The 10 Best Foods On The Carnivore Diet

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What You're About To Get Into
– The standout picks for the carnivore template
– Why lean meats aren’t your best options
– What makes a food nutritious

Defining Nutrition

The 10 Best Foods On The Carnivore Diet

After making it through a year on this diet, I feel qualified to lay down the definitive top-down list of the apex menu. With a few asterisks. I haven’t tried out any game meat, and there are still a few niche organs I haven’t been able to get my hands on. So it’s not really definitive. 

The carnivore diet might look extremely restrictive, but technically it’s open to the entire animal kingdom. A few options are obviously frowned up, like endangered species and cannibalism. That still leaves room for plenty of diversity, which is unfortunately outside the scope of this snapshot list.

If you’re lucky enough to live in a part of the world where the shelves are stocked up with kangaroo meat, or rich enough to go hunting for some prime elk during your spare weekends, then more power to you. It’s a little unfair to recommend you try bison when you’re living in Poland, so in the spirit of keeping this uncomplicated and attainable, I’ll be sticking to the classics. Available at most butchers, some supermarkets, and unlikely to cost an arm and a leg.

I’ve brought out one major qualifier to determine who’s allowed on this list. Nutrition. Taste matters, it’s just misleading when you’re transitioning between diets and getting acquainted with foods. People rarely have knee-buckling first impressions of their first bite into beef liver. But after giving the body some quality time to get used to the novel flavours, it sneaks its way to becoming a delicacy. Besides, if you’re on carnivore, there’s one taste that trumps the rest. Fat. An easy rule of thumb, the fattier that cut of meat is, or the more butter and suet you heap over it, the more the impact is going to be on your tastebuds.

Instead, this list will pick foods by their deeds once they get past that initial screening. The overarching goal would be supplying the body total nutrition, spurring the system towards peak performance. Whatever ‘peak performance’ means to you. The diet is going to have the same beats. Pick the best foods, get friendly with them, and stick to the programme.

The Complete List Of Benefits On Carnivore

As for what makes a food nutritious, definitions can be vague, but I’ll measure it by the following markers.

Nutrient Quality
Essential macronutrients – Contains fat and protein
Fat to Protein ratio – Fat, by the gram, is equal or greater than protein
Low Omega 6 – Doesn’t contain significant amounts of seed oils
Micronutrient diversity – Has an array of vitamins and minerals
Micronutrient density – Has them in large quantities
High bioavailability – No leaking during digestion and absorption
Low inflammation – No major stress triggers or cell damage

What Foods Have Missed Out?

The 10 Best Foods On The Carnivore Diet

Fat to Protein ratio 

If you’re wondering where many of your favourite meats have traipsed off to, it’s because they don’t quite match the macro quota. It’s a matter of physiology, how the macros play out in the system. Protein is critical, forming the backbone of a diet, but it’s a terribly inefficient energy source. It has to jump across hoops to be made into fuel, through the process of gluconeogenesis. It’s also limited by the rate at which the kidneys can filter out toxic nitrogen, at around 35% of total calories.

Fat and carbs on the other hand, can be taken in by the mitochondria without needing to be converted first. There’s no ceiling to speak of, mechanically. Since carbs aren’t a heavy fixture in the carnivore template, fats end up carrying a big junk of your energy needs. The cliff notes? For the sake of having a good time, performance, satiety, and health…pick the fat-drenched cuts of meat. 

By this line of logic, the classic bodybuilding staples get wiped off the chart. Chicken breast is devoid of fat, and therefore a weak source of fuel. It doesn’t make it bad. Keep in mind that this is the list of peak performers. Only born winners are allowed. 

You might wonder why I’ve added deer to the omissions, because wouldn’t that have been part of the ancestral cuisine? I would argue that venison was something of a fallback option once we’d exhausted our primary foods. And when I mean exhausted, I’m saying wiped off the face of the planet. Venison, along with most game meat, is much leaner than their bovine counterparts. Explorers on the old American frontier would routinely toss aside such kills, or give them to the dogs instead.

Were Our Ancestors Carnivores?

Some people have reported tremendous fat loss on a high protein, moderate fat carnivore diet. But if anything, such a combo would be best left for a quick blitz at the tail-end of a weight-loss programme. And even then, there are much better options for lean meat than chicken.

The Low Omega 6 rule

The 10 Best Foods On The Carnivore Diet

Studies on low carb diets can be complicated by the liberal use of polyunsaturated fats. It’s a big asterisk to look out for anytime a low fat diet outperforms a low carb version. Polyunsaturated fats (PUFA) are structurally unstable, and liable to be oxidised. Omega 3, the healthy one, is part of this group, but you’d struggle to get it in excessive amounts. Whereas Omega 6, as one of the staple ingredients in processed foods, is everywhere.

The Many Dangers Of Seed Oils

In terms of improving mood and quelling inflammation, current evidence points towards the benefits of a raised Omega 3 to 6 ratio. In which case, the best strategy would be in just cutting the latter down to size. A carnivore diet will naturally be far lower in Omega 6, but there will still be plenty of PUFA concentrations in non-ruminant animals fed grain

Ruminants, on the other hand, are able to take in toxins and seed oils, taking them into the rumin and converting the inflammatory mess into healthy saturated fats. It’s not perfect, and grass-fed ruminant meat will be marginally better, but the Omega 6 numbers will be much lower either way.

The Omissions

(Too Lean)

  • Venison
  • Game
  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Duck
  • Geese

(High Omega 6)

  • Pork (Standard)
  • Eggs (Standard)

As for the ones that made it, I will be putting them in order. So let’s start with the best of the primal ingredients.

1. Brisket

The 10 Best Foods On The Carnivore Diet

Fat to Protein Ratio – 1.1

This far and away my favourite food on the carnivore menu, and it’s not entirely biased. The cuts can vary, but it tends to be drenched in delicious intramuscular fat. Brisket comes from the breast tissue, and being an extremely active muscle, it also makes for a great collagen source.  If you’re not quite up to speed with collagen, think of it as the meat version of fiber. Some gets absorbed, some goes straight out the other end. Collagen is great for the skin, hair, and has significant anti-inflammatory properties. It’s a vital component of a well-formulated carnivore diet. 

And to cap it all off, it’s one of the cheapest cuts out there. Here’s a recipe in case you’re looking for ideas.

Alternatives – Any cut of red meat with 15% or more fat

Carnivore Brisket Air Fryer Recipe

Prime fat source
Prime protein source

2. Ribeye

The 10 Best Foods On The Carnivore Diet

Fat to Protein Ratio – 1.2

This cut comes from the rib, and is also loaded with soft intramuscular fat, making it easy on both the taste buds and the jaws. The cuts are often fattier than brisket, but the jump up in price makes me mark it one step lower.

Think of ribeye as the ultimate weekend treat.

Prime fat source
Prime protein source

3. Ground Beef

The 10 Best Foods On The Carnivore Diet

Fat to Protein Ratio – 1.1

This is the de facto king of the budget carnivore landscape. The full-fat options (20-25%) are typically going to be trimmings taken from inexpensive cuts like brisket, chuck, and shank. The grinding process allows the tough bits to be tenderised, meaning you get a decent amount of collagen along with the meat.

Occasionally, especially with ground beef you’d pick up at the meat market, you’d end up with a decent amount of head meat. That might make some people cringe, but personally I hold the head as the most nutritional part of the animal.

Either way, ground beef is extremely cheap. With a couple of asterisks that bumped it down the list. For one, the meat just isn’t as fresh. The process ends up exposing it to fresh air, as well as other potential contaminants, and that means a rise in histamine content. Many people coming into carnivore have problems with histamine intolerance, and ground beef can cause allergy-like reactions. 

One potential solution for this would be to add beef kidney to your regime. Kidney contains the enzyme Diamine oxidase (DAO), which helps break down excess histamine. Or you could wait a few months and see whether the body has adapted far enough to deal with ground beef.

The second issue here, is the amount of rendered fat, the type that runs off when heated. This can be too much for the gallbladder to contend with. It creates an artificial fat ceiling, where your fat intake is limited by the body’s ability to produce enough stomach acid to break it down. Whereas the true ceiling would be several levels higher. 

You could supplement with ox bile or Beta HCL before meals, but it might not be such a good idea in the long run. Adding in stomach acid exogenously can limit the body’s own supply chains. Once again, the safest strategy would be to wait it out and let the body adapt.

Ground Beef
Decent fat source
Prime protein source
Potential histamine issues
Potential bile issues

4. Beef Liver

The 10 Best Foods On The Carnivore Diet

This one comes up trumps as the most nutritious food on the planet, as long as we go by the following markers.

  • Large diversity of nutrients
  • High density of those nutrients
  • High bioavailability
  • Low inflammation

I can’t find any faults with this one. It’s evolutionarily compatible, seeing as how hunter gatherer tribes still prize the liver above all foods bar the brain. Liver is pretty easy to find, with most supermarkets having the beef or lamb versions in stock. It’s an acquired taste for some, but it’s not exactly tough on the palette. Being a common organ meat, liver is also extremely cheap, and you won’t need hefty portions to get the benefits. 

A few ounces a week is already putting you in good stead by supplying critical vitamins and nutrients. And at a few ounces a day, well, you’re an unstoppable juggernaut of healthy vibes.

You’re not picking this one for its fat source, which is just as well, because it’s pretty lean. Think of liver as your ultimate multivitamin pack.

Liver Pâté Recipe

Prime protein source
The best multivitamin
No need for large portions

5. Beef Heart

The 10 Best Foods On The Carnivore Diet

Next up in the organ meat category, is the one that’s easiest on the taste buds. The heart is made predominantly of muscular tissue, so it won’t be much different to a cut of steak. It’s also not that far behind liver in the scope of nutritional density, and contains Coenzyme Q10, a compound that’s critical for healthy mitochondrial function.

Just treat it like a steak. Cut the heart into strips, blast it on the frying pan, and it’s going to come out delicious.

Crispy Heart Recipe

Prime protein source
Decent fat source
Great multivitamin package
Coenzyme Q10

6. Beef Suet

The 10 Best Foods On The Carnivore Diet

Even choosing the fattiest cuts of meat might not be enough for some, especially when trying to get a ketosis party going. Excessive protein can trickle into blood sugar and upset the effects of ketones.

To be on the safe side when taking on carnivore, it’s well worth keeping suet in stock. It’s taken from the kidneys, and its crumbly texture lends itself brilliantly to both frying and a solo ingredient. You could literally crisp it up and serve it as a snack.

Suet isn’t going to be as dense in nutrients as muscle meat and organs, but it’s still a great source for the fat soluble vitamins: A, D, E, and K. If you’re struggling to find suet, beef tallow and butter work just as well. Assuming you don’t have a high-pitched dairy intolerance.

Prime fat source
Can be hard to find

7. Salmon

The 10 Best Foods On The Carnivore Diet

Fat to Protein Ratio – 0.6

For those not eating grass-fed meat, Omega 3 might be an issue. It’s an essential nutrient that can’t be synthesised by the body, and you’ll need a small amount to balance out any Omega 6 in the diet (which is minimal). This is easily fixed by including a few portions of oily fish each week, and salmon makes a great candidate. 

You might want to hunt out the wild-caught variety, as the farm-raised versions contain persistent organic pollutants. POP in salmon has been shown to increase risk of diabetes. And whichever route you pick, there’s the potential for pick up contaminants and metals. The water is pretty gnarly these days.

Prime Omega 3 source
Prime protein source
Potential contaminants

8. Lamb Chops

The 10 Best Foods On The Carnivore Diet

Fat to Protein Ratio – 0.9

There’s nothing really separating lamb from joining beef at the top of the ladder, besides an increase in price. They are both ruminants, and come with the perks of having crafty digestive systems. Lamb tends to have more Omega 3, tastes a little stronger, and is pretty level with beef for fat content.

Lamb Chops
Prime fat source
Prime protein source
Decent Omega 3 content

9. Organic Eggs

The 10 Best Foods On The Carnivore Diet

Fat to Protein Ratio – 0.8

If you stick to the hens allowed to scamper around and eat their normal diet, you’ll end up with some pretty good eggs. The yolks are darker, and lower in Omega 6. As for the labels, go for organic. Free range on the other hand, means next to nothing. A chicken could spend all its years in a dark shed with a little opening on the other side, and it would be classed as free range.

Eggs have a decent amount of calcium, as well as choline, the precursor to the focus-boosting neurotransmitter acetylcholine. They also stack up pretty well for the crucial B-vitamins. They are extremely nutrient dense, which makes sense given they contain the capacity for life.And you might as well try it without the whites. After several decades of the health press being firmly in favour of egg whites, it’s time to push back. Virtually all the nutrition happens to be nestled in the yolk, while the white contains biotin-depleting avidin. The latter also has albuminem, a compound that causes allergic reactions. Sift out the whites, and you deal with that problem, while also boosting the fat to protein ratio to 1.7.

Decent fat source
Decent protein source

10. Bone Broth

The 10 Best Foods On The Carnivore Diet

Regardless of the diet, bone broth is a staple. It contains piles of collagen and a huge array of minerals, including calcium, one that a dairy-deprived carnivore will lack in. 

The sensitive folk will have to watch out for the high histamine content, and personally I haven’t had a great time with my attempts at bone broth. It also takes a great deal more work in the kitchen that anything else on the list, so you have to either really enjoy the creamy taste, or be a sucker for quality electrolytes. I realise it’s just background work, but still.

Bone Broth
Decent fat source
Great mineral package
Takes half a day to prepare

Wrapping Up

The 10 Best Foods On The Carnivore Diet

There’s still plenty I’ve left out, including one of my personal favourites, goat’s butter. While I do love it to death, suet does the same thing, just a little better. And despite that, it’s always a stick of butter that ends up next to my steak. So feel free to forage for resources beyond the tight confines of this top 10 countdown.

For a deeper dive into the nutritional punch of organ meat, you can check out my guide.

Why You Need Organ Meats

And for my outline of the ultimate diet for fat loss and performance, head to my carnivore hybrid.

The Apex Diet

carnivore minicut diet

How To Minicut On Carnivore

That’s where you reach across to break the glass for Plan B. Minicuts are an underrated, efficient, risk-free way to shake things up when the bulk begins to stall. You’re dipping in and out of a deficit before the body has a chance to slow things down.