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What Is an Animal-Based Diet? Everything You Must Know

An animal-based diet can have different names, rules, and goals. The Carnivore diet, Keto diet, All-Meat diet, Lion diet, BBBE diet, and Paleo diet are all examples of animal-based diets. These diets aim to induce ketosis and bring various health benefits like reduced inflammation and weight loss by avoiding or minimizing carbohydrates and focusing on healthy, high-quality fats and protein. But is an animal-based diet suitable for you?

What Is an Animal-Based Diet? Everything You Must Know
Highlights
  • An animal-based diet is an umbrella term including all dietary habits that focus on animal products and exclude plant-based sources.
  • Animal-based diets can help reduce inflammation, boost weight loss, improve digestive health, manage insulin levels, reduce cancer symptoms, and improve Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Some individuals may experience digestive issues like constipation, diarrhea, headaches, and nausea during the adaptation phase.
  • An animal-based diet can help generally healthy individuals, athletes, those trying to lose weight, and individuals with certain health conditions like inflammation.

What Is an Animal-Based Diet?

An animal-based diet focuses on foods derived from animal sources, including meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products. The most common examples of animal-based diets include

An animal-based diet contrasts plant-based diets, which consist of plant foods like vegetables, fruits, legumes, grains, nuts, and seeds, like vegan or vegetarian diets.

Although they have differences in details, generally, animal-based diets focus on avoiding or minimizing carbohydrates and sugar and focusing on fats and protein to induce ketosis and make the body burn fat instead of carbohydrates, which can have various benefits.

The Benefits of the Animal-Based Diet

An animal-based diet that can lead to ketosis is known as a ketogenic diet. These diets can have various positive impacts on different bodily functions.

Reducing Inflammation

A 2023 study on ketogenic diets found that going on a keto diet for two months can positively affect anthropometric indices and biochemical and inflammatory processes.

This study showed that obese Saudi women on a ketogenic diet had beta-hydroxybutyrate released in their blood without triggering a starvation response, which can reduce chronic inflammatory disorders related to obesity [1]. A 2020 study on the effects of ketogenic diets on neuroinflammation showed that a keto diet can have anti-inflammatory effects on various neurological disorders, like multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, pain, and spinal cord injury [2].

A 2018 study on the ketogenic diets found that they can exert anti-inflammatory effects by restricting nuclear factor kappa-light-chain-enhancer of activated B cells (NF-kB) activation and nucleotide-binding domain, leucine-rich-containing family, pyrin domain-containing-3 (NLRP3) inflammasome and inhibiting histone deacetylases (HDACs) [3].

Boosting Weight Loss

An animal-based diet can lead to weight loss by reducing the intake of carbohydrates and focusing on healthy fats and protein.

Losing weight can have various health benefits, including lowering inflammatory arthritis due to the positive impacts of biomechanical and biochemical factors [4].

A 2022 study showed that a very low-carbohydrate diet together with omega-3 supplementation can help decrease fat mass in obese patients [5].

Managing Insulin Levels

Ketogenic diets can improve insulin sensitivity by reducing the intake of carbohydrates, which can cause fluctuations in blood sugar levels [6].

A 2020 study indicated that an animal-based ketogenic diet can significantly help diabetic patients by boosting weight loss, improving fasting glucose level and fasting insulin levels, lowering cholesterol levels, and reducing or eliminating diabetic medications [7]

A 2020 study showed that ketogenic animal-based diets can alleviate diabetes symptoms by lowering key diabetic physiological factors, including Hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) concentration, Fasting Blood Glucose (FBG), Triglyceride (TG), adipose tissue volume, and Body Mass Index (BMI) [8].

Improving Alzheimer's Disease and Epilepsy

A 2018 study indicated that animal-based ketogenic diets can improve mitochondrial respiration and function and reduce oxidative stress, which can help improve Alzheimer’s disease and epilepsy by showing anti-inflammatory effects [9].

Ketogenic diets can also improve cognitive function and the quality of life in patients involved with Alzheimer's disease. A 2021 study revealed that low-carbohydrate diets can improve several types of memory and help patients with mild to severe Alzheimer's disease or mild to moderate cognitive impairment [10].

Also, a 2022 study found that ketogenic diets can help decrease the cognitive decline of patients with Alzheimer’s disease, and prevent the detrimental impacts of cognitive decline from this disease [11].

Lowering Hunger and Promoting Satiety

A 2022 study on 17 men going on a high-protein diet with 14 days of high-carb and 14 days of moderate-carb intake showed that the participants experienced meaningful lower hunger during the low-carb, ketogenic phase [12].

A 2008 study found that high-protein, low-carbohydrate ketogenic diets can lower hunger more than high-protein, medium-carbohydrate nonketogenic diets [13] [14] [15].

Animal-based diets are more satiating and can decrease the secretion of the hunger hormone ghrelin, which can help us feel full sooner and consume fewer calories, which can lead to weight loss [16].

A 2019 study suggested that ketogenic diets can raise lean mass and decrease inflammation and oxidation due to increasing satiety and lowering hunger in MS patients [17].

Helping Muscle Growth and Strength

Animal-based diets use high-quality animal products, which are good sources of complete proteins necessary for muscle development and general health. Consuming enough dietary protein helps maintain optimal health during normal growth and aging. Various studies during the past twenty years have confirmed the muscle-related benefits of consuming more protein [18].

Reducing Cancer Symptoms

A 2021 study indicated that ketogenic diets can be used as a supplementary therapy to weaken cancer cells, making them more vulnerable to chemotherapy and radiation [19].

Providing Various Nutrients

Animal-based foods contain various necessary nutrients, including vitamins A and B12, iron, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, and choline, which have positive effects on different parts of the body, including brain health and liver function [20].

Also, animal sources provide heme iron, which is more easily absorbed by the body than non-heme iron found in plant foods.

Improving Digestive Health

A 2009 study on 13 participants who went on a very low-carb diet showed improvements in multiple symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which can cause digestive problems like gas, stomach cramps, and diarrhea [21].

Various studies indicate that minimizing certain types of carbohydrates (FODMAPs) can help alleviate IBS symptoms, so a keto diet that limits many sources of FODMAPs can help individuals dealing with IBS [22] [23] [24].

Summary

An animal-based diet can help reduce inflammation, lose weight, manage insulin levels, reduce Alzheimer’s disease and epilepsy, muscle growth, reduce cancer signs, adequate nutrition, and satiety, and improve digestive health.

Going on animal-based diets may cause temporary side effects during the adaptation period in some people.

The Side Effects of the Animal-Based Diet

Some individuals, especially in the early days or weeks of trying an animal-based diet may experience temporary side effects. These side effects, which are generally caused because our bodies and the digestive system try to adapt to the new eating habits, can generally fade away after a few days.

Some of these side effects are:

  • Digestive issues like diarrhea and constipation [25] [26],
  • Cholesterol concerns for consuming only animal products [27],
  • Cravings for non-animal foods [28] [29],
  • Headaches and nausea [30].

Concerning these benefits and side effects, we need to decide if an animal-based is healthy to try.

Learn More: Carnivore Diet and Cholesterol: Everything You Should Know

Is the Animal-Based Diet Healthy?

The healthiness of an animal-based diet depends on various factors, including individual health conditions, specific dietary choices, and overall balance.

So, to decide if such diets are healthy for you, you need to define healthy based on your health status, needs, and goals. While these diets can improve your health,  people dealing with underlying health conditions may need specific care. So, it’s wise to consult a healthcare professional before making big changes in your eating habits.

But to give you a general guideline, I can say that some people can safely try animal-based diets and others may need more care and research before starting. Let’s find out more about these two groups.

'Meat saved our lives': These people lost 200 lbs and healed 5 common chronic diseases with Carnivore.

Who Can Follow the Animal-Based Diet?

Who can follow an animal-based diet:

  • Generally Healthy Individuals: People who currently have no specific health conditions or dietary restrictions can try animal-based diets.
  • Individuals Dealing with Inflammation: Those with certain health conditions like inflammation can use an animal-based diet to reduce inflammation under medical supervision.
  • Athletes: Animal products are rich in protein, making an animal-based diet suitable for those with higher protein needs, like athletes.
  • Individuals Seeking Weight Management: The satiating nature of animal-based diets can help you manage your weight and shed extra pounds.

Who should consider avoiding or modifying an animal-based diet:

  • Cardiovascular Patients: Individuals with cardiovascular concerns may need to monitor saturated fat intake from animal products.
  • Those with High Cholesterol Levels: Individuals who have high cholesterol levels may need to limit dietary cholesterol from animal products.
  • Vegetarians and Vegans: People following plant-based diets cannot follow an animal-based diet, only if they decide to change their eating habits.

So, if you’re considering an animal-based diet, you need to know what foods are allowed on these diets. Please remember that each animal-based diet has its specific rules and foods allowed. So, you need to check the guidelines of the specific animal-based diet you wish to follow.

Foods to Eat on an Animal-Based Diet

  • Name each food in a table with the columns fat, protein, calorie, fiber, carb, and sugar.

Although each animal-based diet has its own specific rules and foods allowed, here are the foods generally included in an animal-based diet.

  • Ruminant Meat: Beef, lamb, pork, bison, bacon, sausages, etc.
  • Poultry: Chicken, duck, turkey, goose, etc.
  • Fish and Seafood: Tuna, mackerel, cod, salmon, shellfish, shrimp, etc.
  • Eggs: Chicken and other types of eggs
  • Dairy Products: Milk, cheese, yogurt, and other dairy products
  • Animal Fats: Butter, lard, and tallow
  • Organ Meats: Liver, kidneys, heart, etc.

The following table shows the fat, protein, calorie, carbohydrate, and sugar content in 100 grams of the foods allowed on animal-based diets [31] [32] [33] [34].

Foods Allowed on Animal-Based DietsFatProteinCaloriesCarbohydratesSugar
Beef 20 g 17.2 g 254 kcal 0 g 0 g
Lamb 23.4 g 16.6 g 282 kcal 0 g 0 g
Pork 17.5 g 17.8 g 228 kcal 0 g 0 g
Bison 7.21 g 20.2 g 146 kcal 0.05 g 0 g
Bacon 2.62 g 20.3 g 110 kcal 1.34 g 0.9 g
Sausages 28.2 g 12 g 309 kcal 0.94 g 0.94 g
Chicken 8.1 g 17.4 g 143 kcal 0.04 g 0 g
Duck 5.95 g 18.3 g 135 kcal 0.94 g 0 g
Turkey 10.4 g 27.4 g 203 kcal 0 g 0 g
Goose 7.13 g 22.8 g 161 kcal 0 g 0 g
Tuna 4.9 g 23.3 g 144 kcal 0 g 0 g
Mackerel 13.9 g 18.6 g 205 kcal 0 g 0 g
Cod 0.67 g 17.8 g 82 kcal 0 g 0 g
Salmon 10.4 g 19.9 g 179 kcal 0 g 0 g
Shellfish 0.6 g 18.3 g 84 kcal 0 g 0 g
Shrimp 0.51 g 20.1 g 85 kcal 0 g 0 g
Eggs 9.96 g 12.4 g 143 kcal 0.96 g 0.2 g
Milk 3.2 g 3.27 g 61 kcal 4.63 g 4.81 g
Cheese (Swiss) 31 g 27 g 393 kcal 1.44 g 0 g
Yogurt 4.48 g 3.82 g 78 kcal 5.57 g 4.09 g
Butter (Salted) 81.1 g 0.85 g 717 kcal 0.06 g 0.06 g
Lard 100 g 0 g 902 kcal 0 g 0 g
Tallow 100 g 0 g 902 kcal 0 g 0 g
Liver 3.63 g 20.4 g 135 kcal 3.89 g 0 g
Kidneys 3.09 g 17.4 g 99 kcal 0.29 g 0 g
Heart 3.94 g 17.7 g 112 kcal 0.14 g 0 g

Foods to Avoid on an Animal-Based Diet

  • Vegetables: Lettuce, spinach, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts,  broccoli, etc.
  • Fruits: Apples, oranges, bananas, grapefruits, etc.
  • Grains: Wheat, rice, oats, quinoa, etc.
  • Legumes: Lentils, beans, chickpeas, etc.
  • Nuts: Walnut, almonds, cashew, hazelnuts
  • Seeds: Sesame, watermelon, flax, pumpkin, sunflower seeds, etc.
  • Processed Foods: Deli meats, packaged snacks, breakfast cereals, etc.
  • Highly Refined Carbohydrates: White bread, bagels, candies, soda, pizza, etc.

To help you get started with an animal-based, I’ve provided a sample 7-day meal plan.

Animal-Based Diet 7-Day Meal Plan

Here is a sample 7-day animal-based meal plan. You can modify it based on your specific needs and goals, but please remember that you can only include the foods allowed on an animal-based diet.

Day 1

  • Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with bacon
  • Lunch: Grilled chicken salad
  • Dinner: Baked salmon

Day 2

  • Breakfast: Omelette with cheese
  • Lunch: Tuna salad
  • Dinner: Beef stir-fry

Day 3

  • Breakfast: Greek yogurt with egg omelet
  • Lunch: Lamb chops
  • Dinner: Shrimp

Day 4

  • Breakfast: Bacon and eggs
  • Lunch: Chicken salad
  • Dinner: Pan-seared trout

Day 5

  • Breakfast: Steak and eggs
  • Lunch: Egg salad with sausages
  • Dinner: Pork chops

Day 6

  • Breakfast: Smoked salmon and cream cheese
  • Lunch: Turkey and cheese roll-ups
  • Dinner: Grilled swordfish

Day 7

  • Breakfast: Cottage cheese with bacon and eggs
  • Lunch: Beef kebab
  • Dinner: Chicken thighs

Learn More: Carnivore Diet Meal Plan: Your Free 30-Day Beginner Guide

The following table shows the average protein, fat, calorie, fiber, carb, and sugar you can get from this 7-day meal plan.

Checking the animal-based diet meal plan, you may have noticed that it’s very similar to a Carnivore diet, which is a popular animal-based diet.

DaysProtein Fat Calories FiberCarbohydratesSugar
1 75 g 55 g 900 kcal 5 g 10 g 3 g
2 80 g 50 g 950 kcal 6 g 15 g 4 g
3 70 g 60 g 920 kcal 7 g 12 g 5 g
4 85 g 50 g 930 kcal 4 g 8 g 2 g
5 90 g 60 g 1000 kcal 3 g 5 g 2 g
6 75 g 45 g 880 kcal 4 g 10 g 3 g
7 78 g 52 g 950 kcal 6 g 14 g 4 g

Animal-Based Diet vs. Carnivore

While both an animal-based diet and a Carnivore diet involve the consumption of animal products, there are some differences between them.

  • While a Carnivore diet focuses on ruminant meats, animal-based diets include all kinds of meat equally.
  • Also, some animal-based diets like the Standard Keto diet, include some non-starchy vegetables and fruits, which are not allowed on the Carnivore diet.
  • Both animal-based and Carnivore diets aim to induce ketosis by minimizing or lowering carbohydrates and increasing the intake of fat and protein.

Learn More: High-Fat Carnivore Diet: Is It Healthy? Everything You Should Know

Summary

There are various kinds of animal-based with differing rules and goals, but they all focus on animal products to reduce inflammation, boost weight loss, and improve digestive health by limiting the consumption of carbohydrates and sugar and increasing the intake of healthy fats and protein.

To ensure that an animal-based diet is good for you and aligns with your goals and needs, you can set priorities and goals, check your health status and needs, and consult a healthcare professional or registered dietitian.

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