Interested in learning about how an animal-based diet could benefit you? Here is a guide to get you started on the right foot!
What is an animal-based diet?
An animal-based diet is one that is currently one of the lesser-known diets, but has been growing in popularity recently, thanks to Dr. Paul Saladino. It is an ancestral-type diet, which mimics what our descendants would have eaten prior to the agricultural revolution.
Animal-based is somewhat of a hybrid between primal/paleo and carnivore. It focuses on nutrient-dense animal foods first, and then incorporates fruits, honey and some squashes, if tolerated.
Animal-based also encourages the consumption of organ meats, the most nutrient-rich foods on the planet, which have been prized by hunter-gatherers and wild animals for as long as life has existed.
Dr. Saladino emphasizes the consumption of ruminant animals primarily (beef, bison) over monogastric animals (chickens, pork, turkey). Ruminant animals have multiple stomach chambers that allow for a very lengthy digestive process that breaks down their food into the most basic biologically-available nutrients for humans. Grass-fed and grass-finished beef is best, but conventionally raised is still a good option for those who cannot afford the grass-finished option.
When consuming monogastric animals, it is important to source them from a location that does not feed corn and soy, since these feeds are readily uptaken by the animals, and their meat takes on the composition of what they have been fed. The corn and soy-fed animals are high in omega 6’s, which is not an evolutionarily appropriate diet. Especially with chickens, they are omnivores by nature, and not vegetarians. When given the choice, chickens will always choose bugs over soy.
What foods does animal-based include?
I’ve already touched on a lot of this above, but let’s cover it again in a quicker fashion:Any and all animal foods, including, but not limited to the following:
Any and all animal foods, including but not limited to the following:
- Muscle meats
- Organ meats
- Dairy, preferably raw. If you have a dairy intolerance, you may find that you can consume raw dairy, especially the A2/A2 kind.
- Marrow bones
Fruits, the quantity can vary from a very small amount to fairly significant, depending on your activity levels and bodily needs.
Honey/maply syrup, as a condiment/addition to your favorite recipes.
If tolerated, summer and winter squash are included, with the seeds removed.
What foods does animal-based exclude, and why?
As with the paleo diet, an animal-based diet excludes processed foods, as they are inflammatory to a lot of people.
Oils that are high in omega 6 are omitted (sunflower, canola, corn, soy), in favor of oils that are saturated and higher in omega 3 (butter, ghee, tallow, coconut). Dr. Saladino is also not the biggest fan of olive oil because they are commonly mixed with seed oils, and favors oils that are higher in stearic acid (butter, ghee, tallow, suet) than linoleic acid (olive oil, avocado oil, corn oil, etc).
Grains are also omitted from the diet because they are highly processed and stripped of nutrients. They are also inflammatory to a lot of people, and contain lectins, which are plant defense chemicals that can cause irritation to your digestive tract.
Processed sugars such as white sugar, coconut sugar, brown sugar, and sugar substitutes such as erythritol and sucralose. These sugars and sugar substitutes are not found in their whole form in nature, and have to be heavily processed in order to be consumed. They are nutritionally devoid and spike blood sugar very quickly, leading to blood sugar imbalances and crashes.
Vegetables and legumes are also omitted, which is the most controversial part of this diet for a lot of people. Dr. Saladino states that most vegetables do not want to be eaten, because that means they will be killed. Take kale for example, it is made up entirely of roots, stem and leaves. If you eat any part of that plant, it suffers. If you eat enough, it will die completely.
How is this different from fruits, you may ask? Well fruits have developed a sophisticated system in which they want to be eaten, so that you consume them and transport their seeds to another place where they can grow a new plant. Plants that want to be eaten generally do not contain defense chemicals, but the leaves, roots and stems do contain them, since those parts of the plant do not want to be eaten.
The seeds of plants themselves are designed so they pass through your digestion without being broken down, so they can go on to form a new plant afterwards. The seeds do not want to be digested either, so they do not provide much in the way of nutritional benefit, and are also omitted from the animal-based diet.
Why would I want to try an animal-based diet?
If you have tried seemingly every diet, and are still dealing with health issues (this was me), then you may find some relief from your symptoms on an animal-based diet (this was also me).
If you are feeling low energy, or have brain fog, general malaise or just not feeling well in general, then the animal-based diet could help to boost your energy and mental clarity.
Even if you are feeling good, but still feel like you could be feeling better, then it could help you to increase performance throughout the day, or in the gym.
What kind of health issues does animal-based help with?
An animal-based diet can help with a wide array of health issues, including, but not limited to, the following:
- Autoimmune issues
- Weight loss
- Gut issues
- Mood disorders
Animal-based diets are high in many micronutrients that a lot of other diets are lacking such as B vitamins (especially B12), calcium, iron and zinc. Boosting nutrient uptake provides our bodies with the fuel they need to function properly.
Additionally, it removes a lot of the foods that cause issues such as swelling and inflammation, which over time cause more significant health issues to arise.
Can I lose weight on an animal-based diet?
Yes, lots of people have had good experiences losing weight on an animal-based diet. With that being said, there are a lot of factors that go into losing weight, including proper thyroid function. Low thyroid function can impede weight loss, so for some it is also important to address the thyroid, or other health issues simultaneously.
Where can I find delicious, easy animal-based recipes?
This is something I have recently started creating more and more recipes for, so my list is limited, but I do have some really delicious animal-based recipes here.
I also recommend checking out Dr. Saladino’s Carnivore Code Cookbook.
Ash Eats is also a great site for some very creative animal-based recipes.
What health benefits have I personally experienced with an animal-based diet?
I started eating animal-based in August of this year. I mainly did it as an elimination diet because I was having gut inflammation and bloating issues, and wanted to figure out what was causing it.
I found that it helped tremendously with my gut issues, and that the issue for me was too much starch. I also eliminated processed sugars and only consumed honey and maple syrup. This helped me to learn that my mood takes a turn for the worse when I eat processed sugar, but I don’t experience the same when I consume honey or maple syrup.
Lastly, it taught me that I was undereating and undernourished previously, even following a paleo and keto diet. I feel better and more energetic now, following animal-based than I have before, and have noticed a decrease in my headaches and muscle cramping from consuming the most nutrient-dense foods. There is no room in my diet for processed empty carbs now, especially since they all make me feel crappy and low energy.
Is animal-based the same as carnivore?
No, it is not. However, all carnivore foods are part of the animal-based diet. You could be mainly carnivore, and occasionally incorporate some other animal-based foods as you see fit. There is quite the spectrum, as far as animal-based goes. Some consume a lot of meat, whereas others may consume a lot of fruit and honey.
Do I need to track my macros?
No, you do not! That is one of the things I really love about the animal-based diet. There are no carb thresholds you need to abide by, or ketones to track. However, if you are curious, there are some general guidelines based on your weight, if you are looking for a nice balanced animal-based diet. I recommend tracking your macros for just a couple of days until you feel like you have a good handle on it:
- Carbs: 0.6 – 0.8 g/lb of body weight (or desired body weight if very different from current weight)
- Fats: 0.8 – 1 g/lb of weight
- Proteins: 1 – 1.2 g/lb of weight
The animal-based way of eating is still relatively small, so there are not a lot of resources out there at this time. For those interested in learning more about the animal-based diet, Dr. Paul Saladino’s book The Carnivore Code is a good place to dive deep into the nutrition and benefits.