can you adhere to an all-meat diet long-term without suffering nutritional deficiencies?

Answered on September 12, 2014
Created December 06, 2012 at 5:53 PM

i was thinking of embarking on a diet consisting of fish, grass-fed beef, and the occasional egg for a few months. has anyone here done something like that?


on December 16, 2012
at 04:54 AM

+1 Surprised Ambimorph hasn't weighed in yet. :-)



on December 06, 2012
at 06:11 PM

Gonna guess that this depends vastly on the quality of the meat, but I recon if it's grass-fed you ought to do alright.



on December 06, 2012
at 06:00 PM

I would love to know it too!!!

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7 Answers



on December 07, 2012
at 03:26 AM

Jonas, there have been several zero-carbers (meat-only) eaters on PaleoHacks, many of us long-term. Search for "zero carb" or "ZC."

Whether it's necessary to eat organ meats to maintain optimal health is a controversial issue. Obviously there's not a lot of research into contemporary industrial ZCers and their diets. And looking at the frequently-invoked Inuit doesn't bring much clarity, mostly because the Arctic peoples spanned a huge region -- the Arctic! -- and their diets necessarily varied by area, whereas there were a limited number of pre-Westernization explorers to (potentially mis-) report on their dietary habits.

In my opinion, and over three years' experience as a ZCer (and two years VLC prior), it's perfectly possible to live on a meat-and-egg diet, with minimal to no plant matter, without being deficient. I am neutral on the question of whether organ meats are necessary; I eat them because I like them.


on December 16, 2012
at 04:54 AM

+1 Surprised Ambimorph hasn't weighed in yet. :-)


on December 06, 2012
at 06:27 PM

You are probably going to need to include organ meat in that.



on December 06, 2012
at 06:27 PM

Yes. As there are no essential phytonutrients, one could source all essential nutrients from animals.

However, the caveat would be that one shouldn't plan on doing this from "grocery store meat" -- i.e. eating predominantly muscle meat -- a variety of animals should be utilized, including organs and bones.

Since protein and meat are often conflated, it's worth pointing out that "meat" will provide you with a good resource for protein and fats (again, just keep the variety up).

Should someone do this today? Meh, I don't really think so. As an experiment, it might be interesting, but vegetables, fruits, some plant oils, and a cornucopia of spices really make the act of eating something interesting, appealing, and engaging.



on December 06, 2012
at 10:37 PM

yes...eat nose to tail



on December 07, 2012
at 12:53 PM

Survive? Definitely. Thrive? That's unclear. Science has done a decent job of identifying the handful of nutrients that cause disorders when you're deficient, but hasn't done such a great job of identifying what of the thousands upon thousands of plant chemicals that are beneficial for human health. It's quite possible you'd be missing something beneficial that would push you from just adequate to optimal.



on December 07, 2012
at 04:00 AM

In Taubes' Good Calories, Bad Calories, he documents two gentlemen who ate only meat for a year or so. They were closely watched for mineral and Vitamin deficiencies. None arose. Meat contains all necessary minerals AND all necessary Vitamins. The only controversy, as Taubes notes, is Vitamin-C. There is very little in meat. The thing is, however, that when blood glucose is maintained at a low level (like it is during an all-meat diet), there is a much reduced need of dietary Vitamin-C because glucose and Vit-C share a similar metabolic pathway.

So I'd say yes. It's certainly possible.



on December 07, 2012
at 03:35 AM

COULD YOU do it? Yes. Easily. With a variety of protein will come a variety of fats. If you get the highest-quality protein sources you can, the fats will be varied enough to help you not just survive, but likely thrive. Like others have said, including a "variety" might include organ meats and other parts. Even varied levels of cooking and preparation. I have a farmer who gets me grass-fed Texas Longhorn beef, and every 3 or 4 pounds I eat cooked, I'll eat another pound raw. If you can stomach it, it's amazing. This is how I'd go about it if I was going to do this.

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