The carnivorous diet has been on the scene for quite a while now, but have you considered the nuances of a carnivore diet for women? There are some specific benefits and effects of an almost totally carb-free diet unique to women’s hormones and their body composition.
Female meat lovers may rejoice at the thought of a new diet that is touted to aid in hormonal balance, weight management, amongst other positive health effects, but is a carnivore diet for women all it’s cracked up to be?
Before we explore the potential benefits, and possible health risks, of a carnivore diet for women, let’s first delve into what the diet entails and which carnivore diet foods make the cut (and what plant foods to avoid).
What Is a Carnivore Diet for Women?
A carnivore diet for women is exactly as it sounds—a meat-only diet that comes pretty close to zero carbs consumed by women. It’s no different than the carnivorous diet consumed by anyone, including Joe Rogan infamously. Animal-based foods are king when it comes to a carnivore diet meal plan.
In terms of specific foods and restrictiveness, it’s essentially a paleo diet taken a few steps further, and a ketogenic diet taken one or two notches stricter. The focus of a carnivore diet is to obtain all your calories from animal products, by consuming meat, organs and animal proteins, which are naturally nutrient-dense foods, rather than aiming for a zero-carb diet.
Carnivore dieters also strive to reduce their consumption of inflammatory foods and cooking methods that may lead to gut inflammation and autoimmune issues.
So what can and can’t you eat on this strict version of an elimination diet? Well, if it comes from an animal, it generally makes the cut.
Foods to Eat on a Carnivore Diet for Women
- Organ meats including beef liver and chicken liver
- Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines
- Fish roe
- Shellfish like mussels, oysters, and crabs
- Dairy products (specifically full-fat dairy)
- Parmesan cheese
- Goat cheese
- Hard cheeses
- Bone broth
- Bone marrow
- Ground beef
- Chicken meat and shredded chicken
- Poultry meat including duck and turkey
- Fatty meat and fattier cuts
- Ruminant meat such as bison, lamb, beef, goat, and elk
- Pork chops
What doesn’t make the cut for a carnivore diet for women is pretty much all plant foods.
Foods to Avoid on a Carnivore Diet for Women
- Plant-based foods such as vegetables and fruit
- Grains and gluten
- Nuts and seeds
- Inflammatory foods such as vegetable oils and seed oils
- All processed foods
- All sugar, sweeteners, and artificial sweeteners
- Beverages other than water including coffee, tea, and juices
What are the Benefits of a Carnivore Diet for Women?
There is an array of female-specific health benefits for women who eat a mostly meat-based diet. Many of these are associated with hormone regulation.
Here are our top five benefits of a carnivore diet for women:
A carnivore diet involves a high intake of cholesterol. Cholesterol is essential for the formation of the sex hormones estrogen and progesterone, as well as testosterone. Eating mostly carnivore can aid with building hormones, alleviating premenstrual syndrome symptoms (PMS symptoms), and increasing fertility in women.
By cutting out plant foods, women also minimize exposure to phytoestrogens in fruits, vegetables, grains, soy, and legumes. Phytoestrogens are plant compounds that mimic estrogen in the body and can have an effect on overall estrogen levels. Low-carb diets have also been shown to help with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) by lowering insulin levels and male hormones such as testosterone levels.
Drastically cutting carbs as with a carnivore diet can help with PCOS and menstrual cycle imbalances. Consuming high levels of vitamin D and calcium has also been proven to delay the onset of menopause in women. Fatty fish, organ meats, and full-fat dairy intake are all great sources of both.
A carnivore diet may also help with thyroid disease, as a low-carb, high-fat diet has been shown to reduce hypothyroidism. A diet rich in zinc has been shown to boost thyroid hormones and meat such as lamb and beef are an abundant source of the mineral.
A carnivore diet has also been shown to help women shed excess weight. Eating low-carb and nutrient-rich foods can help keep you feeling full and satiated by affecting your leptin levels. Leptin is a hormone released by our fat cells that regulates our hunger cues as well as metabolism.
A high-carb diet can mess with leptin signaling by increasing your appetite, and adding pounds to your waistline. The carnivore diet has been shown to increase leptin levels in the body and improve leptin signaling, which can help shed excess body fat.
Blood Sugar Regulation
A study published in Current Developments in Nutrition in 2021 by a group of Harvard researchers found immense improvement with diabetic participants at lowering high blood sugar levels after following a carnivore diet for over six months.
All participants in the study with diabetes came off of injectable medications, 92 percent of type 2 diabetic participants came off insulin supplements, and 84 percent came off oral medications. A total of 98 percent of participants resolved or improved their insulin resistance.
That same study by Harvard found 92 percent of participants reported improved or resolved dermatologic conditions after adhering to a carnivore diet for six or more months. Cutting sugar and vegetable oils and increasing intake of zinc, vitamin A, and anti-aging foods such as collagen in bone broth and connective tissues, also come with added skin benefits.
Mental Health Benefits
The Harvard study also found 96 percent of participants experienced improved or completely resolved psychiatric conditions. Mental clarity and focus also increased on a carnivore diet, with 85 percent and 83 percent of participants, respectively, reporting improvements.
Are There Any Health Risks of a Carnivore Diet for Women?
Any diet that eliminates entire food groups is not without controversy. While the list of purported benefits for women is extensive, some nutrition experts caution to keep a few factors in mind if embarking on extremely low-carb diets and animal-only protein sources:
Processed Meats Can Be High in Sodium
If you are sticking with a meat-based diet, it’s important to remember that not all animal foods are created equal. Processed meats like turkey jerky, pork rinds, and luncheon meats may have high levels of sodium, as well as sugar and other additives, and have been linked to cancer. Being a label-sleuth is of utmost importance if buying meat that comes in a package. Ideally, the animal protein should be the only ingredient.
Essential nutrients are found in vegetables and fruit
Essential simply means that we must get those nutrients from food because our bodies cannot produce them. Vitamins and minerals, like vitamin C and potassium, may be lacking on an all-meat diet. You are also at risk of not consuming adequate fiber on a carnivore diet, which can be detrimental to immunity, bowel, and gut health.
Not Suitable For Pregnant or Nursing Women
There are anecdotal reports that following a carnivore diet for women while pregnant or breastfeeding may be too stringent and difficult to maintain appropriate calorie intake for milk supply. In addition, many women experience a distaste for meat at different points throughout pregnancy as a self-protection from potential pathogens, rendering a meat-only diet next to impossible to uphold.
Long Term Sustainability Is Difficult
Lastly, as with any restrictive diet with only a small list of specific foods, the long-term sustainability is questionable and it’s difficult to adhere to. A carnivore diet for women may be more effective as a short-term step to remedy a health woe or expedite weight loss before transitioning to a keto or paleo lifestyle.
The benefits of a carnivore diet for women are extensive and supported. However, the diet does not come without potential downsides. As a shorter term approach, a carnivorous diet may aid in some women’s health concerns and offer a solution to the root cause of otherwise puzzling symptoms. If you’re curious about adopting a carnivore diet for women, a myPrimalCoach can offer guidance and steer you in the direction of flavorful and easy recipes to keep it interesting and sustainable.