The Carnivore Reading List
Fry the steak, scramble the eggs, add some butter if you’re feeling lively. As simple a concept as carnivore may seem, there’s a wealth of knowledge lurking under the hood. Whether you’re looking to dig up the evidence of our carnivore ancestry, or just a way to make liver taste bearable, there’s a lot of nuance to this way of eating. If life is complicated enough already, nothing’s stopping you from just learning how to work an air-fryer and leaving it at that. But you will be missing out on a wealth of angles on the optimal nutrition gravy-train.
The following list of books aren’t all strictly carnivore, but they all capture a central part of zero-carb, meat-based nutrition. To help you pick one out, I’ll split them across a few different categories.
I’ve fallen in love with audiobooks in particular in recent years, as they offer a chance to spice up the monotony of a morning treadmill walk. In fact, I may be onto something there, because exercise tends to be one of the most conducive places for absorbing information. Despite amateur science having you believe the brain stops growing after childhood, it remains incredibly plastic, especially during moments of stress. Not that you should take this to the point where you’re hammering out algebra by the squat rack.
Low Sugar Science
Could sugar be the driving factor behind obesity? It’s certainly an addiction we’re struggling to pull back from. If you’re starting to get to grips with the sheer overabundance of carbs in the modern diet, you’ll still be surprised by the extent to which it can cripple the metabolism.
Carnivore takes a hardline stance on this one, being effectively a zero sugar affair. All carbs are off the menu, and it could well be the biggest of this diet’s daunting list of perks.
The Case Against Sugar – Gary Taubes
The self-nominated No.1 enemy of the ‘healthy eating’ establishment, Gary Taubes had spent 15 years making the case that diet advice since the 70s has been fundamentally wrong. This book stages a deep dive into the ascent of sugar, as it rises from its place as a food preservative, to dominating the modern diet as high fructose corn syrup. Taubes makes the case that sugar is at the root of diabetes, obesity, and a host of other global health problems.
Grain Brain – David Perlmutter
This classic bestseller from 2013 examines an angle of carbs that’s often pushed to the side and forgotten, the insidious effects it can have on the brain. More specifically, Grain Brain covers the gut to brain connection, and the wrench that grains can put in the process by tearing up the gut. This book is staunchly anti-GMO, anti-gluten, and another notch on the campaign against sugar.
At the core of chronic disease is metabolic dysfunction, where the body simply isn’t working the way it should be. Insulin resistance is one of the prime cases of metabolic dysfunction, and the downstream effects can take the shape of systemic inflammation, diabetes, heart disease, high blood sugar, obesity, and much more. Mainstream nutrition has identified it as a major problem, but the course of action so far has been to manage the symptoms with medicine, while the cause continues to churn out more side effects.
And if you want to avert the disaster ahead of time, just control your calories. Eat less then you burn, and you’ll be able to sidestep insulin resistance altogether.
Carnivore, as well as keto, puts forward the idea that the calorie equation is a little outdated at this point, and fails to paint the full picture. Beyond jumping on a treadmill and punching your bananas into a food diary, there’s a way to use the diet to avert, and cure, insulin resistance.
Why We Get Sick – Ben Bikman
There is a wealth of information on insulin resistance being put out online by Dr. Bikman. He’s typically shown the ability to take on complicated mechanisms and deliver it to the masses in language anyone can grasp. So this book is a must-read for those looking to get to grips with nutrition’s role in metabolic dysfunction. And it all has a lot to do with carbs, as you might have guessed.
In any case, I’d recommend you check this guy out online, and you won’t have to search far. He’s done a number of podcasts where he’s taken on the insulin paradigm in great detail.
The Obesity Code – Jason Fung
Meal timing is a beast in itself when it comes to optimal, blubber-shedding nutrition, and that’s where Dr. Fung outlines his fix for the obesity epidemic. The modern snacking epidemic has pushed the body to overproduce insulin, which has the unwanted effect of locking up its fat stores. That’s where intermittent fasting plays a game-changing role, providing the metabolism with a chance to switch over from sugar-burning to fat-burning.
I’ve covered the similarities between carnivore and fasting, where they can be matched in a diet seamlessly. A zero-carb carnivore meal is basically a lite version of fasting, since it doesn’t have much of an effect on insulin. They push the same buttons in the quest to unravel metabolic dysfunction.
There’s more to plant nutrition than just wrapping you in a carb coma. This category brings you into the world of plant toxins, and the sweeping effects they have on human metabolism. Maybe the five-a-day wisdom is more than a little misguided.
The Plant Paradox – David Perlmutter
Plants aren’t what they’re cracked up to be. We’ve been raised to see them as friendly foods that want nothing but the best for us. In reality, they have their fair share of unwanted side effects. Potentially more than they’re worth.
This book is a great entry point for understanding the damaging effects of plant toxins, especially starch-based lectins. They’ve been designed to protect the plant from predators, and once let loose in the body, they wage chemical warfare upon your unsuspecting cells. That lays down the groundwork for autoimmune disorders, leaky gut, diabetes, heart disease, and neurodegenerative disease.
On another note, this book can come across like it’s been written by a schizophrenic. The first half slams plants, painting the picture that these toxins are found in practically every species. Then it wraps up with a guide for plant-based eating with minimal meat consumption. He comes across as a little conflicted.
The Vegetarian Myth – Lierre Keith
The guise of plant-based eating as sustainable and animal-friendly is shattered by an author who previously had spent 20 years as a vegan. The book is a relentless assault against agriculture, detailing the damage it’s done to the topsoil, the prairies, the forests, and the planet itself. It also explores the side effects of a vegan diet, and puts forward an alternative to industrial farming.
Meat Based Nutrition
The last few decades of government-sponsored diet dogma has led the meat industry to be cast under an unfavoured shadow, while the rockets have been strapped to plants and seed oils. But for all that effort, the global health epidemic has only taken a turn for the worse. The following books tackle the recent history that has led us into this confusing mess, and answer the usual allegations that get thrown against red meat and saturated fat.
The Big Fat Surprise – Nina Teicholz
This book from 2014 can be credited with putting red meat back on the comeback trail. Nina Teicholz is an investigative journalist compiling the story of the low-fat crusade. Sixty years of nutritional advice by government and big-food sponsored groups, staging a vast, uncontrolled experiment. Animal fats were given the boot on food pyramids worldwide, while vegetable oils were shoe-horned in as the natural replacements. The results have been appropriately disastrous.
The Big Fat Surprise challenges you to turn the current paradigm on its head, and consider whether we can fix the metabolic epidemic with the foods we have sidelined in the low-fat purge. Steak, butter, cheese, they’re back on the menu.
The Sacred Cow – Diana Rodgers and Robb Wolf
This one’s all about beef, and preserving the sanctity of it. While it’s been blamed for many of our metabolic and environmental worries, it still stands out as one of the most nutritious food sources on the planet. The Sacred Cow does a tremendous job of both detailing the perks of ruminant meat, and providing a defence against the classic allegations.
Carnivore isn’t exactly new, even if it’s only recently entered the online limelight. For humans, this may well be the original. This way of eating goes back millions of years, and that brings you into the endlessly fascinating realm of anthropology, the vast span of our existence that predated the agricultural revolution.
If we can make the case that our ancestors were carnivores, then that’s an ironclad argument for bringing steak back on the menu. There’s simply not been enough time since agriculture’s inception, for us to evolve past that primal metabolism. And that flies right in the face of the modern trend of everyone being special snowflakes and running off on their own tailored cinderella diets.
Not By Bread Alone – Viljahlmur Stefansson
A carnivore classic that predates the rest by a century. Stefansson lived for years amongst the indigenous Inuits and Eskimos, noting great teeth and a sheer lack of chronic disease. Not even scurvy. He also took notice of their unique way of eating, which involved plenty of fatty meat, organs, and next to no carbohydrates. It’s an immersive look at the lives of hunter gatherers, taken through the lens of scientific curiosity.
While on the surface it may not look like you need to be a gourmet chef to figure out how to fry up a steak, it pays to know a few different ways of dressing up the same ingredients. And including organ meats can be daunting at first, especially if you’re still not used to those tastes and textures. So in the spirit of keeping the (possibly banned) spice in the kitchen, it’s worth picking up a recipe book to level up your culinary skills.
In the meantime, you’re welcome to check out my carnivore-friendly recipe guides on the website.
The Carnivore Cookbook – Maria Emmerich And Craig Emmerich
This isn’t just a recipe guide, it doubles as an introduction to carnivore nutrition, with a run-through of ancestral living, plant toxins, and meat superfoods. The second half then covers 100 recipes that range from your standard steak, to seafood, and organ meats. It even comes with a meal plan and a shopping list, for some extra hand-holding as the book takes you through the full diet experience.
It Takes Guts – Ashleigh VanHouten
Quite possibly the best book for getting to grips with nose-to-tail eating, with 75 recipes for bringing organ meats into the kitchen game. With the likes of liver, kidney and brain, there’s an immense amount of nutritious potential. You just have to find a way of making it bearable, or even downright delicious.
Finally, we have the books that have been written specifically with carnivore in mind, often taking all the previous angles and moulding them into one hard-hitting unit. Plants are bad, animals are great, and nutrition forms the bedrock for fighting the metabolic epidemic. You get the picture.
The Carnivore Code – Paul Saladino
More detail than you’ll ever need. A complex rundown of the plant toxin spectrum and the effects each of them have on our metabolism. Saladino covers polyphenols, lectins, oxalates, goitrogens, fiber, and goes at length to describe the numerous ways these toxins attack the body. It’s not just a case for ditching plants however, because there are chapters dedicated to the nutritional powerhouses in the meat camp.
On one hand, the science can be a little excessive for people just getting familiar with the biochemistry scene. But on the whole, it’s a fantastically comprehensive look at the mechanical aspects of the carnivore diet.
The Carnivore Diet – Shawn Baker
Carnivore has been experiencing something of a resurgence lately, with several books getting churned out over recent years. Shawn Baker’s 2019 release is a more straight-forward take on this way of eating, with less emphasis placed on organ meats. Compared to The Carnivore Code, the science jargon gets tuned down. In the meantime, it offers a thorough take on the common myths surrounding this diet, and a highlight-reel of dramatic transformations from people of all walks of life.
The Carnivore Cure – Judy Cho
At this point in early 2021, Judy Cho’s book is the latest of the carnivore releases, but it doesn’t suffer from throwing up the same information you might have already read. It’s a mammoth book, filled with graphs to break up the text, and a thorough rundown of every aspect of carnivore nutrition.
Whereas Saladino delved mostly into plant toxins, and Baker presented a simple overview of the diet, The Carnivore Cure takes a major focus on the impact gut health has on autoimmune disorders. It’s very much a book about healing, rather than an attempt to make a few profound statements.
The Carnivore Story
Your quest to load the brain with more information than it can handle doesn’t have to end with these choices. There are many more excellent books out there, and a ton of podcasts for that matter. So you won’t look have to look far to sate your curiosity for this meat-based way of living. But don’t feel like your journey has to start and end with nutrition. This is just a subsection of staging a return to a more ancestral lifestyle. Exercise, breathwork, meditation, social media detoxing, there are plenty more roads to cover. Each of them gets you one step closer to an apex lifestyle.
And if you’re curious to try out some of the perks of the carnivore lifestyle for yourself, you’re in luck. The Fit Awakening Online Membership takes you through the complete coaching experience, with customised plans across training, nutrition, and lifestyle. Even better, it starts with a free 7-day trial.