One of the greatest advantages of an animal-based diet is the simplicity. When you don’t have to think about all the problematic plant foods, there is much less decision fatigue compared to other diets. Still, you can’t just eat steak and expect to thrive, but that’s what many people assume when they start a carnivore diet.
You see, being a carnivore is about so much more than eating muscle meat. Humans evolved to eat animals. The whole animal. And like every other predator out there, we prized organ meats, fat, and bones as much or more than ribeyes and sirloins.
In this article, I’m going to help you eat like your ancestors by addressing the Biggest mistakes on a carnivore diet. Let’s get started.
Mistake #1: Not getting enough organs in your diet
Overlooking organs might be the biggest mistake on a carnivore diet.
It’s definitely the one that I believe is most important to solve.
You see, a hundred years ago it wouldn’t have been unusual to find organs like liver, kidney, and heart on the dinner table in many American households. Since that time, these foods have become increasingly rare in our culture, and many people now think of them as gross or strange.
Go even further back, and we can see how humans not only ate organs, but prized them above all other cuts. Among remaining hunter-gatherer peoples like the Hadza of Tanzania (who I visited earlier this year) animals are always eaten nose-to-tail (meaning everything is used) and organs like the liver are so prized as to be considered sacred. Other predators eat the liver first, and our ancestors would have done the same.
This allows these “wild humans” to easily obtain a full complement of the vitamins and minerals needed to thrive, and shows deep respect for the animals that provide this very sustenance.
Modern America certainly has a different view of these foods, and this is unfortunate. From a nutritional perspective, the loss of these foods is a disaster. In most grocery stores, you’ll find only muscle meat in the butcher section. Our focus on meat at the exclusion of organs has gone on so long that many people have never tried liver, kidney, heart, or other organs.
Don’t get me wrong, muscle meat like steak is very nutritious, but on a carnivore diet, paleo diet, or animal-based diet, if you’re not getting organs, you are missing out on valuable nutrients necessary for optimal performance.
Vitamins like folate, riboflavin, biotin, K2, retinoic acid (the bioavailable form of vitamin A) and choline, as well as minerals like copper, and manganese are all much more richly represented in organs like liver than in muscle meat.
Organs also contain unique peptides (small protein signaling molecules) that serve valuable roles in the immune system, for tissue repair, gut health, and energy production in your body.
Peptide BPC-157 is known to aid in tissue repair and regeneration and is found in stomach AKA tripe. Thymus contains thymosin alpha-1, a peptide known to fortify the immune system that has been found to improve severe COVID outcomes. HGF found in colostrum (the immunoglobulin-rich first milk from mammals) helps repair the intestinal lining of your gut.
You won’t find peptides like BPC-157, thymosin alpha-1, hepatocyte growth factor (HGF), splenin, tuftsin, IGF-1 or cathelicidins on any nutrition labels, but all of these are uniquely found in organs and offer powerful benefits for those who consume them. No wonder these foods have been prized by humans for millions of years.
In my own diet, I include 2-3oz of fresh organs per day, often including liver, heart, kidney, and spleen, but they can be hard to source on your own, not to mention unpalatable for many (though I personally love how they taste.)
When it comes to eating organs, I always recommend grass-fed and grass-finished sources. This is in part to promote regenerative agriculture and animal welfare, but it’s also for your health. Grass-fed operations typically put more care into their animals and sanitation practices, resulting in healthier and lower toxin content meat. Compared to grass-fed meat, I’ve observed low-quality, factory farmed liver to exhibit the visible signs of fatty liver disease. It’s a direct exhibition of a diseased animal. I’d rather not promote that with my dollar or put it in my body.
If you don’t have access to a quality grass-fed and finished regenerative butcher who sells organ meats, I am a big fan of farms like White Oak Pastures of Bluffton Georgia or Belcampo Farms owned by Anya Fernald. Both offer a variety of organ meats, but be vigilant as they sell out quickly.
If fresh organs aren’t your cup of tea, or you have trouble finding them, desiccated (freeze- dried) organs are another great option. This is why I created Heart & Soil: To provide easy access to the incredible powers of organ meats without having to source them or taste them. I strongly recommend checking out our products if you want these benefits.
For foundational Nose-to-Tail Nutrition, I’d recommend adding our Beef Organs, Heart of the Warrior and Bone Marrow and Liver supplements to your diet.
Feel free to email my team at www.heartandsoil.co/pages/contacts if you have questions about which supplement might be best for you.
Mistake #2: Not getting enough fat in your diet
The next big mistake on a carnivore diet is eating too little fat. Due to the flawed USDA nutrition advice of the last century, many people opt for the leaner cuts of meat because we’ve been told that animal fat (and saturated fat) is bad for us. I want to be very clear when I say that nothing could be further from the truth.
Just like organs, animal fats have been sought out and relished by our ancestors and modern hunter-gatherers alike. Without adequate fat, humans must have a steady supply of carbohydrates (which are rare in the natural world) to survive. Fat from animals is uniquely nutritious, containing many fat-soluble vitamins and other nutritive fatty acids.
The goldmine of saturated fats is stearic acid, an 18 chain fatty acid found richly in animal fats. This special fatty acid has been shown to burn fat at the mitochondrial level, and deficiency of it is shown to turn this process off. Basically, consuming this saturated fat improves your metabolism and makes you less fat, while avoiding it (like we’ve been encouraged to do by nutrition guidelines) handicaps your own attempts at weight-loss.
Alongside stearic acid, animal fat also contains other valuable fatty acids like pentadecanoic acid and heptadecanoic acid: two odd-chain fatty acids that have also been shown to have valuable roles in our bodies. Add in the presence of fat soluble vitamins like vitamin E, and vitamin K2, and you can begin to see animal fat as the nutritional superhero it truly is.
Some of you reading this might still recoil at the thought of intentionally eating saturated fat, but this is just further evidence of the problem. We’ve been told for so long that saturated fat is bad for us, but there is no good evidence this is the case! Humans ate animal fat and saturated fat regularly until the last century, and their metabolic health was better by far than it is today. We didn’t have rampant heart disease or diabetes, and these problems have only become worse as we’ve eschewed meat and fat.
We now know that claims against saturated fat were based on faulty science including incredibly misleading observational studies (not true experiments,) known as epidemiology. This style of research can infer correlation, but not causation. In scientific terms, this fails to be adequate evidence to make conclusions.
And in the case of animal fat, when we look at interventional studies (the kind where real experiments are done), it’s very clear that this prized type of food isn’t bad for us at all.
In fact, it’s very good for humans, a plot-twist that will come as no surprise to anyone who has researched anthropology, human evolution, or spent time with modern hunter-gatherers like the Hadza and Maasai of Tanzania, or the !Kung San of Botswana.
Animal fat is, and has always been, one of the most prized foods we can obtain in the wild. There are compelling theories that access to animal fat is what fundamentally made us human, helping us to grow our incredible brains and become the world’s foremost apex predator.
Why would such a food be bad for us?
It’s not, and thankfully most physicians and nutritional scientists are beginning to wake up to this reality. I and many others now say: Relish that fatty ribeye, sirloin cap, or egg yolks, and know that these foods are deeply nourishing.
If you have trouble getting fat into your diet, or want more stearic acid specifically (one of those special saturated fats I spoke about earlier), check out our Firestarter supplement from Heart & Soil.
Firestarter is a high stearic acid tallow made from suet, the special kidney fat from grass- fed, grass- finished cows raised in a regenerative fashion in New Zealand. If you read the reviews for this unique supplement you’ll see that hundreds of people have found it beneficial for weight loss, finding increased energy, and improved satiety when they add it to their daily regimen.
You can also get animal fat from regenerative farms, but be careful. Fat can store toxins, and it is very important that you only source animal fat from grass-fed and finished, regenerative sources. This way you can avoid being exposed to chemicals and toxins that are used in factory farming, but not in regenerative agriculture.
Belcampo and White Oak Pastures are great places to get animal fat. I personally love suet, which as we mentioned earlier is high in stearic acid. Obviously, if you find suet unpalatable, you can always use our firestarter supplement to bolster your daily fat intake.
If you are eating strictly carnivore, I would aim for 1g of fat per g of protein per day (remember that you want to get about 1g of protein per pound of goal body weight per day, and that 1 pound of meat is approximately 100g of protein.)
If you are eating an animal-based diet, and including some of the least toxic plant foods on a daily basis, aim for about 50% of your daily calories from fat.
Mistake #3: Not getting enough collagen from connective tissue in your diet.
Now for the third common mistake on a carnivore diet: Not getting enough collagen. Collagen protein is found in all the skin, sinew, and gristly bits of our meat. Just like with organs, and fat, your ancestors definitely didn’t throw out the “chewy bits” from the animals they were eating. They worked hard for this nourishment, and you bet your bacon they were going to eat every last bit of it.
Currently living hunter-gatherers eat in the same way, wasting nothing from the animals they respectfully kill in the wild. I went on a number of hunts with the Hadza when I was in Tanzania. We ate baboons, dik dik (a small deer), genet cat, bush baby (a small nocturnal primate), and impala. It may sound strange to eat baboons and bush babies, but for hunter gatherers, animal nutrition is a matter of life and death. They rely on these creatures for sustenance and without prejudice.
As soon as we had successfully hunted an animal, we skinned them and immediately cooked the heart, liver, lungs, stomach, and kidneys on a fire. These choice cuts were then shared among the tribe with appreciation and delight.
Then we roasted the remaining meat and skull (The brain is one of their favorite parts!) over the fire and ate every last bit of meat, tendon, and connective tissue. We also cracked open the bones and ate the marrow right out of them.
Like I said, after successful hunts, we wasted nothing! Every last morsel and all of the connective tissues were eaten, and thus we received the powerful nutrients that accompany them.
What nutrients exactly? Collagenous tissues are uniquely high in the amino acid glycine, a critical component of the collagen molecule needed to build your hair, skin, nails, tendons, and fascia (the connective tissue that truly holds your body together and provides powerful elastic strength to your movements.)
Without enough glycine, you can’t make enough collagen, and without enough collagen your skin won’t look as good, you’re more likely to get injured and you won’t recover as well after workouts.
But that’s not all!
Glycine is also a key component of the endogenous (made in your body) antioxidant, glutathione.
Without enough glycine, your hair, skin, and nails will suffer, and your body will be subject to increased amounts of oxidative stress. We all know the importance of combating inflammation, so why would we avoid foods that build our natural anti-inflammatory compounds?
In short, you can avoid looking like the wicked witch of the west (sickly skinned, wrinkled, achy and cranky) by getting the nutrition your body needs. Eating the whole animal, from the organs to the fat to collagen and marrow, will vitalize your body and keep you looking young.
Animal foods higher in collagen include oxtail, skin, tendons, and beef shanks. I also recommend making bone broths and eating marrow to support your glycine content.
However, many of these foods require long cooking times to become tender, which can reduce the nutritional benefits somewhat. To get the full benefits, we’ve developed a skin, hair and nails product to provide powerful collagen benefits, and the bone marrow + liver product so you don’t have to crack bones open yourself. We’ve already received many powerful reviews and testimonials for both, and I hope you’ll also get to experience the benefits of collagen, in one way or another.
Extra Credit: Not getting enough calcium in your diet! On to the bonus round!
By including enough organs in your diet (either fresh or desiccated from Heart & Soil), getting enough fat (eating some fat on your steaks, or adding Firestarter), and including collagen in your diet with the “chewy bits” like tendons (or Bone Marrow & Liver and Skin, Hair & Nails), you’ve solved the 3 Biggest mistakes on a carnivore diet. Now you’re ready for some extra credit: Calcium!
For some people, dairy is a great addition to their diet and can be a good source of calcium. For others like me, the inclusion of any type of diary seems to trigger immunologic reactions. I get an itchy beard and scalp, as well as flaky, dry skin when I include butter, ghee, cheese, or milk from any animal in my diet.
If you do great with dairy (I am jealous of you) feel free to include it on your carnivore diet, and also consider including colostrum, the immunoglobulin-rich first milk from cows and the base of our Immuno milk product. This stuff is often considered “liquid gold” and contains tons of immune boosting nutrients like the immunoglobulins IgG, IgA, IgM, IgE, and IgM. It’s also a rich source of calcium and other minerals, as well as peptides like HGF (hepatocyte growth factor) that have been shown to aid in the healing of leaky gut.
Colostrum is effective at doses as low as 2 grams, contains very little lactose, and has even been shown to be as effective as a flu vaccination in preventing influenza.
For those of us who want to get our calcium from sources other than dairy, I’d recommend including bone meal in your diet. Fair warning, you’ll want to be careful to select a bone meal from the center of the bones, known as microcrystalline hydroxyapatite, let’s just call it MCHA for short!
You’ll also want to source this from only grass-fed, grass-finished cattle raised in
regenerative fashion to be sure it’s low in heavy metals.
Our Bone Matrix supplement covers all these bases for you if you don’t want to do the work finding your own bone grind. 2-3 capsules of this per day will provide all sorts of valuable minerals found inside the bone, such as calcium, boron, strontium and manganese, all of which contribute to overall health and vitality!
And voila! There you have it, the 3 biggest carnivore mistakes and some extra credit material.
If you’re still hungry for more on how to construct a carnivore or animal based diet, check out my book, The Carnivore Code, or my posts at the Heart & Soil website about How to Start a Carnivore Diet, and What to Eat on a Carnivore Diet.
You can also always contact us at https://heartandsoil.co/pages/contacts with questions related to animal based nutrition.
P.S. Just to put all of the links in one place here are the supplements I recommend based on the 3 biggest mistakes on a carnivore diet. If you are new to organ meats, I suggest starting with 1 or 2 capsules a day and working your way up from there.
Beef Organs- 6 capsules a day to get more organs in your diet
Heart of the Warrior-6 capsules a day for extra heart & liver
Firestarter- 6 capsules a day for stearic acid rich suet, and extra fat in your diet
Bone Marrow & Liver- 6 capsules a day for connective tissue and bone marrow nutrients Skin, Hair & Nails – 6 capsules a day for collagen and “beauty nutrients”
Immuno Milk Colustrum – 6 capsules a day for immune support and gut healing
Gut & Digestion- 6 capsules per day for gut health
Bone Matrix- 3 capsules per day for calcium, boron, and other bone strengthening minerals.
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