Can You Eat Pork On The Carnivore Diet?

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You might be scratching your head trying to figure out where pork fits on a carnivore diet. It’s not quite beef, and it has been maligned for being a ‘bad fat’ going back at least a century. 

In 1906, thanks to Upton Sinclair’s expose on the meatpacking industry, lard became a derogatory term. Since then, it’s been taking beating after beating, and it hasn’t really recovered its position as a staple of the western cuisine.

The History Of Why Humans Hate Pork

Now carnivore advocates have generally seen through the empty smoke of ‘good plant fats’ and ‘bad animal fats’. But many of them still reject pork for being high in the polyunsaturated Omega 6, which can be obesogenic and prone to oxidation.

A healthy carnivore diet, in that frame, would be made up of red meat, organ meats, along with the odd helping of pastured eggs and raw honey. Bacon would be kept to the bare minimum.

I’m going to make the case that such people are majoring in the minors, and are getting too myopic abouts what’s ‘optimal’.

There’s no need to lose sleep over pork’s standing in the carnivore diet. Especially if you’re already bending the ancestral rules to fit in 365 days of honey consumption.

This guide is going to cover…

The potential downsides of excess pork consumption

The benefits of pork

Monogastric Vs Ruminant Meat

pig vs cow digestion

There is an endless conveyor belt for bad pork press. Much of that is due to the fact that pork is technically red meat due to its high myoglobin content. As such, it shares the same mythical dangers as red meat.

Red Meat Risks

  • Can lead to bowel cancer
  • Clogs your arteries
  • High in protein, which can wreck your kidneys and is another route to cancer

Unfortunately, none of these claims hold water due to being based on spurious correlations in population studies. I’ve beaten them to death at this point. So we can go ahead and rule them out, leaving us free to discuss the real issue of pork, the one that sets it apart from the other red meats.

Pigs are monogastric animals, meaning they have just the one stomach to process food. Ruminants, such as cattle and sheep, have four. The foremost of those chambers, the rumen, is particularly good at breaking down foods via technologically advanced gut bugs. 

Why Ruminants Are The Pick Of The Food Chain

This gives ruminants the capacity to digest and convert compounds that monogastric animals cannot. One such one being cellulose, which is the most abundant compound in the plant kingdom. That’s why cows can be raised on grass alone, whereas pigs will still need a healthy dosing of grain to supplement a pasture lifestyle. 

Through this sophisticated digestive system, ruminants extract and store more nutrients than monogastric animals like pigs and chicken. That’s a huge advantage that means that ruminants are both more environmentally friendly to raise, and produce more nutrient dense meat.

But the real bone that people have with pork isn’t the lack of micronutrients. It’s the issue of feeding grains to a monogastric animal. With grains, come seed oils. Since monogastric animals do not possess the ability to convert seed oil into animal fat, those seed oils are stored in their natural form, polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs).

The Obesogenic Nature Of Linoleic Acid

linoleic acid obesity

These PUFAs will be unstable, prone to oxidation, and high in inflammatory linoleic acid, which has its own set of problems. Linoleic acid, also known as Omega 6, emits evolutionary signals telling the fat cells to grow. It’s effectively the opposite signal to stearic acid, a major component of saturated fat that encourages further lipolysis.

At the same time, linoleic acid also increases hunger by jacking up levels of 2AG, which activates the endocannabinoid receptor CB1, stimulating appetite and lipogenesis. It’s the same mechanism by which weed gives you the munchies. 

In evolutionary context, the unfortunate mechanism of linoleic acid makes perfect sense. Before we figured out how to use intense pressure and heat to extract seed oils from the likes of soy and corn, linoleic acid would have been mainly found in nuts and seeds. Foods that would have only been available over a few weeks leading up to winter. 

By priming the body to store fat quickly, these foods enabled our ancestors to survive the nutrient-scarce months that followed.

Since that linoleic acid infusion would have only lasted a few weeks, it wouldn’t have led to many fat cavemen tottering through the paleolithic landscape. However, the modern epidemic of seed oils has created a troubling situation, where linoleic acid consumption has risen from 1-4% of the diet, to as high as 20%. 

Technically, it’s an essential nutrient, meaning the body can’t produce it on its own. But we’re talking a tiny dose, and modern diets are well in excess of that. This could be playing a major role in priming people for a lifetime of battling obesity.

So that’s certainly an issue with pigs on grain. Give a cow that same grain-rich feed, and it’ll be able to successfully convert much of that to saturated fats, which are much more stable due to the lack of double bonds in their carbon structure. 

There’ll still be more PUFAs in its meat compared to a cow raised exclusively on grass, but that difference is only ever going to be marginal. That’s why grass-finished steak doesn’t compare that much favourably to grain-finished steak.

While pork does contain a good degree of PUFAs, it’ll still have less than poultry, with one study showing that 12% fat in a pork cut being made of linoleic acid, while poultry having nearly 20%.

Regardless, eating a diet high in pork can lead to you storing levels of linoleic acid well above what we might have found in our ancestral environment. This would be alleviated somewhat by sourcing pasture-raised pigs that are allowed to eat a more species-appropriate diet. In other words, pigs that aren’t factory-farmed and raised exclusively on grain feed. Which effectively rules out supermarket pork.

Wild boar, the ancestral forebearer of pigs, would certainly have produced much leaner meat. They might have still produced plenty of linoleic acid, especially after feasting on acorn season. But the overall amount would still have been significantly lower than pork. Given the obesogenic nature of Omega 6, it’s at least a case to not make pork the centrepiece of a carnivore diet. 

However, that doesn’t mean you should just shove it off the menu and stick with beef on beef. There are a couple of big asterisks to the linoleic acid mechanism. 

Omega 6 Content Of Seed Oils Vs Pork – For one, seed oils themselves are going to be a much bigger source of Omega 6, when compared to pork or poultry.

Sunflower oil, for example, has a linoleic acid content of 68%. Lard has 10%. Even olive oil, touted as a prime source of monounsaturated fats, often has more linoleic acid than lard. Considering seed oils are pervasive in processed foods and fast food, and that the carnivore diet dispenses with all of them, you can slash your linoleic acid right down without worrying about bacon’s place on the table.

omega 6 content of different oils

So by taking them out of the diet, you’re making the best play for limiting the Omega 6 fat-storing signals, and managing the Omega 6:3 ratio, which plays a role in governing inflammation. Which leads nicely to the next confounder.

Omega 6: 3 Ratio – Research has shown that the lipogenic function of Omega 6 can be attenuated by including more Omega 3 to balance them out. Omega 3 achieves that through reducing the phospholipid pool that acts as a precursor to 2AG, the endocannabinoid that stimulates appetite.

In other words, the lipogenic mechanism of Omega 6 can be alleviated by cutting out seed oils, and keeping some fatty fish in the diet. Grass-finished beef might offer up some extra Omega 3, but the amount will be marginal compared to what you can get in a few ounces of salmon or sardines.

Why Omega 6 In Pork Is Different To Seed Oils

bacon on carnivore

Along with the fat-storing signals of Omega 6, another reason people evade pork is the susceptibility of PUFAs to oxidation. Since they contain double bonds, the carbon structure is more likely to break off in reaction to stressors. 

I’ve written an article that’s gone deep into the problems with raised oxidative stress, but to keep things brief, excess oxidation damages the mitochondria, hastens ageing, and plays the foundation for chronic disease. You shouldn’t want the smoke.

Seed oils are basically seeds that have been put through intense heat until they are oxidised and extracted. This is why a bottle of seed oil is going to be rancid on arrival, no matter where you buy them from. 

Even cold-pressed oils are still going to succumb to light or oxygen exposure, at some point or another. And it’ll probably end up in the frying pan anyway, and the fancy labelling will count for nothing. When you’re ingesting seed oils, or anything cooked in seed oils, you’re subjecting the body to intense oxidative stress.

Why You Need To Ditch Seed Oils

Here’s the thing with pork. While pigs eat grains that are rich in PUFAs, at no point are those PUFAs exposed to light, oxygen, or heat. That’s because they need sophisticated equipment in order to be extracted, and pigs haven’t reached that level of technology yet. But they can eat them, digested them, and store them in the PUFA format. 

seed oil dangers

If those fats did somehow become rancid, you would know, because the meat would stink to high heaven. So the PUFAs you eat aren’t going to be oxidised.

They are still unstable, and you would still have to make sure that you’re not subjecting the body to pollutants that can wreak havoc from the inside, but that should be pretty easy to achieve when you’re on a carnivore diet and practising elements of an ancestral lifestyle. Seed oils and PUFAs in meat simply aren’t the same. One is far more insidious than the other.

Why Should You Try Pork

Now that I’ve hopefully dispensed with many of the fears around pork fat, let’s go into a few choice reasons for keeping it on the carnivore menu.

1. Pork is especially high in fat – A 100g cut of pork belly contains 30g fat. Considering that fat is the energy and flavour source of the carnivore diet, a few portions of pork belly would make an excellent addition for your plate.

2. Pork is flexible – There are plenty of cuts on offer, each with their own distinct textures and flavours. If you don’t like pork belly, you might still be a huge fan of bacon, or pork chops. You won’t lack for options, and it adds a ton of variety to the usual beef and butter matchup.

3. Pork is high in Thiamine and B6 – Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) plays an  important role in building and repairing nerves and muscles. Vitamin B6 is crucial for protein digestion, and the formation of Vitamin B3. Both are lower in beef.

carnivore refeed

In short, pork doesn’t deserve the aversion that meat-based elitists are bestowing on it. There’s no reason you can’t include it while getting optimal returns from the carnivore diet.

  • It contains linoleic acid which CAN increase appetite and fat storage
  • But seed oils contain far more linoleic acid
  • And the smaller amount that pork does bring, can be alleviated by adding Omega 3
  • Pork does not contain rancid PUFAs
  • So doesn’t bring the same issues as seed oils
  • Pork is a great source of fat, flavour, and is high in several key micronutrients that beef lacks
  • Such as Vitamin B1 and B6.

Try Out My Carnivore Chicken Wrapped In Bacon Recipe

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