Evidence Based
2.4 /5
5

17 Deficiencies From the Carnivore Diet

Written by Jasmine Foster, BS (Animal Biology), BEd | Reviewed by Ana Aleksic, MSc (Pharmacy), Joe Cohen, BS, Nattha Wannissorn, PhD (Molecular Genetics) | Last updated:

SelfHacked has the strictest sourcing guidelines in the health industry and we almost exclusively link to medically peer-reviewed studies, usually on PubMed. We believe that the most accurate information is found directly in the scientific source.

We are dedicated to providing the most scientifically valid, unbiased, and comprehensive information on any given topic.

Our team comprises of trained MDs, PhDs, pharmacists, qualified scientists, and certified health and wellness specialists.

Our science team goes through the strictest vetting process in the health industry and we often reject applicants who have written articles for many of the largest health websites that are deemed trustworthy. Our science team must pass long technical science tests, difficult logical reasoning and reading comprehension tests. They are continually monitored by our internal peer-review process and if we see anyone making material science errors, we don't let them write for us again.

Our goal is to not have a single piece of inaccurate information on this website. If you feel that any of our content is inaccurate, out-of-date, or otherwise questionable, please leave a comment or contact us at [email protected]

Note that each number in parentheses [1, 2, 3, etc.] is a clickable link to peer-reviewed scientific studies. A plus sign next to the number “[1+, 2+, etc...]” means that the information is found within the full scientific study rather than the abstract.

Meat

Only eating meat for the rest of your life: for some, it might sound too good to be true. But before you embark on this diet, you should be fully aware of the deficiencies it can cause—and how to avoid them.

Limitations and Caveats

The biggest limitation of any discussion of a carnivorous diet is the lack of research. All of the studies on an animal-based diet were either very short (a few days), case studies of Antarctic explorers or victims of scurvy, or reviews of cultural practices which always involve at least some plants.

Studies that last a few days can only tell about short-term effects. In the longer term, poor nutrition may cause thyroid and hormonal problems, nutrient deficiencies, and other health issues.

Proponents of the carnivore diet claim that the human body’s nutritional requirements are different after several months of eating only meat, but there is no research to back them up.

Some case studies of Antarctic explorers suggest that human bodies can adapt to eating only (freshly killed, sometimes raw) meat over a long period of time. Other cases of people with scurvy suggest that a healthy carnivore diet is almost impossible for a modern, city-dwelling person. Case studies should never be used to generalize a health claim to a broader population.

Always check people’s claims against their sources to make sure you have the best information available.

The lack of clinical data about a carnivore diet makes it hard to verify contradicting claims.

Deficiencies From the Carnivore Diet

It’s important to remember that we just do not know enough about the long term risks posed by the carnivore diet, so speak with your doctor before deciding to give this a try. The glaring drawback of the carnivore diet is what’s missing from meat.

While all-meat diets are problematic from a nutrition standpoint, most of the nutrients listed here can be found in organ meats: liver, kidney, sweetbreads, lungs, brain, and so on. Thus, the key may be that many people eating a carnivore diet do not eat enough organs.

In the meal scenarios below, we don’t count the nutrients that you would get from Himalayan salt. Despite the claims that Himalayan salt contains a wide variety of minerals, these are only present in small amounts that would not move the needle for any nutrient. The vast majority of Himalayan salt, like any salt, is made up of sodium chloride.

Vitamins

1) Vitamin A

Vitamin A is important for the function of the eyes, heart, lungs, kidneys, and other organs. Deficiency in this vitamin can cause night blindness [1].

The daily recommended intake of vitamin A (as retinol) is 700 – 900 mcg per day. 3 ounces of beef liver provides many times that. Liver, in general, is a great source of preformed (active) vitamin A or retinol [1].

Grass-fed beef contains significantly more beta-carotene (a compound that is converted to vitamin A in the human body) than grain-fed beef. Grass-fed steak may have as much as 740 mcg of beta-carotene per kilogram of meat! [2, 3, 4]

Overall, beef liver is richer in both retinol (active vitamin A) and carotenoids than steak: the average beef liver has 1398 mcg of retinol per ounce, whereas most commercial steak will contain anywhere from about 0 – 15% that amount [2, 3, 5, 6, 4].

Pork liver is also exceptionally high in vitamin A, with 1843 mcg per ounce [7, 8].

The carnivore diet may increase your risk of vitamin A deficiency unless you consume liver (beef, chicken or pork).
Meal Scenarios

The following meal scenarios assume that a person eats 2 pounds of meat per day and compares the nutrient value in this to the US daily recommended intake for men (which is a bit higher than for women):

  1. All Beef (not grassfed)*: About 73 mcg as beta-carotene. If eating only briskets, deficient in vitamin A by about 75%. If eating only steak, deficient in vitamin A by over 96% [2, 4, 9].
  2. All Beef (grass-fed)*: About 409 mcg as beta carotene; the retinol content can vary. If the retinol content is low, possibly deficient in vitamin A by about 27% [2, 4].
  3. Half grassfed beef* & half chicken (thigh): About 206 mcg. Deficient in vitamin A by 77% [10].
  4. ⅔ lb beef, ⅔ lb chicken (thigh), ⅔ lb salmon: 518 mcg. Deficient in vitamin A by 43% [11].
  5. 9 oz beef*, 9 oz chicken (thigh), 9 oz salmon, 5 oz chicken liver: 5,210 mcg. More than enough vitamin A [11, 12].

*”beef” refers to muscle meat, typically steak. Unlike a steak, beef liver is exceptionally high in vitamin A. By adding just an ounce of beef liver a day, you could get more vitamin A than you need.

Please note: the maximum recommended intake of vitamin A is 3000 mcg per day. Most research on vitamin A toxicity concerns oral supplements of retinol; however, to reduce the risk of long-term vitamin A toxicity, you may consider eating liver on some days and replacing it with other organ meats, mollusks, and fish on others [13, 14].

High levels of vitamin A have been linked to birth defects, making elevated vitamin A intake potentially very problematic for pregnant women [1].

Meat-only meal plans could be deficient in vitamin A in the long run. Eating liver (5 oz) on some days would fill the gap.

2-3) B Vitamins

Biotin (vitamin B7) and folate (vitamin B9) are essential to energy metabolism, DNA protection, and cell division. The symptoms of biotin deficiency include hair loss, rashes, and neurological disorders; folate deficiency can cause a type of anemia with large, deformed red blood cells [15, 16].

These vitamins aren’t the most difficult to get from meat sources, but organs are richer than muscle meat cuts. Beef liver is very rich in both biotin and folate; 3 ounces of beef liver delivers all the biotin and about half the folate recommended for the day [15, 16].

Other rich sources of biotin include eggs and salmon. Most livers contain plenty of folate, though fowl (goose, duck, turkey, and chicken liver) are the richest. A single goose liver contains almost twice the daily recommended intake of folate [15, 16, 17].

The daily recommended intake of biotin is 30 mcg and of folate is 400 mcg. The recommendations rise for pregnant and lactating women (35 and 600 mcg respectively) [15, 16].

Some MTHFR genetic variants, which about 40% of people have, can change your dietary folate requirements.

Folate and biotin deficiencies are linked to nerve and blood disorders. Different liver meats, especially fowl and beef liver, are rich in these vitamins.
Meal Scenarios

The following meal scenarios assume that a person eats about 2 pounds of meat per day and use the daily recommended vitamin intake for non-pregnant adults:

  1. All beef (not grassfed): 40 mcg biotin & 127 mcg folate. Sufficient biotin, deficient in folate by 68% [18, 19].
  2. All beef (grassfed): The actual quantities are unknown, but deficiency is likely.
  3. Half grassfed beef & half chicken (thigh): 26 mcg biotin & 77 mcg folate. Deficient in biotin by 13%, deficient in folate by 81% [10].
  4. ⅔ lb beef, ⅔ lb chicken (thigh), ⅔ lb salmon: 35 mcg biotin & 158 mcg folate. Sufficient biotin, deficient in folate by 60% [18, 11].
  5. 9 oz beef, 9 oz chicken (thigh), 9 oz salmon, 5 oz chicken liver: 294 mcg of biotin & 964 mcg of folate. More than enough of both [11, 12].

About 5 oz of beef liver will also meet your daily folate requirements [20].

Adding 5 oz of chicken or beef liver to your daily meal plan on some days will help avoid biotin and folate deficiencies.

4) Vitamin C

Vitamin C is essential in the human diet because our bodies cannot make this compound on their own. We need it to make some hormones and collagen. Vitamin C is easy to get from fruits and vegetables but extremely difficult to source from meat [21, 22].

The recommended daily intake of vitamin C for an adult is 75 – 90 mg. Very high-quality, pasture-raised South American beef can contain as much as 2.5 mg of vitamin C per 100 g of meat, but this is the exception, not the rule [22].

Meat must be of high quality, grass-fed, fresh, and either raw or lightly cooked to maximize vitamin C content. However, the risks of eating raw meat cannot be overstated. Talk to your doctor before incorporating raw meat into your diet [3, 23].

To get enough vitamin C from a strict carnivore diet, you would need to eat organs like spleen, thymus, and lung (raw or lightly cooked, which—again—presents its own health risks). 100 g of beef spleen contains, on average, 50 mg of vitamin C [24, 25, 26].

Vitamin C is an essential antioxidant that’s extremely difficult to get from a strict carnivore diet. You would have to eat a variety of organ meats, raw or lightly cooked.
Meal Scenarios

The following meal scenarios assume that a person eats about 2 pounds of meat per day and use the daily recommended vitamin intake for men:

  1. All beef (not grassfed): 0 mg. Deficient in vitamin C by 100% [19].
  2. All beef (grassfed): up to 23 mg. Deficient in vitamin C by at least 75% [3].
  3. Half grassfed beef & half chicken: up to 11.5 mg. Deficient in vitamin C by 87% [10].
  4. ⅔ lb beef, ⅔ lb chicken, ⅔ lb salmon: 20 mg. Deficient in vitamin C by 78% [11].
  5. 9 oz beef, 9 oz chicken, 9 oz salmon, 5 oz chicken liver: 42 mg. Deficient in vitamin C by 53% [11, 12].

If you add 100 g (about 3.5 oz) of beef spleen to the last scenario, you could get 86.6 mg of vitamin C, which is right on the edge. If you eat more liver, you can nudge vitamin C up, but then you may risk getting too much vitamin A and associated bone, nerve, and liver damage over time [14].

Hence, vitamin C is a very difficult essential nutrient to get in a carnivore diet.

Even with liver and other organ meats included, it’s still extremely difficult to get enough vitamin C on a carnivore diet. Most meal plans are severely deficient.
Scurvy

When we are eating enough vitamin C daily, the human body stores about 1,500 mg of it at a time. If that storage level gets below about 350 mg (after 8 to 12 weeks of poor intake), symptoms of scurvy start to appear: irritability, anorexia, tooth loss, poor wound healing, brittle bones, and more [27].

It is crucial to get enough vitamin C in your diet, so consider supplementing to reach your daily recommended intake. There have been multiple cases of people developing scurvy as a result of eating only meat [28, 23].

Generalized risk of dying (all-cause mortality) goes down as blood levels of vitamin C increase. So even if you don’t get scurvy, higher intakes of vitamin C (or at least the foods that contain vitamin C) are beneficial [29, 30, 31].

Long-term vitamin C deficiency will deplete your stores and eventually lead to scurvy, which manifests symptoms like irritability, tooth loss, bone damage, skin lesions, and more.

5) Vitamin E

Vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant that protects tissues while fat is burned for energy. Severe deficiency is rare, but low intakes of vitamin E have been linked to high oxidative stress and tissue damage [32].

The recommended daily intake of vitamin E is 15 mg, and it is difficult to source from meat. 100 g of fish eggs (roe) contains about 7 mg of vitamin E. Other good sources include snails and salmon [32, 33, 34, 35].

Grass-fed beef contains considerably more vitamin E than grain-fed beef. However, even if you eat the best quality beef steaks, it may be difficult to get enough vitamin E without looking to other sources [2, 3].

Vitamin E is another crucial antioxidant hard to get from a meat-only diet. Good sources include roe (fish eggs), salmon, and grass-fed beef.
Meal Scenarios

The following meal scenarios assume that a person eats about 2 pounds of meat per day and use the daily recommended vitamin intake for adults:

  1. All beef (not grassfed): 2.6 mg. Deficient in vitamin E by 82% [19].
  2. All beef (grassfed): about 3.4 mg. Deficient in vitamin E by 78% [3].
  3. Half grassfed beef & half chicken: 3.4 mg. Deficient in vitamin E by 78% [10].
  4. ⅔ lb beef, ⅔ lb chicken, ⅔ lb salmon: Up to 13 mg. Deficient by 13% or more [36].
  5. 9 oz beef, 9 oz chicken, 9 oz salmon, 5 oz chicken liver: 12 mg. Deficient in vitamin E by 20% [11, 12].

Add 100 g (about 3.5 oz) of fish eggs (roe) to the last scenario gets 19 mg of vitamin E. Adding more salmon or olive oil or supplementing with vitamin E may also help. However, as you can see, it’s tough to get enough vitamin E on a strict carnivore diet.

It’s almost impossible to get enough vitamin E on a strict carnivore diet without the use of vitamin E supplements or olive oil.

6) Vitamin K

Vitamin K is essential for blood clotting and bone metabolism. Deficiency may cause bleeding and osteoporosis. Leafy greens are high in vitamin K (K1); this vitamin is more difficult to source from meat, though pork and chicken contain relatively high levels of vitamin K2 [37, 38, 39].

The daily recommended intake of vitamin K is 90 – 120 mcg. 100 g of canned tuna contains up to 44 mcg of vitamin K, but may also contain vegetable oils. Some cuts of high-quality, lean beef may contain 17.5 mcg of vitamin K per 100 g of meat [37, 40, 41].

Meal Scenarios

The following meal scenarios assume that a person eats about 2 pounds of meat per day and use the daily recommended vitamin intake for men:

  1. All beef (not grassfed): About 74 mcg. Deficient in vitamin K by 39% [42]
  2. All beef (grass-fed): 159 mcg or more. More than enough vitamin K [43].
  3. Half grassfed beef & half chicken: About 182 mcg. More than enough vitamin K [39].
  4. ⅔ lb beef, ⅔ lb chicken, ⅔ lb salmon: About 121 mcg. Just enough vitamin K [11].
  5. 9 oz beef, 9 oz chicken, 9 oz salmon, 5 oz chicken liver: About 102 mcg. Deficient in vitamin K by 15% [11, 12].

The importance of high-quality, grass-fed beef is crystal clear here. If you include dairy in your diet, whole milk and cheese are rich in menaquinones, a form of vitamin K2. 100 g (3.5 oz) of soft cheese (such as Brie or camembert) contain about 506 mcg [44].

You could get enough vitamin K by consuming chicken and grass-fed beef. Adding dairy (whole milk or cheese) would greatly up your intake.

Minerals

7) Boron

Boron is not considered an “essential nutrient,” but low boron intake has been linked to problems with immune function, bone health, brain health, and hormone production [45].

Most people eating an omnivorous diet don’t have to worry about boron deficiency because this micronutrient is plentiful in fruits and nuts. You may not be able to source boron from meat, fish, or shellfish [46, 45, 47].

There is no daily recommended intake of boron; the recommended upper limit is 20 mg per day. Milk and coffee account for about 12% of the total boron consumed by Americans. Strict adherents to the carnivore diet may consider supplementing with boron, especially those at risk for certain chronic disease [48, 47].

Boron is not considered an essential nutrient, but it’s important for the brain, bones, and immunity. You may not be able to source it on a strict carnivore diet.
Meal Scenarios

The following meal scenarios assume that a person eats about 2 pounds of meat per day and compare to the minimum “normal” nutrient intake of 0.8 mg per day [47]:

  1. All beef (not grassfed): less than 0.015 mg. Deficient in boron by at least 98% [49].
  2. All beef (grassfed): Unknown. The difference has not been studied; however, other minerals vary depending on the content of the grass [49].
  3. Half grassfed beef & half chicken: less than 0.015 mg. Deficient in boron by at least 98% [49].
  4. ⅔ lb beef, ⅔ lb chicken, ⅔ lb salmon: less than 0.015 mg. Deficient in boron by at least 98% [50].
  5. 9 oz beef, 9 oz chicken, 9 oz salmon, 5 oz chicken liver: less than 0.015 mg. Deficient in boron by at least 98% [51].
People on the carnivore diet can’t get enough boron without taking a supplement. Consuming bones may supply small amounts of this micronutrient.

8) Calcium

Calcium is vital for bone formation, blood pressure regulation, muscle contraction, nerve function, and hormone signaling [52].

When a person’s diet is deficient in calcium, the body “steals” calcium from the bones, leading to osteoporosis. Other symptoms of calcium deficiency include muscle cramps, irregular heartbeat, and numbness or tingling in the fingers [52].

The most prevalent source of calcium in the Western diet is dairy. If you drink milk, fortified plant-based milks, or eat dairy products like yogurt, you won’t need to worry about calcium. However, strict adherents to the carnivore diet are likely to become deficient [52].

The daily recommended intake of calcium is 1,000 – 1,200 mg for an adult. Canned fish that includes bones (such as sardines) contains up to 455 mg per 100 g. A similar amount of high-quality beef tripe contains about 158 mg of calcium [52, 53, 54, 55].

Himalayan salt is at most 1.7% calcium, so it should not be considered a sufficient source [56].

Calcium is essential for bone health, muscle contraction, and nerve health. It’s easy to get from dairy and plant foods but not from meat.
Meal Scenarios

The following meal scenarios assume that a person eats about 2 pounds of meat per day and use the daily recommended nutrient intake for men:

  1. All beef (not grassfed): Up to 200 mg. Deficient in calcium by 83% [19].
  2. All beef (grassfed): About 1.3 times the content of grain-fed beef, which could be up to 260 mg. Deficient in calcium by at least 78% [57].
  3. Half grassfed beef & half chicken: Up to 162 mg. Deficient in calcium by 87% [10].
  4. ⅔ lb beef, ⅔ lb chicken, ⅔ lb salmon: Up to 193 mg. Deficient in calcium by 84% [11].
  5. 9 oz beef, 9 oz chicken, 9 oz salmon, 5 oz chicken liver: Up to 174 mg. Deficient in calcium by 86% [11, 12].

Eating high-quality beef tripe or keeping the bones in your salmon can help you increase your calcium intake. Milk has a lot of calcium, but many of the people drawn to the carnivore diet claim that milk causes health problems for them [58, 55, 59].

If you don’t supplement, the best solution for getting enough calcium on a carnivore diet may be to consume bones in the form of bone broth or bone meal.

People on a carnivore diet should eat fish with bones and consider taking a supplement to avoid calcium deficiency.

9) Potassium

Potassium is an essential nutrient that regulates fluid balance in cells and blood pressure. Symptoms of deficiency include increased blood pressure, kidney stones, constipation, muscle weakness, and irregular heartbeat [60].

The daily recommended intake of potassium is at least 2,600 – 3,400 mg for an adult, though the USDA recommends 4,700 mg [60, 61].

Fruits and vegetables are rich in potassium, while meat is not a great source. Some of the best sources of potassium for a carnivore include mollusks (especially octopus, with 630 mg of potassium in 100 g) and salmon, but even these are low compared to plant foods [60, 62, 63].

Potassium is vital for maintaining fluid balance and blood pressure. Unlike plant foods, meats are low in this mineral. Octopus and salmon are decent sources.
Meal Scenarios

The following meal scenarios assume that a person eats about 2 pounds of meat per day and use the USDA daily recommended nutrient intake:

  1. All beef (not grassfed): Up to 3,372 mg. Deficient by 28% [19].
  2. All beef (grassfed): Very slightly (about 4%) higher than grain-fed, or up to 3,527 mg. Deficient by 25% [57].
  3. Half grassfed beef & half chicken: 2,686 mg. Deficient by 43% [10].
  4. ⅔ lb beef, ⅔ lb chicken, ⅔ lb salmon: 3,318 mg. Deficient by 29% [11].
  5. 9 oz beef, 9 oz chicken, 9 oz salmon, 5 oz chicken liver: 3,125 mg. Deficient by 34% [11, 12].

If you choose to add milk, cheese, or eggs to your diet, these will help increase your potassium intake. Mollusks are relatively rich: a 3-ounce “baby” octopus contains about 536 mg of potassium [64, 62].

It may still be very difficult to get enough of this nutrient in a carnivore diet and you may wish to supplement. Some proponents use low-sodium, high-potassium salt substitutes. These products replace a portion of sodium chloride (NaCl) in table salt with potassium chloride (KCl) [65]. Note, however, that many potassium salt products have additive such as MSG and MSG-like derivatives.

However you plan your meals, you may want to consider using a potassium supplement and table salt with potassium chloride to avoid deficiency.

10) Copper

Copper supports the enzymes that manage oxygen and energy production in the body. Deficiencies have been linked to blood, blood vessel, bone, and neurological disorders [66].

On the other hand, it is possible to eat too much copper. Very high doses of copper (over 30 mg per day) may cause liver and nerve damage over a long period of time [67].

The daily recommended intake of copper is 900 mcg for an adult. Beef liver is extremely rich in copper, with about 15 mg of copper per 100 g. Other good sources include mollusks and sweetbreads (thymus and pancreas) [66, 68, 69, 70, 71].

Copper supports oxygen and energy production. Beef liver is loaded with copper; other good sources include mollusks and sweetbreads (thymus and pancreas).
Meal Scenarios

The following meal scenarios assume that a person eats about 2 pounds of meat per day and use the daily recommended nutrient intake for men:

  1. All beef (not grassfed): Up to 973 mcg. Sufficient intake of copper [43].
  2. All beef (grassfed): About 636 mcg, depending heavily on the mineral content of the grass. Deficient in copper by 29% [72]. Grains contain a lot of copper, hence why grass-fed might have less.
  3. Half grassfed beef & half chicken: 564 mcg. Deficient in copper by 37% [10].
  4. ⅔ lb beef, ⅔ lb chicken, ⅔ lb salmon: 533 mcg. Deficient in copper by 41% [11].
  5. 9 oz beef, 9 oz chicken, 9 oz salmon, 5 oz chicken liver: 1,145 mcg. Sufficient intake of copper [11, 12].
Muscle meats alone may not provide enough copper unless you’re eating only beef. Adding a bit of liver will help make sure you reach the recommended daily intake.

11) Magnesium

Magnesium is one of the most essential dietary minerals; it is important for energy metabolism, mood, protein building, bone development, and DNA production. Over time, low magnesium intake can lead to nausea, vomiting, fatigue, numbness, muscle cramps, seizures, and even personality changes [73].

The daily recommended intake of magnesium is 320-420 mg. It is most abundant in nuts and beans, and it is difficult to source from meat. Good sources of magnesium include fish eggs (roe), mollusks (such as snails), cod, and salmon [73, 74, 34, 75, 76].

Bone broth can also be a good source of magnesium (120 mg/L), but only if it’s properly prepared. If you make your own bone broth at home, keep this in mind: bones that have been boiled for less than twelve hours do not produce magnesium-rich bone broth [77].

Magnesium is essential for a range of functions in your body, and it’s hard to obtain from meat only. Decent sources include roe (fish eggs), salmon, cod, and mollusks.
Meal Scenarios

The following meal scenarios assume that a person eats about 2 pounds of meat per day and use the daily recommended mineral intake for men:

  1. All beef (not grassfed): As high as 227 mg. Deficient in magnesium by 46% [43].
  2. All beef (grassfed): As high as 227 mg, depending on the mineral content of the grass. Deficient in magnesium by 46% [57, 72].
  3. Half grassfed beef & half chicken: 195 mg. Deficient in magnesium by 54% [10].
  4. ⅔ lb beef, ⅔ lb chicken, ⅔ lb salmon: about 378 mg. Deficient in magnesium by 10% [11].
  5. 9 oz beef, 9 oz chicken, 9 oz salmon, 5 oz chicken liver: 346 mg. Deficient in magnesium by 18% [11, 12].

One way to increase your magnesium intake might be to eat more salmon and less chicken. You could also try roe (300 mg per 100 g) or snails (250 mg per 100 g) [74, 34].

Very high doses of magnesium have been linked to diarrhea and decreased blood pressure. However, no side effects are expected with up to 350 mg per day of supplemental magnesium [78, 79].

You can increase magnesium intake by eating more salmon and roe, but you may still want to supplement for optimal levels.

12) Manganese

Manganese is important for metabolism and bone formation. Symptoms of deficiency include slow growth and poor bone health; manganese deficiency may resemble vitamin K deficiency [80].

The daily recommended intake of manganese is 1.8 – 2.3 mg for adults. 100 g of blue mussels contain 3-6 mg of manganese. Other rich sources include [80, 81, 82, 55, 83, 84]:

  • Beef tripe (6 mg per 100 g)
  • Bass (1.14 mg per 100 g)
  • Trout (1.09 mg per 100 g)
Manganese is important for metabolism and bone formation. The best meat sources are blue mussels (shellfish), beef tripe, bass, and trout.
Meal Scenarios

The following meal scenarios assume that a person eats about 2 pounds of meat per day and use the daily recommended nutrient intake for men:

  1. All beef (not grassfed): 0.13 mg. Deficient in manganese by 94% [43].
  2. All beef (grassfed): as low as 0.08 mg and as high as 0.18 mg, depending on the mineral content of the grass. Deficient in manganese by 92-99% [72]
  3. Half grassfed beef & half chicken: 0.15 mg. Deficient in manganese by 93% [10].
  4. ⅔ lb beef, ⅔ lb chicken, ⅔ lb salmon: 0.13 mg. Deficient in manganese by 94% [11].
  5. 9 oz beef, 9 oz chicken, 9 oz salmon, 5 oz chicken liver: 0.47 mg. Deficient in manganese by 80% [11, 12].

Most meats are low in manganese, and you would have to go off the beaten path to make sure you get enough. Besides shellfish and beef tripe, substituting some beef for grassfed bison (11.5 mg in 3.5 oz) may do the trick [85].

It’s very hard to get these foods on a steady basis, so you will likely need to supplement with manganese on a carnivore diet.

If you don’t supplement, the best solution for getting enough manganese on a carnivore diet is to consume shellfish and beef tripe.

13) Lithium

Lithium is a trace mineral that isn’t essential but has a lot of benefits in small amounts.

The primary sources of lithium are grains and vegetables—in other words, plant-based sources [86].

Healthy Plant Components

14) Polyphenols

The best antioxidants are plant polyphenols like flavonoids, lignans, and stilbenes. Some scientists consider them essential to human health [87, 88, 89, 90].

Plant polyphenols help protect the body against cancer, heart disease, nerve damage, and more. In multiple studies, people who got less of these compounds in their diet developed more age-related diseases [89].

People who eat plant polyphenols tend to have fewer bad and more good bacteria in their guts. This link is even more important on a carnivore diet because of the bad bacteria that grows on meats, such as E. coli [91, 92].

By definition, the carnivore diet does not contain any plant polyphenols. Some of these compounds—such as curcumin, lycopene, and pterostilbene—are available as commercial supplements. Talk to your doctor about polyphenol supplementation to see if it’s right for you.

However, some strict carnivores may think of these compounds as “plant toxins” they are trying to avoid. Nevertheless, a growing body of research suggests they are necessary for optimal human health and to prevent oxidation of cells that leads to faster cell death.

SelfHacked CEO Joe has never had a negative reaction from polyphenols on their own. As a general rule, he believes that polyphenols should be supplemented on a carnivore diet, based on his personal and client experience.

Plant polyphenols are potent antioxidants that combat cancer, infections, heart disease, and more. Meat contains no polyphenols, and strict carnivores may want to supplement them.

15) Fiber

A healthy digestive system contains dozens of species of beneficial bacteria. These bacteria are collectively called the gut flora or gut microbiota, and they help digest our food, produce beneficial chemical compounds, and boost immunity. According to several studies, gut bacteria composition is sensitive to changes in a diet [93].

Fiber is essential for healthy human gut flora. When we don’t eat enough fiber, the gut flora eats away at the mucus of the intestinal wall, which many researchers believe makes us more likely to get sick. Meat contains no fiber [94, 93].

The daily recommended intake of fiber is around 25 g per day for women and 38 g per day for men. For a more personalized approach, the National Academy of Medicine recommends 14 g of fiber for every 1,000 calories consumed [95].

Fiber is also beneficial because the gut bacteria use it to produce short-chain fatty acids such as butyrate, an anti-inflammatory compound that nourishes the lining of the large intestine [96].

Fiber feeds your gut bacteria, which are essential for immunity, nutrient digestion, reducing inflammation, and more. Strict carnivores don’t get dietary fiber.

16) Myo-Inositol

Myo-inositol is a healthy compound found in a lot of foods. The foods richest in myo-inositol include fruits, beans, grains, and nuts [97].

Diets rich in these foods can provide 1,500 mg of myo-inositol a day, whereas a meat-based diet (2 pounds of meat) will contain less than 300 mg a day [97].

17) Oxidative Stress

Diets high in red meat have been linked to heart disease and cancer, perhaps because cooking meat releases substances (heterocyclic amines) that increase oxidative stress [98].

These substances build up when meat is cooked at high temperatures (at 150 – 200 °C), such as by barbecuing, grilling and pan-frying. Cooking methods that don’t brown the meat, such as slow-cooking, could potentially prevent these compounds from accumulating [98].

People who eat more meat also tend to have higher GGT, a marker of oxidative stress [99].

Ketogenic diets have been associated with improved mitochondrial health and lower oxidative stress. As a result, some carnivores elect to eat fattier meat and attempt to induce ketosis with their diets [100, 101].

People who eat a carnivore diet should aim to reduce oxidative stress. Strategies include taking antioxidant supplements and olive oil and slow-cooking your meat.

Extra Requirements for Antioxidants

Some research suggests that sun exposure can be helpful for autoimmune and inflammatory problems, but it also increases the need for antioxidants [102].

Vitamins E and C help protect against skin damage and skin cancer from the sun [103, 104, 105].

According to many studies, moderate sun exposure is broadly beneficial. However, be aware that UV radiation is strongly associated with skin cancer. Talk to your doctor about the ideal amount of sun you should be getting, and how you can reduce your risk of developing skin cancer from sun exposure.

Plant-based foods are many times richer in antioxidants than animalbased foods, even accounting for the vitamin E content of fish like salmon. To prevent oxidative stress, consider using supplements [106, 106].

Sun exposure can be beneficial but also increases oxidative stress. Carnivores living in sunny areas may have even higher antioxidant requirements.

Joe’s Recommended Supplements

SelfHacked CEO Joe recommends these supplements for anyone trying the carnivore diet. Talk to your doctor before adding any new supplement to your regimen, as some may have unexpected interactions.

Additional Resources

Joe developed the SelfHacked Lectin Avoidance Diet to help himself and clients with chronic inflammation and autoimmunity.

In a nutshell, it is very similar to the carnivore diet but with additional well-researched components. These are added to prevent nutrient deficiencies and reduce the health risks of consuming a high-protein diet.

Rather than going through a trademarked or one-size-fits-all approach, it is best to eat a diet that is as diverse as possible. Therefore, the SelfHacked Lectin Avoidance Diet is also an elimination-reintroduction protocol.

Takeaway

People eating a carnivore diet may be missing essential vitamins and nutrients. If you intend to stay on a carnivore diet over the long run, talk to your doctor about supplementing with missing nutrients and polyphenols.

It’s possible to get most nutrients from a carnivore diet if it includes organs (especially liver and sweetbreads) and seafood (especially salmon and mollusks). The most difficult nutrients to source from meat are vitamin C, boron, vitamin E, antioxidants and fiber.

About the Author

Jasmine Foster

BS (Animal Biology), BEd
Jasmine received her BS from McGill University and her BEd from Vancouver Island University.
Jasmine loves helping people understand their brains and bodies, a passion that grew out of her dual background in biology and education. From the chem lab to the classroom, everyone has the right to learn and make informed decisions about their health.

Click here to subscribe

RATE THIS ARTICLE

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars
(37 votes, average: 2.38 out of 5)
Loading...

FDA Compliance

The information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration or any other medical body. We do not aim to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any illness or disease. Information is shared for educational purposes only. You must consult your doctor before acting on any content on this website, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.