Carnivores, omnivores, vegans and real-food-ivores: Exploring the fascinating realms of carnivore diets, plant based diets, and the versatile omnivorous approach, we here at Real Life Medicine have had the pleasure of hosting captivating carnivore doctors on our podcast and have some remarkable plant based nutritionists lined up as soon-to-be guests. Meanwhile, nestled in the heart of this flavourful debate, we proudly identify ourselves as 'real-food-ivores.’ We don't advocate for any particular dietary dogma; instead, we firmly believe in empowering individuals to discover what truly resonates with them within the framework of minimally processed, low carb choices. It's about finding a personalised approach that is both practical and sustainable, ensuring long term success.
Low carb real food: As doctors with a keen interest in nutrition, we find that people often make assumptions about our dietary preferences. Some assume we’re strictly plant based, sharing their struggles with maintaining a plant based lifestyle or proudly discussing their elimination of red meat. On the other hand, when they discover our advocacy for a low carb approach, some assume we support a carnivorous diet or believe vegetables are detrimental. The truth lies somewhere in between. Just like life itself, the devil is in the details. Within the realm of real, minimally processed food, we support those who choose a genuine plant based diet. Not products made in a factory plant, we mean real plant food! Conversely, if you find that an exclusively animal based diet works for you, we are equally supportive of this choice. Meeting people where they are and tailoring a diet that works for them is our passion. While the optimal human diet, in our opinion and supported by scientific evidence and historical context, includes a combination of animal and plant based foods, there is flexibility in its implementation. You can opt for very low carb, moderately low carb, or even higher carb variations. The beauty lies in constructing a personalised diet under the umbrella of real food - no eggs if you dislike them, no broccoli if it's not to your taste. The key is finding what works for you within the boundaries of low carbohydrate, real food principles.
Plant based: While ethical and environmental concerns play a role in many people opting for a plant based diet, we believe the health halo surrounding veganism may be misleading. plant based diets emphasise nutrient-dense vegetables and fruits, but they also include cereal grains and legumes, which can be less nutrient-dense and potentially problematic for some. Grains and legumes contain inflammatory components and anti-nutrients that hinder nutrient absorption. One crucial nutrient often lacking in plant based diets is vitamin B12, necessary for energy production, DNA synthesis, and red blood cell function. B12 deficiency can lead to fatigue, neurological issues, and anaemia, and it's only found in animal-based foods. Additionally, obtaining sufficient omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, zinc, and fat soluble vitamins like A and D can be challenging on a plant based diet. Non-heme iron (the iron from plant sources) is also less absorbable than the heme iron found in animal products, making it more difficult to meet iron needs. While a plant based diet can be done with careful planning and advice, it's essential to address potential nutrient deficiencies through informed dietary choices.
Carnivore: The carnivore diet, which involves cutting out all plant based foods and consuming only animal products, has gained popularity in recent years. However, completely eliminating plant foods from the diet may not be a wise decision for overall health so it’s important to consider various factors before embarking on this dietary approach. From an evolutionary perspective, it is not accurate to claim that humans were meant to consume only meat. relied on both animal and plant foods for sustenance. Even in predominantly meat based diets in hunter gatherer societies around the world, including populations like the Canadian Inuits, made efforts to incorporate plant based sources such as wild berries, lichens, seaweed, and other sea vegetables into their diets.
One concern we have with the carnivore diet is its impact on the gut microbiome. Our gut microbiota plays a crucial role in overall health, and almost every chronic inflammatory disease has been linked to gut health to some extent. A diverse diet consisting of real, unprocessed foods is known to positively influence the gut microbiome. However, an all meat diet can lead to rapid changes in the gut microbiome, and the long term consequences of such changes are not yet fully understood. So while some people feel great on a carnivore diet, it is important to recognise that drastic alterations to the gut microbiome may have significant implications for health.
Nutrient deficiencies are another concern when following a carnivore diet. Although fresh meat and organ meats can provide certain nutrients like vitamin C, it is crucial to note that vitamin C is heat sensitive and degrades during cooking. Additionally, if dairy is not included, obtaining adequate amounts of vitamin K2 and calcium becomes challenging. Organ meats, such as liver, are highly nutrient dense and provide essential nutrients like vitamin A, choline, B12, iron, manganese, and magnesium. We are much more confident in the carnivore choice if dairy and organ meats are included! While the carnivore diet is low in carbohydrates, it requires careful consideration and support.
You are the boss of you: You have the power to choose how you navigate the world of eating plants and animals within the realm of real food. You are in control of your own choices. Seeking the right support can make a significant difference on your journey and if you feel you could benefit from additional guidance and assistance in adopting a low carb real food approach, please visit our website, www.rlmedicine.com
We have a fantastic ebook that explains and describes our dietary principles and reasoning. You can find it under the "Free Stuff" tab on our website. Take a look and explore the wonderful resources we have available for you. We here at Real Life Medicine are devoted to empowering individuals to reclaim their health through a low carb real food lifestyle. Remember, you have the capability to achieve your health goals, and sometimes all you need is the right support.
Free e-book, The Doctors Guide to Real Health and Weight Loss:
Dr Mary Barson: (0:11) Hello, my lovely listeners. I'm Dr Mary Barson.
Dr Lucy Burns: (0:15) And I'm Dr Lucy Burns. Welcome to this episode of
Both: (0:20) Real Health and Weight Loss!
Dr Mary Barson: (0:23) Hello gorgeous listeners, Dr Mary here. And again, you have just got little old me. The awesome, wonderful Dr Lucy is still on her fabulous, awesome holiday, 55’ing and alive-ing around Australia with her fabulous hubby in her fabulous caravan. I believe right now she could possibly be staying in an underwater hotel somewhere. It sounds amazing. And here I am in southern Victoria in the winter. It is actually not too bad, the weather outside, I must say. So I'm feeling okay, even if I'm not in tropical climes in an underwater hotel, in a caravan. I'm not feeling sad at all. Not at all. No.
(1:09) Gorgeous people. So you've got me today. Today I want to talk about carnivore diets, plant based diets and omnivorous diets. And where do we sit with this at Real Life Medicine.
We've had some fabulous carnivore doctors come on this podcast before and chat about their food philosophy and their lifestyle. We certainly have got some wonderful plant based nutritionists that we would like to get onto our podcast soon. And then you know, Lucy and I, in the middle. We are real-food-ivores is how I would describe our food philosophy. And we don't necessarily advocate a carnivore diet, a plant based diet, necessarily. We are strong believers in you figuring out what works for you, and figuring out what is workable, achievable and sustainable for you. So let's dive in and unpack this all a little bit more.
(2:13) So when people learn that I'm a doctor who's interested in nutrition, before they know anything about me, I will quite often get people assuming that I am plant based or telling me about how they tried to go plant based but they just couldn't work, or proudly telling me about how they have cut out red meat so therefore their diet is really good, and that they're eating their, you know, soy, processed fake meat in their bolognese instead of mince. And assuming, just making the interesting assumption, that this is what I would recommend. And I think this is quite interesting. And then the other thing that can happen is when people learn that I'm a low carb advocate, that then they might assume that I am all in favour of carnivore. Or that I think that vegetables are bad, and that I think a zero carb diet is what you need. And the truth, gentle listener, is really definitely somewhere in between. The nuances of nutrition, like the nuances of life, the devil is all in the details. So I would like to unpack this a little bit more for you and discuss why I am an omnivore. Why I choose to include animal based foods and plant based foods in my diet. With a really important caveat. I'm quite moderate in my views. That's not true. I'm moderate in some of my views. And I’m moderate in the view that within the umbrella of real food, food that has undergone as little processing as possible, within that umbrella, I'm kind of moderate. If people choose to eat a plant based diet and they're eating a plant based diet that is real and unprocessed, that sort of rubbish junky processed soy mince, fake meat stuff is not good, and I can unpack why. They're choosing to eat plant based within that umbrella of real food and it's working for them, then I think that can be absolutely fine. And I'm extremely happy to support people in eating the very best plant based diet that they can. And if people within the umbrella of real food are choosing to only eat animal foods and to only eat meat, and that is working for them for various reasons, then also I am happy to support them in that lifestyle choice and make that lifestyle work for them as best they can. I'm extremely happy and indeed passionate about meeting people where they are. Where they are is really important. But if people ask me, what I think that the optimum human diet is, to my mind, and I believe that, you know, the weight of scientific evidence, and the weight of human history comes down on the side of us eating both animal and plant based foods. I think that that is the healthiest way to construct your diet. And within that, there are lots of different variations, you know, you can go very low carb, moderately low carb, you can totally even if it works for you, be a higher carb diet, you know, you don't have to eat eggs if you don't like eggs. You don't have to eat broccoli if you don't like broccoli. There are many ways that you can construct this diet that is perfect for you under that umbrella of real food. And if you've got a weight loss goal, issues with insulin resistance or high insulin, then under the umbrella of low carbohydrate, real food, then whatever works for you is great.
(6:15) So why am I an omnivore? You know, we give airtime to carnivores, we give airtime to people who are plant based. But why do I choose to be omnivorous? And Dr Lucy is also an omnivore.
I would first of all like to talk about why I'm not plant based. The plant based diet has got a real health halo around it. And a lot of people choose to go vegetarian or vegan because they think that that is the healthiest choice. There are, of course, ethical concerns. Some people just for their own very valid and important reasons, they choose not to eat animal foods for ethical reasons. And I think that is totally fine. Some people choose not to eat animal products for environmental reasons. And I've got some concerns about that because I believe that the environmental concerns around animal foods within our food system have been really misrepresented by the media. It's kind of ridiculous if you think that, you know, a cow farting and the methane gas from a cow is going to be far more problematic than super processed soy foods that they've stripped the Amazon to grow the soy, it's been processed in a factory and flown a billion air miles. Yep, the devil is in the detail. And the nuances are really important. And I do strongly feel that animal foods can, and indeed, in many, many cases are, a very important and sustainable, environmentally sustainable part of our diet. But I'm not going to delve that too much more. I'm going to leave the ethical concerns about eating animals. And I'm going to just park the environmental concerns about eating animals as well, although I do have a lot to say on that topic, and go into the nutritional concerns. So plant based diets emphasise vegetables. And I would argue that veggies are quite nutrient dense. And they also emphasise fruits which are somewhat nutrient dense. They're got less nutrient density, but also would include cereal grains and legumes, both refined and unrefined. And I'd say that these foods, the grains and the legumes, are less nutrient dense, and have got potential problems for some people. They can be reasonably high in some inflammatory components, the phytonutrients in there, some of them can be inflammatory. And some of them can have these things called anti nutrients, which actually prevent us from absorbing other nutrients in our diets. And generally, the nutrients available in cereals and legumes is less what we call bio available. That means available to our biology, to our ability to absorb it. And there is a potential problem with plant based diets that if you're a follower of a plant based vegetarian or vegan diet, you really could be missing out on some really key nutrients. I'd say one in particular is B 12. So B 12 deficiency is pretty common in vegans and vegetarians and I would, as a doctor, I would routinely measure people's B 12 status if they were on a plant based diet. It’s a really important nutrient that we need for our energy production in our bodies. It's a really important nutrient that works together with folate and other nutrients for synthesis of our DNA, for synthesis of our red blood cells, for the myelin sheath of our nerve cells, the activity of mitochondria. And being low in vitamin B 12 can cause lots of issues. Like fatigue is definitely one. It can even in severe cases cause neurological or psychological conditions, you know, including depression and anxiety, and can make people anaemic. And you actually can't get B 12 from non animal based foods. It's not there. It's a myth that it's in things like mushrooms and seaweed and fermented soy. It's not. There was a study looking at B 12 in mushrooms, and they thought that mushrooms had B 12, but it actually turned out to be animal poo contamination in the mushrooms. So if you eat mushrooms that are covered in animal poo, you might be getting some B 12 from the animal poo, but not actually from the mushrooms themselves. So I would argue that it's quite important to supplement with B 12 if you're on a plant based diet. I really do think that that's incredibly important. But it's not just B 12. There's other things as well. There's your omega-3 fatty acids. This can be quite tricky to get enough of them if you're on a plant based diet. And the type of omega-3 fatty acids that are in plant foods, like algae and chia seeds, are not as bioavailable as the ones that are in animal foods. So that is, I think, really, really important for people to be aware of, and that they need to be pretty keyed in to all their sources of omega-3 fatty acids, if they are on a vegan or vegetarian diet. And then other issues is that you might not be getting enough calcium, you might not be getting enough zinc, and fat soluble vitamins like vitamin A and vitamin D, you could potentially be missing out on these. And the other really important nutrient that I want to mention is iron. Iron really could be a problem for people on a plant based diet, because we've got two types of iron that are available for us in our food, essentially heme iron, and non heme iron. And heme iron essentially comes from basically animal products, particularly the blood in animal products is a good source of heme iron. It's much more easy for us to absorb this than the non heme iron, which is found in plant based sources such as dark green veggies, like spinach. We don't absorb it as well so you need to eat a lot more. So it's tricky. You need to be careful. And I think it can be done. I really do believe that. And if that is what you want to do, you can do it. But you need to get the best advice possible.
(12:56) And then what about a carnivore diet? So you know, what if you want to go completely carnivore and cut out all plant foods entirely. It's certainly gaining popularity, the all meat diet. I would argue though, that dropping plant based food completely from your diet is not necessarily a good thing to do. There are certain circumstances in which it might be really useful for some people for a short period of time. And there are of course, some people for whom you know, this works for them. And that is fine. But if it's just you wanting to be the healthiest you, and thinking that a carnivore diet would be the way to go, it may or may not be. So what is a carnivore diet, for those of you who don't know. Pretty straightforward, it's just eating animal foods and staying away from all plant foods. And people may choose to include dairy and eggs and fish in that, or they might just include only red meats. There's a few different ways that this can be put together, depending on what people want and what they’re after. Advocates of the carnivore diet will say that this is the human diet. This is what we were meant to eat. And that, you know, plants are an aberration and that meat is the main part of our diet. I would argue that from an evolutionary point of view, that's not necessarily true. Hunter gatherers around the world today eat both animal and plant foods. So even populations such as the Canadian Inuits and native populations that have been touted as a purely carnivorous society, even then they weren't necessarily purely carnivorous. They certainly primarily lived on meats such as walrus and whale meat and fish, but they also went to great lengths to forage wild berries and to eat lichens and seaweed and other sea vegetables. So even these populations weren't all about meat. And as far as we know, every culture that’s studied has eaten both animal and plant foods by and large. And so animal and plant foods are definitely historically a part of our diet throughout now and through ancient populations. So what are the potential problems with going on a carnivore diet? Well, it causes changes in our gut microbiome. And I'd argue that we don't really know what the full consequences of that are.
So switching to an all meat diet will change your gut microbiome. There are two ways to really rapidly alter your gut microbiome. One is changing your food, and the other is getting a faecal transplant, a poo transplant, which is outside the scope of this particular podcast episode. And we know that the ecosystem of our gut microbiota is really important to our health in general. Almost every chronic inflammatory disease has been linked to gut health to some extent, so it is really important. And eating a real food diet is a very powerful way to change your gut microbiome and improve the ecosystem of your gut, to improve intestinal permeability and lots of other aspects of your gut health, which can be really, really beneficial. And an all meat diet or an all animal product diet really does result in rapid changes. And what does that mean? I'm going to just put my hand on my heart and say, I don't know. And the fact that I don't know has me potentially a little bit concerned. I think that we don't have the data on this to say one way or another. For some people, they feel great when they go on a carnivore diet, and that might be fine for them and their gut health. But these drastic changes may or may not have some really significant implications for our health. And then there’s nutrients, going carnivore, what does that mean? Well, I'd say again, the short answer is we really don't know what nutrient deficiencies people with the carnivore diet have, but certain nutrients that would have me a little bit concerned would be vitamin C. Certainly you can get vitamin C from fresh meat and fresh organ meats, definitely, but it's very heat sensitive. So the food would have to be very fresh, and you’d have to be careful of the way that you cook it. If you're not including dairy, then getting enough vitamin K2 and calcium could be a concern. Dairy actually is a very rich source of K2 and calcium. So if you're eating that, then you're probably okay. But if you're not eating organ meats, I would really start to be worried. So a carnivore diet that includes dairy and organ meats is certainly for me a much more comfortable system, or at least organ meats, than one that is only muscle tissue. Organ meats are so good for you. And I would encourage all of you to just take a little step outside your comfort zone, go to the supermarket or the butcher, buy some kind of organ meat and eat it, give it a go. It is so incredibly nutrient dense. And for all you carnivores out there eating organ meats, excellent. For all you omnivores out there eating organ meat, go you. It is the most nutrient dense food out there. Organ meats are really rich in vitamin A, and lots of beautiful things, choline and B12 and iron and so many good things. And in particular for the carnivores in manganese and magnesium, which you need. If you are not eating plants, you need to get them from somewhere. So carnivore has some benefits, like it's extremely low in carb. So if you're wanting to reduce your carbohydrate intake, it's certainly a very powerful way to do it. But you need to do it with your eyes open and really think about what you're doing and get some support. And I am, Lucy and I, we are very happy, very happy to support people on a carnivore diet. Very happy to support people on a plant based diet. Because our overriding food philosophy, the food philosophy that trumps all other food philosophies, is real food. Step away from the processed junk that is made in factories marketed to us from food industry that doesn't care about our health. Only sees and treats us as consumerism units. Step away from them. Don't be their consumerism unit. Nourish your body with real food. That is number one. And then number two, beautiful human, is if you've got a weight loss goal, if you've got issues with insulin resistance, and that includes high insulin, pre diabetes, fatty liver, polycystic ovarian syndrome, chronic illnesses like atherosclerosis, ischemic heart disease, neuro inflammatory conditions like Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease, if you've got neuro inflammatory conditions or if you're worried about neuro inflammatory conditions such as Alzheimer's, if you've got heart disease, or you're worried about heart disease, if you've got plaque in your arteries, if you've got any of these conditions, then, beautiful human, eating low carbohydrate versions of those real foods is a powerful strategy to reclaim your health and to lose that weight sustainably and permanently.
And you, gorgeous one, get to choose where upon you sit within eating plants and animals within this real food landscape. Because you are absolutely the boss of you. And it can be really helpful to get the right support. The right support can be extremely helpful. And, gorgeous human, if you feel like you would like a bit of extra help and support with going low carb real food, then do check out our website, rlmedicine.com. We've got a wonderful ebook describing and explaining what we eat and why. And you can get that at our website, rlmedicine.com. And click on the free stuff tab. Check it out. We've got some fabulous resources there for you. Dr Lucy, wherever you are, off in the warm climates and myself, Dr Mary, we are passionate about empowering people to reclaim their health with low carb real food. And you can do it. And sometimes you just need the right support.
It has been wonderful chatting to you gorgeous people. Have an absolutely fabulous day. Go out there, be your absolute best possible self and enjoy eating your real food, however you choose to do so. Bye now.
Dr Lucy Burns: (22:11) So my lovely listeners, that ends this episode of Real Health and Weight Loss. I'm Dr Lucy Burns…
Dr Mary Barson: (22:19) and I'm Dr Mary Barson. We’re from Real Life Medicine. To contact us, please visit rlmedicine.com
Dr Lucy Burns: (22:29) And until next time…
Both: (22:32) Thanks for listening!
Dr Lucy Burns: (22:34) The information shared on the Real Health and Weight Loss podcast, including show notes and links, provides general information only. It is not a substitute, nor is it intended to provide, individualised medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, nor can it be construed as such. Please consult your doctor for any medical concerns.