If you’ve been keeping up with the latest trends in diets and nutrition, you’ve probably heard of the carnivore diet.
The Carnivore Diet consists of eating only animal foods, including meat, fish, seafood, and eggs. Dairy is also sometimes allowed.
I know it sounds crazy, but a lot of people (myself included) experience some pretty interesting benefits on the carnivore diet. From increased energy and libido to rapid weight loss and autoimmune relief, and just about everything in-between. Thousands of people have beaten or managed depression, anxiety, binge-eating disorders, inflammatory diseases, and autoimmune conditions by eating a meat-only diet. A lot of folks even experience relief from acne on the carnivore diet, which is why this post is even on this blog, after all.
But one of the most common arguments against the carnivore diet is that you need certain nutrients that are mainly found in plants, like vitamin C, vitamin E, and calcium.
“Won’t you get scurvy on the carniovre diet?”
“How can you possibly get all the nutrients you need without eating fruits and vegetables?”
“That can’t be healthy for your choelestoral!”
When I took a deeper look into all of these concerns, it turns out that most of them seem to be blown pretty far out of proportion, but only if you do the carnivore diet the right way.
Table of Contents
Vegetable Myth: Plants Are Loaded with Nutrients
The first thing we need to get out of the way is what I call the “Vegetable Myth” – that fruits, vegetables, and other plants are the ultimate source of nutrients, and that animal products are basically devoid of nutrients.
If you were to look at a nutrition label or maybe use a calorie-tracking app, you might get the impression that plants are the only real way to get essential vitamins and minerals for beating acne, like vitamin A, zinc, vitamin K, and magnesium. Magnesium specifically is essential to healthy hormone regulation and can help balance out hormone fluctuations that cause hormonal acne.
After all, your typical ribeye steak, a staple on the carnivore diet, has practically none of these vitamins or minerals in significant amounts, while something like kale or spinach has several times your daily recommended amount of vitamin A in a single serving.
If more vitamin A means less acne, and animal-based foods seem to have no vitamin A while plant-based foods are loaded with it, then eating a plant-based diet is a no-brainer, right?
This is the crux of the issue here – we mistake the vitamin A and zinc that we see on a nutrition label with the actual amount of vitamin A or zinc that our body can absorb and utilize.
Here is a short excerpt from our book, Unmasking Acne – A Holistic Approach to Clear Skin [EBOOK LINK], that explains why this is a huge mistake:
On paper it might seem like we’re getting enough vitamin A, but really, we’re eating a form of vitamin A that is inefficient for the body to actually use.
There are two types of vitamin A:
Provitamin A (Carotenoids): Found in vegetables and most supplements. Must be converted into retinol before it can be used by the body.
Preformed Vitamin A (Retinol): Found in meat, seafood, and some dairy. Can be used by the body immediately.
There’s nothing wrong with provitamin A, in fact, most of us consume plenty of it from vegetables alone, but it’s an extremely inefficient form of vitamin A that later needs to be converted to retinol. Unfortunately, as little as 3% of all pre-vitamin A you consume actually ends up being converted to usable vitamin A.
So when you see on a nutrition label that broccoli is loaded with vitamin A, just bear in mind that in reality, your body is probably absorbing a mere fraction of that amount, and that’s just in the case of vitamin A.
In the case of a nutrient like zinc, which is absolutely essential for beating acne, this effect is even more profound.
Plant-based foods that are high in zinc, like lentils, also contain a compound called phytic acid, or phytate, which binds to zinc and prevents our body from being able to absorb it.
So even though foods like lentils are high in zinc on paper, if you’re eating a diet high in lentils, you won’t be actually absorbing much of that zinc, and you’ll be preventing your body from making use of other dietary sources.
This pattern of plant-based foods offering lackluster nutrients occurs for the vast majority of essential acne-fighting nutrients.
Take omega-3 fatty acids, for example. While something like walnuts looks like they’re loaded with omega-3s, these plant-based omega-3s (which are essential for beating inflammatory acne) are a variety of omega-3s called “ALA omega-3”, which needs to be converted into DHA and EPA omega-3s before they can actually be used by the body. Again, this process is extremely inefficient, with only a fraction of the ALA being converted.
Plant-based foods are loaded with nutrients, but unfortunately, most of them are not loaded with nutrients we can use. Furthermore, many plant-based foods contain anti-nutrients that actually make you more likely to experience acne, regardless of the nutrients you have coming in.
Two Advantages to Animal-Based Nutrients
Now, I know what you’re probably thinking:
“Great, but I don’t see steak or butter contain large amounts of vitamin A, how is the carnivore diet any different”?
There are two main things that I’d like to hit on here.
First, unlike plants, animal-based foods (with the exception of dairy and eggs, which is a topic for another discussion) do not contain anti-nutrients in large amounts.
Again, here’s an excerpt from Unmasking Acne that hits on this theme:
“Things, whether it’s plants or animals, do not like to be eaten. Every organism on the planet has natural defensive mechanisms in order to defend itself from predators and pass its genes on to the next generation. Animals can run, flee, fight, and hide. These are the primary mechanisms of defense. Plants, on the other hand, (typically) cannot use movement or evasive action to survive. Instead, they need to develop their own defensive mechanisms that will prevent animals, whether it’s a squirrel or a human, from eating them. These are called antinutrients, and it’s the root of most digestive issues that trigger autoimmune conditions and food intolerances that lead to acne.”
It’s not that all anti-nutrients are evil – in fact, there is some evidence that supports the hypothesis that certain anti-nutrients, in moderation, are actually beneficial sources of stress for the body.Â Much like how exercise (a form of stress) is beneficial in moderate amounts, but not if you’re running a marathon every day. It’s simply that most of us make the mistake of eating foods that are extremely high in these anti-nutrients.
The typical Western diet contains foods that are loaded with the absolute worst offenders: grains, beans, legumes, and some forms of dairy.
Not only does that prevent our body from absorbing nutrients, but it can trigger inflammation that is behind most adult acne.
Meat and seafood, on the other hand, don’t contain these anti-nutrients. So, while a pork chop, a ribeye steak, or a chicken wing might have practically no vitamin A to speak of, it’s also not going to be actively doing damage to the digestive system that can cause acne.
That’s the first massive benefit of animal-based foods when it comes to clear skin.
The second is certain animal foods, namely organ meats, are absolutely loaded with bioavailable acne-beating nutrients.
Organ Meats: Real Superfoods
While muscle meats are relatively lackluster when it comes to nutrients (but again, a good choice for acne because they don’t contain harmful anti-nutrients), organ meats, on the other hand, are the best of both worlds.
Organ meats contain bioavailable nutrients in extremely high amounts.
Take a look at the following organ meats and their standout nutritional content.
Beef Liver (3.5 ounces) contains:
- Vitamin A: 522% of the RDI (crucial for clear skin)
- Zinc: 35% of the RDI (crucial for clear skin)
- Copper: 591% of the RDI
Cod Liver Oil (one tablespoon) contains:
- Vitamin A: 453% of the RDI
- Vitamin D: 1,300 IU of vitamin D (double the RDI)
- Omega-3: 2,700mg of omega-3 (crucial for beating inflammatory acne)
Beef heart contains a wide array of B-Vitamins, zinc, and CoQ10.
Beef pancreas has been reported by individuals to aid digestion (which makes sense, as the pancreas produces digestive enzymes)
Beef brains contain over roughly as much bioavailable DHA and EPA omega-3 per serving as wild-caught fish.
Kidney, spleen, testicles, and other organ meats have a lot of benefits, too, but these are the heavy hitters when it comes to acne (with liver being the most beneficial by far).
These are real superfoods because they are loaded with some of the absolute most important acne-fighting nutrients that in clinical studies have been proven to significantly decrease acne without anti-nutrients that prevent them from being absorbed or damages the digestive system
That’s why the Carnivore Protocol in our Unmasking Acne eBook includes organ meats as a necessary aspect of any animal-based diet.
Even if you’re not on the carnivore diet, I recommend that you start eating organ meats as soon as possible for clear skin.
How to Consume Organ Meats
Looking at the list above, it’s plain to see that the heaviest hitting organ meat with the most bang-for-your-buck is liver.
It’s actually speculated that our hunter-gather ancestors, upon a successful kill, would eat the liver first as a source of nutrients in case another animal came and threatened the possibility of a safe return back to camp.
Beef, veal, chicken, pork, and other forms of liver are all great sources of vitamin A.
Cod liver has the added benefit of omega-3 fatty acids, but be sure to purchase high-quality virgin cod liver oil to avoid getting rancid cod liver oil (a surprisingly common issue).
If you can, purchase canned cod liver (in it’s own oil) and eat it that way, however, any form of animal-based liver will be a fine substitute. I eat about 3 ounces of liver a week (this isn’t something you have to eat every day).
If you hate the taste of liver, you can actually buy desiccated beef liver capsules. You’ll get all the same nutrients without the taste, but the downside is that they’re relatively expensive (often 5-10x more expensive than just buying actual beef liver).
The same goes for other organ meats, all of which I recommend consuming for clear skin, but are also more challenging to find. You can use online suppliers like US Wellness Meats – they have a pretty good organ-based liverwurst that contains several organ meats. Alternatively, there are also beef organ capsules that are tasteless and contain liver, brain, pancreas, spleen, and more.
All-and-all, try and eat a serving (a few ounces or so) of organ meats once a week. Your overall health and your skin will thank you for it.
Summary: You CAN Get All Your Nutrients from Meat
If there’s one thing I want to avoid with this article, it’s the simple dichotomy that “plants are evil” and that “meat is good”.
Both plants and animals are good (and bad) in different ways – some plants are considerably more nutritious or harmful than others, while some animal-based foods actually contain very few nutrients, or can trigger intolerances depending on the person (in the case of pork, dairy, eggs, etc.).
Instead, the key takeaway from this article is simple: you can get all the nutrients you need from meat if you’re eating organ meats.
So, next time your friends jokingly ask you how you haven’t got scurvy yet on the carnivore diet, you can educate them on the nutritional density of these animal-based superfoods 🙂
PS: I can’t be the only one who’s got this question before, right?