I’m in the meat section of the grocery store. It’s two days after thanksgiving. I’m convinced I need to be on the carnivore diet. The grocery store feels more like an African savanna than a place of commerce. The aisles are a mess. Items are out of stock. An ambulance was called because an older man fainted. And here I am staring at a package of liver.
It’s healthy. It has a ton of vitamins. But it’s gross.
I like liver. Well, I like cooked liver. I’ve never seen how the liver was made. Uncooked liver is unappetizing, to say the least. Meat has this beautiful red color that begs to be eaten. Not liver. Its color is a brownish purple and its texture is begging you to throw it in the trash. The Carnivore Code by Paul Saladino had inspired my ambitions to get liver. And here I was looking at this gross chunk of meat.
I should get it. I need to expand my palette. But it’s gross.
I walked away defeated. But I still had my appetite.
I imagine The Carnivore Code will inspire many people to do the exact same thing I did: Attempt to buy liver and other organ meats. How many will be successful? Who knows. Organ meats need a marketing team and an image consultant.
My Experience With Diets
I have long been a fan of the ketogenic diet, which is a low carb or zero carb diet. The diet aims to cut out most carbohydrates as they can spike your blood sugar. The majority of your calories come from the macronutrients of protein and fat. The diet itself is high-fat flying in the face of conventional low-fat wisdom. I had used a keto diet in the past for weight loss.
The ketogenic diet is a great diet for weight loss. By cutting gout all dietary carbohydrates and glucose you enter a state known as ketosis where ketones are used for fuel instead of glucose. This diet pretty much cuts out all carby plant foods. But you can still eat veggies, some legumes, and dairy products. You pretty much just cut out one food group: carbohydrates.
This is where the carnivore diet gets even more extreme than the keto diet. It cuts out all plant foods and dairy products. Lactose is apparently a sugar to avoid. And instead promotes high cholesterol red meat. The carnivore diet is not your typical low-carb diet. The carnivore diet almost an amalgamation of the paleo diet and the ketogenic diet.
The Book Carnivore Code
The book itself is rather good. The Carnivore Code by Paul Saladino makes a compelling case for why human beings should be eating primarily grass-fed red meat. I had heard of the carnivore diet before hearing about Paul Saladino and reading his book. Mikhaila Peterson and Dr. Shawn Baker are both proponents of the diet who have appeared on Joe Rogan podcast. However, neither carnivore dieter comes off as a source to be trusted. Mikhaila being the daughter of Jordan Peterson. And Dr. Shawn Baker takes too many selfies on social media. To be blunt, they feel like grifters. They’re not nutritionists or dietitians. Shawn Baker is an orthopedic surgeon, so not exactly an expert in nutrition.
Then there’s Paul Saladino. He doesn’t seem like a grifter and not only that but he makes great arguments for the carnivore diet. Where most proponents of a diet tell you how they feel and how it’s nice. Paul Saladino uses complicated science terms that I don’t understand but assume he is correct about. I’m being facetious. The book does get into the organic chemistry weeds, but it feels like it does so out of thoroughness and not over complications.
Best Carnivore Diet Argument
The book does make layman arguments for the carnivore diet. This is probably the best part of the carnivore diet are the appeals to common sense and basic evolution. The crux of this argument lies in the question, “Why is every animal edible, but only a few plants?” Almost instinctually we all know that worst comes to worst we can eat some sort of creature. No one knows what plants to eat. In fact, nothing about a tree looks appetizing.
The reason for this is evolution. Everything that’s alive wants to survive and reproduce. And there is a multitude of strategies to accomplish those ends. Plants and animals develop different strategies for how to accomplish those ends. Animals, being mobile, often use herds and movement to stay alive. Plants, being stationary, often use toxins or foul taste. These are not exclusive, but they are general. In the book Alchemy by Rory Sutherland, he talks about several insects who have the same strategy of foul taste and poison strategy.
The fact that plants in order to survive need to dissuade predators from eating them are why The Carnivore Code argues they should not be eaten. They should not be eaten because they do not want to be eaten. And they make that point by being toxic. Deer don’t want to be eaten either, but they make that point by running away. And running away is far less poisonous than toxins.
From this point, Paul Saladino builds an exhaustive argument for eating what he calls a “nose-to-tail carnivore diet.” Hence why I was inspired to almost by liver. He claims that all the nutrients a person needs can be found in animal products and advocates for eating “weird” parts of the animal. Weird parts he suggests Kidney, Egg Shells, and Brain. Liver seems tame when you consider brain might be an option. I might try eggshells first. He suggests boiling the eggshells before eating them. Eating exclusively animal foods is certainly interesting.
The Carnivore Code
Don’t let my sarcasm fool you. I’m fairly convinced by the argument made by Paul Saladino in The Carnivore Code. It’s just a little weird/crazy. I doubt I’m capable of truly eating a nose-to-tail carnivore diet. I also doubt the Carnivore Diet as a long term eating strategy. I’m confining myself to one part of the grocery store, and pretty much only steak at a restaurant. That being said, I certainly think I can get closer to carnivore. Cutting carbohydrates and eating a more restrictive diet by avoiding plant foods is probably a path to optimal health.
Some of the proposed health benefits of eating a carnivore diet: reduced heart disease, improved satiety, curing autoimmune disease, improved mental clarity, a more robust microbiome, improved blood pressure, and blood work. It’s a pretty exhaustive list and sounds pretty good. But a lot of these benefits come from it being an elimination diet. Cut out the junk and you cut out a lot of the problems.
There are some complaints about the carnivore diet and that is that it can lead to a higher risk of colon cancer.
If you can get past the organic chemistry in the book it makes a compelling reason to switch to a full carnivore diet or start heading in that direction. The audiobook clocks in at 12 hours and 23 minutes. So it’s not the quickest read/listen. Paul Saladino does read the book himself, which is nice. You get a feel for the guy, and he seems decent. However, trust me, you can skip over the science jargon. That’ll make it go faster.
In the end, it was a good listen and I learned a fair amount. Maybe over time, I’ll be able to actually go through with and buy some Liver.
How to Do The Carnivore Diet
To get most of your nutritional needs, the Carnivore code recommends eating a nose-to-tail carnivore diet. Eat high-fat cuts of red meat(aka. ribeye) with plenty of organ meats. It’s an all-meat diet after all. The organ meats will provide many of the micronutrients your body needs. Paul Saladino recommends concentrating on fats. High protein intake can be a problem for people on the diet.
While getting used to the carnivore diet there are some side effects that do occur. Most of them are gastrointestinal. Constipation, bloating, and diarrhea can all occur. But this is usually only a short term metabolic problem. To combat these issues make sure you get a lot of electrolytes. A common thing to do is to drink bone broth especially one made from bone marrow as there are lots of good micronutrients in the bone marrow.
A meal plan is a great way to adjust to this diet. Once a week make all or a lot of the meals you’ll in the week making sure you get a high amount of fats.