plants are off-limits forever. After an initial detox period, most carnivore dieters experiment and add back some veggies, nuts, and low-sugar fruit. “But if you’re looking for a nice jump-start or if other diets don’t work or make your issues worse, a carnivore-style diet can reset your system and be a game changer,” Dr. Saladino says.
WAFFLE SANDWICH: Cook two beaten eggs and one ounce shredded mozzarella in a waffle maker or pancake-style on griddle. Enjoy in place of bread with turkey, ham, cheese and mayo.
CHICKEN FINGERS: Pat dry two pounds of chicken tenders. Dip in beaten egg, then crushed pork rinds. Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit until done, about 20 minutes. Enjoy with any keto dip.
BACON MEATBALLS: Mix one pound ground meat, one egg and a quarter cup of Parmesan cheese. Form 18 balls; wrap each with half a slice bacon. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes.
While it’s always good to make healthy changes to your lifestyle or diet, the first step should always be discussing the idea with your primary care doctor before implementing anything. One could have specific body chemistry or family history that might preclude them from adopting this diet, and your physician could very well have other diet recommendations. That said, as long as you are cleared by your doctor, enjoy that buttery steak or burger — with a side of common sense — and this diet could work great for you!
This article originally appeared in our print magazine.