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Is the carnivore diet healthy? What to know about eating only meat and dairy — pros & cons of viral diet – Yahoo Canada Shine On

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Welcome to Ask A Dietitian. It’s a series where Yahoo Canada digs into food trends and popular nutrition questions with registered dietitian Abbey Sharp.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Contact a qualified medical professional before engaging in any physical activity, or making any changes to your diet, medication or lifestyle.

Abbey Sharp gives us the scoop on the viral carnivore diet, in the Ask A Dietitian series. (via Canva)Abbey Sharp gives us the scoop on the viral carnivore diet, in the Ask A Dietitian series. (via Canva)

Abbey Sharp gives us the scoop on the viral carnivore diet, in the Ask A Dietitian series. (via Canva)

The carnivore diet has taken social media by storm, with TikTok wellness influencers touting it as a solution for everything from gut health to acne and weight loss. But what does the diet really entail, and is it as beneficial as its supporters claim?

Yahoo Canada spoke with registered dietitian Abbey Sharp to better understand the pros and cons of this extreme eating plan. Here’s what Canadians should know.


Plant-based foods are entirely off the table in a carnivore diet, making it extremely restrictive. (Getty Images)Plant-based foods are entirely off the table in a carnivore diet, making it extremely restrictive. (Getty Images)

Plant-based foods are entirely off the table in a carnivore diet, making it extremely restrictive. (Getty Images)

The carnivore diet essentially recommends eating only animal products, Sharp explained. “The focus primarily is on red meat and organ meats, though sometimes it can also include poultry and fish. There’s often also eggs and certain dairy products that are low in lactose, like butter or full-fat hard cheese.”

In this diet, any plant-based foods are entirely off the table. “That means no vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, grains, or legumes,” she said.


One of the primary selling points of the carnivore diet is its alleged ability to solve gut health issues, clear up your skin, reduce inflammation and help with weight loss.

“A lot of the claims that the carnivore proponents put out there is that it’s better for gut health, it can clear acne, it reduces inflammation or bloating,” Sharp noted. “And the main reason for that is just because it’s removing literally all sources of fibre and FODMAPs from the diet.”

By eliminating fibre and other fermentable carbohydrates, the carnivore diet removes potential triggers for digestive issues. “If you were intolerant or sensitive to one or two of those ingredients, by removing all of them, you’re kind of catching them all in one wide net. So of course, you’re going to see a reduction in symptoms.”


Sharp acknowledged that the carnivore diet has some potential benefits, particularly regarding protein intake and weight management.

Sufficient protein

“It definitely provides sufficient protein that’s important for muscle, immune system, and bone health. Protein is also incredibly satiating,”Sharp said.

Reduced cravings and weight loss

“A lot of folks say that they were better able to manage food cravings and lose weight because they were just so satiated, eating less,” she noted. By removing pastries and convenience foods, opportunities to overeat are limited, which can certainly help with weight loss.

Gut health relief

For those with intolerances to certain fibres, removing fermentable carbohydrates can reduce bloating and digestive discomfort.


Despite the few benefits, Sharp emphasized several drawbacks of this restrictive diet.

It basically goes against all the good science we have on the most beneficial dietary patterns for good health.Abbey Sharp

Gut health risks

While removing fermentable carbohydrates can reduce bloating short-term, it poses long-term risks. “By not feeding the gut bacteria with fibre, aka prebiotics, you’re essentially starving them,” Sharp warned.

“Long-term, this can increase the risk of severe dysbiosis, wiping out the good gut bacteria.”

Nutrient deficiencies

Limiting plant-based foods or carbohydrates not only affects fibre intake but also vitamin C, antioxidants and plant-based polyphenols,” she says. “The combination of a diet rich in saturated fat and low in fibre and antioxidants is a recipe to increase your risk of heart disease.”

High saturated fats and sodium

The carnivore diet is typically high in saturated fats and may include processed meats, leading you to eat more sodium and preservatives. Sharp noted that “replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats like omega-3s and monounsaturated fats is advantageous.”


According to Sharp, the carnivore diet is not healthy in the long-term. (Getty Images)According to Sharp, the carnivore diet is not healthy in the long-term. (Getty Images)

According to Sharp, the carnivore diet is not healthy in the long-term. (Getty Images)

The long-term health implications of the carnivore diet should not be overlooked. “It basically goes against all the good science we have on the most beneficial dietary patterns for good health,” Sharp said.

“There’s going to be an increased risk of gut health disturbances and dysbiosis long-term,” she cautioned. “When we disrupt the delicate balance of our gut microbiome, this has a trickle-down effect to interfere with the health of every other bodily process.”

Sharp also warned of severe deficiencies in plant-based phytonutrients and antioxidants, along with an increased risk of chronic diseases like heart disease.


The expert would never recommend the carnivore diet to anyone, she says. (Getty Images)The expert would never recommend the carnivore diet to anyone, she says. (Getty Images)

The expert would never recommend the carnivore diet to anyone, she says. (Getty Images)

When asked if she would recommend the carnivore diet to anyone, Sharp was unequivocal. “This is a bottom-of-the-list diet that I wouldn’t recommend. It’s up there as an ‘absolute no’ in almost every case.”

Not only is it nutritionally unbalanced, but Sharp also points out that it “goes against everything we know in nutrition science that associates certain foods or dietary patterns with good health.” Furthermore, the carnivore diet poses significant environmental concerns.

This is a bottom-of-the-list diet that I wouldn’t recommend.Abbey Sharp

Instead of extreme dietary measures, Sharp suggested working with a dietitian on a proper elimination and reintroduction diet to identify specific triggers causing symptoms. “Rather than cutting out all potential carbohydrates or plant foods, we want to zone in on the specific culprits of these GI symptoms.”

The expert also urged caution, particularly around raw animal products. “A lot of sensationalized carnivore influencers online often recommend eating a lot of raw meat and raw dairy, which increases the risk of foodborne illness,” Sharp claimed.

“If you absolutely must do it, please make sure you’re consuming pasteurized dairy and cooking your meat, particularly poultry. Let’s not be eating raw chicken.”

Let us know what you think by emailing us, commenting below and tweeting @YahooStyleCA! Follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

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