Are Humans Carnivores? Why We’re Made to Eat Red Meat
Are humans carnivores? Sorry, vegans. Yes, they are.
Similar to a high performance vehicle, we’re designed for specific fuel to run properly.
That fuel is red meat. That’s why the carnivore diet is effective.
And this is important because the closer our diet is to what we’re evolutionary adapted for, the healthier we’ll be.
Because hunter gatherers were not brainwashed by the disastrous USDA recommendations, they ate what they were supposed to: red meat.
They were remarkably healthy as a result.
Studies of the remaining hunter gatherer societies in the 1900s “showed them to be generally free of the signs and symptoms of cardiovascular disease (CVD), and other so-called diseases of human civilization.” [*]
I’m here to tell you that humans are carnivores and eating more meat will improve our health.
Table of Contents
What Is A Carnivore?
First off, what is a carnivore? There are three types:
Hyper Carnivore: Animal that obtains greater than 70% of calories from animal foods
Obligate Carnivore: Animal that needs essential nutrients from animal foods for survival
Facultative Carnivores: Animal that prioritized animal foods but can eat vegetables for survival. (Brilliantly defined by Amber O’Hearn in her new book).
Humans are facultative carnivores.
Without consistent access to animal source foods, we would not have evolved into the dominant, blog reading, twitter trolling and highly social primates that we are today [*]. And now we require those nutrients.
The funny thing is that without eating animal source foods, we never even would have developed the capacity to question our diets and disparage meat in the first place.
It’s only because Ancel Keys ancestors ate and survived off of tremendous amounts of meat, that he was able to later sabotage meat.
Enough for my rant….
Here’s why humans are carnivores.
Herbivore Ancestors & The High Fat Diet
Many people mistakenly believe that we’re herbivores too because we evolved from these creatures.
In 1997, a number of researchers studied the diets of gorillas to better understand our dietary needs [*].
Gorillas, a herbivore species, consume a macronutrient profile that, at face value, looks like it largely consists of protein and carbohydrates.
But when you account for the fiber digestion, it presents a completely different picture.
Out of every 100g of plant matter gorillas consume, about 74g is fiber.
Gorillas have large cecums and colons, which house bacteria that ferments the fiber into short chain fatty acids.
When you account for this fermentation process, it turn out gorillas actually get 60-70% of their energy from fat.
Cows and other grazing animals all have a digestive system that utilizes a similar method.
According to Dr. Barry Groves cattle, sheep, goats, polar bears and lions, actually all get the bulk of their energy from fat, despite their dietary intake differences [*].
The bacteria residing in these animals gut microbiome may be eating a high carbohydrate diet. But the animal is getting its energy from the fat that the bacteria produces from fiber.
Are Humans Carnivores? How Humans Are Different
The distinguishing factor between humans and our primate ancestors is our brain size.
Not all of us were blessed with this adaptation…LOL.
Between 6 million and 2.5 million years ago, our brain size was fairly consistent. Since then, it has quadrupled in size. [*]
According to Viljammur Stefansson in The Fat of the Land, the forest lands turned into dry prairies around 2 million years ago from climate change.
The pre hominid diet of fruits and seeds would no longer suffice. The cooler grasslands made plant foods more difficult to procure because of their seasonality [*]
Some pre hominids just turned to lower quality plant foods. To be fair, this was the easier approach and none of us are immune to this laziness. We’ve all scavenged the fridge for low quality foods when we’re too lazy to shop for groceries.
But fossil evidence shows that by 1.2 million years ago, these ancestors of ours died out [*].
Other, let’s call it, more entrepreneurial hominids found new ways to survive and obtain sufficient energy.
These more enterprising humans started to hunt and scavenge for higher energy animal products.
“Increasing the consumption of animal foods could have allowed hominins to increase their body size without losing mobility, agility, or sociality” [*]
Their brains started to grow. In this period from ~1 million to 500,000 years ago is when a substantial part of our brain’s growth occurred [*].
But our brains are extraordinarily energy-intensive. They’re only 2% of our bodyweight, but they use up 20% of our resting energy.
According to anthropologists Leslie C. Aiello and Peter Wheeler, to provide enough energy to grow our brain, we had to give up something else. [*]
We traded in our colon size and our ability to ferment fiber into fat to increase our brain size. This gave our brains the necessary energy to grow.
“In this regard, hominids, like felines, have experienced a reduction in gut size and metabolic activity along with a concurrent expansion of brain size and metabolic activity as they included more and more energy-dense animal food into their diets [*]
Our digestive system also adapted and is more similar to a wolf than it is to our herbivore ancestors.
We’re no longer adapted to digest substantial amounts of fibrous vegetables and starchy carbohydrates. This is a big reason why so many people have leaky gut and the related health issues.
Humans Needed Animal Foods for Energy
We needed more energy to fuel our increasingly large brains.
We could no longer get that energy from fiber because we couldn’t ferment it into fat. Our smaller colon prevented us from doing so.
During our evolutionary journey into the sapiens we are today, there were some plants growing here and there. But most were extremely fibrous and we couldn’t convert the fiber into fat for energy.
To make matters worse, there were around 500,000 years of ice age where plants did not consistently grow and we hadn’t yet invented fire [*].
We needed a consistent source of energy, which plant food couldn’t have provided without fire and a large colon.
The most available source of energy were gigantic animals – megafauna – that lived at the time. These animals’ fat fulfilled our energy needs without carbohydrates, fibrous vegetables and overpriced smoothes at our disposal.
Productivity hacks aren’t just a modern phenomenon. Hunter gatherers tended to eat more of the foods that provided a higher return of calories vs the time required to obtain the food.
The table below shows the energy yield of different foods available. As you can see, the top 8 are all animals [*].
Shockingly, they were able to accomplish this all without adderall. They were instinctively attracted to higher energy foods.
Pine nuts, for example, provided less energy than a rabbit and frequently took longer to obtain. It was a total waste of time to spend the day searching for them.
Without the energy and nutrients from these fatty, gigantic animals, our brains would never have been able to grow 4x in size.
Humans Needed Animal Foods for Brain Growth
The brain is an energy and nutrient hungry organ. Without the nutrients provided by animal foods, our brain growth and intelligence could have never come to fruition.
With regards to the critical nutrients for your brain, animal source foods are the best and most bioavailable source for almost every single one.
As you can see below, Spinach, one of the vegetables thought to be most nutritious (thanks Popeye), is woefully deficient in most of the required nutrients for your brain.
A study found that 47% of Vegan’s in Switzerland were deficient in Zinc, while only 10% of Omnivores were [*]
According to Katharine Milton [*]:
“Without routine access to ASF, it is highly unlikely that evolving humans could have achieved their unusually large and complex brain while simultaneously continuing their evolutionary trajectory as large, active and highly social primates”
Below are some of the main nutrients that are essential to brain health, that only animal source foods provide in sufficient quantities.
DHA is one of the most critical for the brain. ⅔ of the brain is fat and 20% of that fat is DHA. Without it, the frontal cortex could not function and intelligence would likely be impossible [*].
DHA also is indispensable for all of the following functions [*]:
- Blood barrier brain integrity
- Mitochondrial membranes
- Neural connectivity
- Cortical development
The problem is plant foods contain absolutely no DHA [*]. They only contain ALA which is extremely difficult to transform to the DHA the brain needs.
No surprise, but Vegans and Vegetarians have lower DHA levels.
And I don’t think that our hunter gatherer ancestors were going to the nearby Whole Foods to pop an omega 3 pill.
Even calorically dense plant foods that we may have eaten do not contain the fatty acids necessary to propel our brain growth forward [*].
“The only plant foods with sufficient caloric density to increase the DQ….would have been oily seeds or nuts. However, as shown in table 2, these plant foods contain no discernable amounts of either AA or DHA.”
Brain AA and DHA percentage makeup is fairly constant across mammals. But the brain cannot synthesize sufficient DHA endogenously. To grow, it needs a supply of exogenous DHA.
Without an animal source food to provide preformed DHA and AA, our brains wouldn’t have been able to grow.
In addition to fatty acids, the brain also needs vitamins and minerals to extract energy from ketones and glucose. Some of the most critical for brain functionality are the following:
One of, if not the most important vitamins. Regulates 500+ genes and stem cell differentiation.
Abundant in beef liver and eggs in the preformed version that the body can use: retinol.
Retinol is at least 21x more bioavailable than the plant Vitamin A carotenoids [*].
B vitamins are probably the most important vitamins for the brain. And most people are deficient today.
B vitamins play an indispensable role converting fuel to energy. They also help create red blood cells that transport oxygen to the brain. Lastly, they affect mood by alteing neurotransmitter function [*]
B vitamin deficiencies have been linked to depression [*].
For sufficient B vitamin intake, on a carnivore diet you should include beef liver.
Regulates calcium in the bone and the brain [*]
One study suggests that low vitamin K leads to some of the damage from Alzheimer’s [*]
Another study assessed the vitamin K levels of early stage Alzheimer’s. They found that the patients had much less vitamin K intake than the control group [*].
Vitamin K2 also can help prevent heart disease by directing calcium to bones instead of depositing them in the arteries.
Choline helps produce key neurotansmitters that aid in focus and learning.
Choline also helps maintain the structure of cell membranes, which is responsible for memory and mental clairty.
Choline deficiencies can hurt concentration, memory and lead to cognitive impairment.
Our bodies can make a small amount of choline, but we must obtain the rest from food. Beef liver is the best source.
Helps cells generate energy, plays a crucial role in oxygen circulation throughout your body, and helps your immune system destroy harmful pathogens like bacteria and viruses. Beef liver is one of the best sources of iron in the world.
Acts as a key to activate a number of enzymes which go on to regulate energy production, brain function, and iron metabolism[*].
Converts B6 to active form, aids in serotonin synthesis and dopamine transport. Animal products are the foods highest in zinc. Beef liver, nature’s multivitamin, is a great source.
Iodine is required for the synthesis of thyroid hormones. These hormones are critical for brain growth and development [*]. Fish, salmon roe and eggs are good dietary sources of iodine.
Humans are Made to Eat Meat
We evolved to require animal source foods.
Our bodies adapted to meat consumption, and we quickly became spoiled. Humans co-evolved eating meat and now are adapted to consume them.
Like a high performance car, our digestive systems and brains need meat as fuel.
Cows eat grass. Tigers eat meat. And humans are carnivores.
Humans, like cows and tigers, cannot be nourished by any sort of food they put into their mouth.
Humans can only fully digest and optimally function on animal products. We are carnivores.
There is no such thing as an essential plant food or essential carbohydrate. Just essential nutrients. And they’re all in animal source foods.
There Are No Essential Foods. Just Essential Nutrients
Our bodies cannot manufacture everything we require to function. We must get certain nutrients from food.
There are three macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates, and fat. And there are four classes of micronutrients that are essential. [*]
- Vitamins such as A, B, C, E, K
- Minerals such as Magnesium, Calcium, Phosphorous, Potassium, Sodium, Iodine
- Fatty Acids (Omega 3 and Omega 6)
- Amino Acids such as Isoleucine, leucine, etc.
So when we’re looking for healthy food, what we should be concerned with is nutrient density, energy supply, and any adverse side effects.
But we’ve been so thoroughly brainwashed by Ancel Keys and the USDA that everybody knows meat is unhealthy, especially compared to something like kale.
It turns out that red meat, one of the most feared foods, is the most bioavailable source of nutrients.
It contains all of the protein, nutrients and fat we need to function – in just the right proportions. Also, many of the nutrients in meat are easier to absorb than their counterparts in vegetables.
This isn’t a coincidence. It’s because humans are carnivores.
After spending millions of years adapting to animal consumption, our bodies now require it.
Animal products are the only sources where we can get all our macro and micronutrient needs. Vitamins A, B12, D and K2 — nutrients that we cannot function without — are not prevalent in sufficient amounts in plant foods.
Modern grains, on the other hand, don’t have enough of these nutrients. You’d have to eat 27,000 calories on a traditional diet to get nutritional requirements. [*]
That’s a lot of Pringles.
This is a big reason why the carnivore diet works so well. You’re finally feeding your body the nutrients it requires.
Other Evidence Humans Are Carnivores
Humans large brain is key to our success. Psouni et al showed that diet is a key factor influencing time to weaning [*].
Early weaning is one of the main differentiating factors of the genus Homo from the great apes.
According to Psouni:
“Hence, carnivory appears to provide both a necessary and sufficient explanation as to why humans wean so much earlier than the great apes. [*]”
Early humans’ carnivorous diet changed our weaning behavior and the ultimate course of evolution
Fat Cell Size
Pond and Mattacks studied fat cell size and structure in 200 mammals. Carnivores had more smaller fat cells. Omnivores had fewer large fat cells.
Humans fat cells exhibited the carnivorous pattern. Pond and Mattacks concluded that;
“These figures suggest that the energy metabolism of humans is adapted to a diet in which lipids and proteins rather than carbohydrates, make a major contribution to the energy supply.” [*]
Stomach acidity protects against pathogens. Thus a higher acidity often indicates a diet high in bacteria.
The lower the pH, the higher the acidity. Carnivores stomachs are more acidic than omnivores at 2.2, but less acidic than scavengers who have a pH of 1.3 [*].
Humans have a stomach pH of 1.5, which indicates that our diets were likely high in scavenged food. We ate the food over several days and our high stomach acidity protected us against the rotting food.
Shoulder Suited to Throwing vs Climbing
Humans are the only primate that regularly can throw with speed and accuracy. Darwin pointed out that this enabled humans to hunt with spears effectively.
Around 2 million years ago, humans adapted to elastically store energy in our shoulders and throw at high speeds. The chimpanzee’s shoulder on the other hand, is more adapted to climbing trees.
Not all of us our Nolan Ryan, but humans are unique in this ability. Coupled with the evidence around increased hunting that began 2 million years ago, the selection for throwing likely had a profound effect on evolution [*]
Examples of Carnivore Societies
Most Americans believe that to be healthy you need a balanced and varied diet, composed of foods from the vegetable, animal and carbohydrate kingdom (lOL). They believe that more fruits and vegetables are desirable and that too much meat will clog your arteries and kill you.
These tribes all call this notion into question.
Because they ate what they were supposed to they were remarkably healthy.
Studies of the remaining hunter gatherer societies in the 1900s “ showed them to be generally free of the signs and symptoms of cardiovascular disease (CVD), and other so-called diseases of human civilization.” [*]
In 1908, Viljamurr Stefansson decided to leave to go live with Eskimos for 11 years. He must have had a really bad argument with his wife.
He left with the food tastes and beliefs of Americans: you need a varied diet to survive and cannot survive based on meat alone. Despite all this, he resigned from his job and left to live with the eskimos.
Stefansson spent over 5 years living with the eskimos on exclusively meat and water.
According to Stefansson their diet consisted of 50% caribou, 30% fish, 10% seal and 10% polar bear, rabbits, birds and eggs. This wasn’t the proportion throughout the year, however. There was large variability.
“This might lead one to visualize meals where there would be a fish course followed by a meat course, and where we would breakfast at least occasionally on eggs. Such is most unlikely to be the rase, with primitive peoples. If 50 per cent of the year’s food is caribou meat, the primitive likely eats practically nothing, but caribou during approximately half the year, seldom tasting this meat the rest of the twelve months.
Vegetables were eaten, but only on three occasions:
- Because people liked some, like berries.
- The moss was sometimes used as a base for oil
Eskimos were in great shape.
From Viljamur Stefansson:
“…Eskimos, when still on their native meats, are never corpulent – at least I have seen none.”
In the 1950s, researchers examined the health of the Point Hope Eskimos. Data suggests that the Inuit Eskimos had 1/15th to 1/18th the rate of death from ischaemic heart disease compared with the USA at the time [*]
Yet, like the Masai, there is no racial immunity. On the Western Diet they bulk up faster than a Freshman at college.
The Sioux, Mandans, Comanche tribes enjoyed diets that mostly consisted of buffalo meat.
In the 1830s, a traveler and artist George Caitlin traveled to the American West to observe native americans in their natural state.
Regarding the Mandan’s diet, he observed:
“There are, from a fair computation, something like 250,000 Indians in these western regions, who live almost exclusively on the flesh of these animals [Buffalo], through every part of the year.” [*]
According to S.C. Gwynne in Empire of the Summer Moon, the Buffalo was the Comanche favorite food [*]
“They ate steaks cooked over open fires or boiled in copper kettles. They cut the meat thin, dried it, and stored it for the winter and took it on long trips. They ate the kidneys and the paunch. Children would rush up to a freshly killed animal, begging for its liver and gallbladder. They would then squirt the salty bile from the gallbladder onto the liver and eat it on the spot, warm and dripping blood”
The modern perception is that Native Americans were in poor health. But this perception comes from a time when they were on reservations, imposed by modern settlers.
In 2001, Richard Steckel and Joseph Prince did a comprehensive analysis of Native American health data and found that they were remarkably healthy.
Data from 1,123 indians and eight tribes including the Sioux and Comanche, showed that they were the tallest men on earth [*]
Height is a good proxy for health and according to Steckel and Prince these tribes had unmatched vitality.
“They developed a healthy lifestyle that the white Americans couldn’t match, even with all of their technological advantages”
Like with Dr. Price, the observers also noticed perfect teeth compared to ours [*]. And to think I spent 3 terrible years as a metal mouth. I still have PTSD from the rubber bands…
George Catlin also noticed the same:
“The Osages may justly be said to be the tallest race of men in North America, either of red or white skins; there being very few indeed of the men, at their full growth, who are less than six feet in stature, and very many of them six and a half, and others seven feet. They are at the same time well-proportioned in their limbs, and good looking”
Africa was one of the last continents to be invaded by humans and modernity. Thus there are still many tribes following primitive traditions.
As a result, it’s a great way to study their impact. It’s the holy grail. People who have never read TIme magazine, heard of Fortnite, or been brainwashed by Ancel Keys dietary gospel.
It’s a last refuge for the traditional way of life.
Weston Price traveled to East Africa in 1935 and surveyed six different tribes. According to Price, the Masai and other tribes were constantly exposed to disease: dysentry, typush fever, lice and malaria. But they had a peculiar immunity
“In several districts we were told that practically every living native had had typhus fever and was immune, though the lice from their bodies could transmit the disease.”
However, it was not genetic. When exposed to the Western Diet, they were susceptible to our modern degenerative processes. They couldnt help root very hard for football teams and chug pints of beer….
Teeth were of particular interest to Price. In all six tribes he studied, he could not find one instance of irregular teeth.
However, according to Price, “In the next generation following the adoption of the European dietaries dental arch deformities frequently developed.”
The Masai tibe was of particular interest. They were very tall and strong.
For most of the year, their diet exclusively consisted of milk, blood and meat.
The Masai health was also outstanding. A field study led by Dr. George Mann in 1964 of 400 Masai showed little or no clinical evidence of heart disease [*]
Despite a diet high in “artery clogging poison”, the Masai had low levels of serum cholesterol and were in great health.
According to one paper, they consumed 600mg – 2000mg of cholesterol a day — Over 2x the AHA recommendations [*]
In spite of this, their health was much better than ours.
The Mongolian steppe has one of the most extreme climates in the world. It’s not favorable to agriculture whatsoever.
Temperatures can swing from as low as -40 C to 40 C in the summers. The only consistently available source of energy was meat
According to Jack Weatherford, author of Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World, Mongols had two food groups
“Ulaan Idee were red foods (like meat), mainly eaten in the winter and spring. Tsagaan Idee were white foods (like dairy products), mostly eaten in the summer and fall. Vegetables were considered a form of grass and called “goat food.” The Mongols were thoroughly disgusted that farmers ate plants that grew in the dirt and had often been fertilized with excrement.”
Similar to Tim Swanson, they left the vegetables to the animals.
Their chef’s would not impress Guy Fieri either. Generally the meat they ate was simply boiled and unseasoned.
The Mongols enjoyed copious amounts of Fat and ate nose to tail…literally
“The favourite part is the tail which is pure fat. In autumn, when the grass is of the poorest description, the sheep fatten wonderfully, and the fatter the better for Mongol taste. No part of the slaughtered animal is wasted, but everything is eaten up with the utmost relish.” [*]
Regarding bread, they noticed the same as Dr. Price, remarking that all it does is damage the teeth.
Cattle was sacred to the Mongols. They were killed with utmost respect — however paradoxical that may be — and were the Mongols main source of wealth. Their riches were counted by the number of livestock they had
The mongols were very healthy. They lived in one of the harshest climates in the world, yet were still able to conquer much of the world.
According to Jack Weatherford in Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World, the Mongols were much healthier than the Chinese warriors. They consumed a diet of heavy meats, while their enemies consumed ones of heavy grains.
This is a big reason why they were able to beat them so easily.
“The grain diet of the peasant warriors stunted their bones, rotted their teeth and left them weak and prone to disease. In contrast, the poorest mongol soldier ate mainly proein thereby giving him strong teeth and bones. Unlike the Jurched soldiers who were dependent on a heavy carbohydrate diet, the Mongols could more easily go a day or two without food”
The genetically and nutritionally rich Mongols were able to steamroll their weak, grain fed counterparts.
Unfortunately today we’re seeing a similar pattern to the aforementioned cultures. Grains and vegetable oils have been introduced to Mongolia, and health has been demolished.
Human beings are carnivores. We’ve adapted to require the nutrients meats require and survive off of meat alone.
The only reason we eat other food groups are because we’ve been brainwashed by money hungry nutritional agencies, or because we like the taste. We need animals to survive. We don’t need any other foods to.
Because of our millions of years of adapting to meat products, meat is the healthiest thing you can eat. Our health pales in comparison to carnivore tribes like the Masai.
The Mongol’s were a dominant force because they ate meat and their enemies did not.
Let’s adopt their mentality, eat what we’re made to, and dominate our opponents and life.
If you’re interested in the carnivore diet, join my Facebook group Carnivore Nation and sign up for my weekly newsletter for FREE access to the 30 Day Guide to Mastering the Carnivore Diet below. I also tweet daily, where I share nutritional science and debunk the dietary dogma