Discover a realm where nutrient-dense meats reign supreme. Is beef the crown jewel of nutrient density, or do other carnivore diet staples hold the throne?
Delve into the carnivore diet micronutrients, unmasking the nutrient profiles of various meats. What can you feast on in a carnivore diet, and how do carnivore meals stack up in terms of nutrients?
Whether you’re a seasoned carnivore dieter or merely curious, our comprehensive guide unveils the essence of an animal-based diet food list, ensuring a hearty understanding of what carnivores eat to thrive. Your journey towards unearthing carnivore diet nutrients begins here.
- What Foods Can You Eat on the Carnivore Diet?
- What Foods Can You Not Eat on the Carnivore Diet?
- Benefits of the Carnivore Diet
- What Is Nutrient Density, and How Should We Calculate It?
- Why Is Nutrient Density Important?
- How Do You Get All the Nutrients You Need on Carnivore Diet?
- Methodology for Calculating Nutrient Per Serving
- The Most Nutrient-Dense Carnivore Diet Foods
- Eggs and Dairy
- All Foods
- What Nutrients Are Easy to Get on a Carnivore Diet?
- What Nutrients Are Harder to Get on a Carnivore Diet?
- Which Nutrients Can You Overdo on a Carnivore Diet?
- Should You Target Protein or Fat on a Carnivore Diet?
Many people wonder if you can get all the nutrients you need on a carnivorous diet with only animal products.
But you might be surprised. A well-thought-out carnivore diet can be highly nutritious. While some non-starchy vegetables may contain more nutrients per calorie, we can’t and don’t eat very much of these foods.
As you will see, when we consider the typical serving sizes people consume, animal-based foods come out on top.
In this article, we will take a deeper look at the nutrient profile of a carnivore diet and share some of our nutrient-dense, carnivore-friendly food lists to fit your goals and preferences so you can give your body everything it needs.
If you’re curious about what foods you can eat on the carnivore diet, what to avoid, the benefits it offers, and how to ensure you’re getting all the necessary nutrients, this comprehensive guide has got you covered.
Whether you’re following a strict carnivore diet or considering incorporating more animal-based foods into your diet, this article will equip you with the knowledge you need to make informed dietary choices and ensure you’re meeting your nutritional needs. So, let’s dive in and explore the fascinating world of carnivore nutrition!
What Foods Can You Eat on the Carnivore Diet?
The specific foods allowed on a carnivore diet depend on who you follow.
- For some carnivore proponents like Mikhaila Petersen and Dr Shawn Baker, a carnivore diet is only muscle meat from beef and eggs.
- Other carnivore experts like Dr Paul Saladino emphasise a nose-to-tail diet that emphasises organ meats (although Paul recently added honey and fruit to his list of approved foods to support his high energy output).
- Meanwhile, others have a broader definition and include dairy and seafood.
- Some allow coffee, spices and herbs.
Animal foods come in many shapes and sizes. However, the most popular choice for the carnivore diet is beef steak.
But there is a range of other foods that you can eat on the carnivore diet! To give you the broadest range of options to support your goals and preferences, this article includes lists of the most nutrient-dense:
- offal (organ) meats,
- seafood, and
What Foods Can You Not Eat on the Carnivore Diet?
The exact definition of a carnivorous diet varies depending on who you follow. But at its core, a carnivorous diet excludes grains, fruits, and vegetables.
Foods that are excluded on a carnivore diet include:
- Vegetables – beets, carrots, potatoes, squash, pumpkin, eggplant, peppers, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, chard, spinach, arugula (rocket), radishes, onions, garlic, tomatoes, cucumbers, cassava, yuca and sweet potatoes;
- Fruits – oranges, apples, bananas, grapefruit, lime, lemon, blueberries, strawberries, currants, raspberries, Aronia, pears, figs, watermelon, rock melon, honeydew, pomegranate, olives, avocado, and mango;
- Nuts and seeds – hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, coconut, macadamias, almonds, walnuts, pecans, pistachios, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, sesame seeds, and flax seeds;
- Beans and legumes – soy, black beans, navy beans, kidney beans, peanuts, cashews, and lentils;
- Grains – wheat, sorghum, millet, corn, rice, brown rice, wild rice, oats, barley, and rye;
- Oils – coconut oil, sesame oil, olive oil, nut oils, vegetable oils, and seed oils; and
- Herbs and spices – oregano, rosemary, thyme, parsley, cumin, pepper, paprika, cardamom, coriander, bay leaves, cinnamon, nutmeg, and basil.
Essentially, anything not directly from an animal is off-limits for people who subscribe to a carnivorous diet.
Benefits of the Carnivore Diet
Carnivore has many benefits. For starters, it is almost inevitable that you will get adequate bioavailable protein on a carnivore diet (unless you’re explicitly targeting high fat).
Hitting your protein goal often means that you will also hit your targets for the ‘cluster’ of nutrients that tend to accompany high-protein foods. Increasing your intake of the amino acids and the nutrients that come with them will increase your satiety and allow you to eat less while still feeling full.
A carnivorous diet also excludes sugars, refined grains and industrial seed oils, which are the primary components of hyperpalatable ultra-processed food.
Compounds in plant foods often contribute to or spur many intolerances. So, if you are dealing with histamine intolerance or sensitivities to different foods, the carnivore diet is considered the ‘ultimate elimination diet’ because it removes all plant foods.
What Is Nutrient Density, and How Should We Calculate It?
Before we get started on the most nutritious foods for carnivores, let’s look at:
- what nutrient density is, and
- how it’s measured.
Nutrient density is the amount of all the essential nutrients in a certain amount of food or meal.
We usually calculate nutrient density in terms of nutrients per calorie. However, simply thinking in terms of nutrients per calorie tends to yield the highest scores for non-starchy vegetables like spinach, asparagus and broccoli because they contain a range of nutrients with very few calories.
However, the problem with nutrients per calorie is that foods with a higher nutrient density per calorie tend to be hard to eat much of. So, we can’t get a lot of nutrients from them if we can’t much of them.
There’s no point eating spinach and broccoli if you’re getting the rest of your calories from doughnuts and Doritos because you’re so hungry because you only got 50 calories from the greens! Ideally, you want the foods that provide your energy also to provide plenty of the nutrients you need.
Hence, it’s more helpful to think about nutrients per serving. The foundation of your diet that provides most of the calories should also contain plenty of nutrients.
As you will see, the denominator makes a significant difference (i.e., per serving vs per calorie) to a food’s Diet Quality Score. So, if we build our diet around these nutritious foods, we get an excellent outcome.
Why Is Nutrient Density Important?
Your body needs enough essential nutrients to execute all the functions it needs to keep you alive and thriving. Additionally, our analysis has shown that we tend to eat less when we obtain more of each essential nutrient per calorie.
Our analysis has shown that the most critical nutrient is protein, which the carnivore diet provides plenty of. Because plant-based foods contain fibre and other compounds, their protein isn’t as bioavailable to humans. Additionally, few plant foods include the full spectrum of amino acids essential to life, and they often aren’t in as balanced quantities as animal foods.
As shown in the chart below from our satiety analysis, people consuming a higher protein % diet tend to eat less. This is likely why so many people on a carnivore diet can lose weight effortlessly without tracking their calories.
While the average population’s protein intake is only 15% of total calories, 75% of the calories from sirloin steak come from protein. This gives a massive satiety boost without having to count calories.
How Do You Get All the Nutrients You Need on Carnivore Diet?
Because we can eat many nutrient-dense foods on a carnivore diet, we tend to get most of our essential nutrients. However, some ‘harder-to-find’ vitamins and minerals can be less abundant in animal-based foods.
As shown in the snip from Cronometer below, 1250 g of sirloin steak provides 2000 calories, heaps of amino acids, vitamins B3, B6, B12, iron, phosphorus, potassium, selenium and zinc. However, nutrients like folate, vitamin C and K1, calcium and copper tend to be less prevalent.
Later in this article, we’ll look at some of these nutrients and where to find them so you can incorporate small amounts of foods containing them to ensure you get a complete nutrient profile.
Methodology for Calculating Nutrient Per Serving
Over the past four years, we’ve collected 578,327 individual food entries from Nutrient Optimiser users. This has allowed us to identify the most critical nutrients for feeling full on fewer calories. It has also enabled us to determine a typical ‘real world’ serving size and calculate the nutrient density per serving.
We can’t eat vast quantities of the foods like spinach and asparagus that contain more nutrients per calorie. However, meat and seafood tend to come out on top when we look at foods with the most nutrients per real-world serving.
The Most Nutrient-Dense Carnivore Diet Foods
To illustrate, the chart below shows the nutrient density per serving vs nutrient density per calorie for meat and offal (i.e., organ meats). To see this chart in more detail, click here to view the interactive Tableau version.
- Foods towards the top of this chart should form the base of your diet to give you plenty of nutrients while providing adequate energy.
- Foods towards the right top of the chart, like liver and kidney, will give you more nutrients per calorie. These are great if you want to eat less to lose weight and get plenty of nutrients.
- The colour coding is based on our Satiety Index Score. Foods in green are harder to overeat, while the ones in red are less satiating.
Carnivore Diet Food List: Meat-Based Animal Foods
The table below shows popular animal-based foods ranked by nutrient density per serving. For completeness, the table also shows:
- nutrient density per calorie,
- Satiety Index Score, and
- protein %.
Lamb tops the list for the most nutrient-dense food per serving, but the ever-popular beef steak comes in second.
|Food||Nutrient Density (Per Serving)||Nutrient Density (Per Calorie)||Satiety (%)||Protein %|
|Chicken Leg (with Skin)||68%||59%||78%||52%|
|Ground Beef (90% lean)||68%||57%||78%||49%|
|Ground Beef (75% Lean)||67%||51%||67%||38%|
|Pork Chops (Loin)||65%||55%||75%||43%|
|Ground beef (93% Lean)||65%||57%||77%||56%|
|Beef Steak (Ribeye)||64%||58%||77%||60%|
|Ground Beef (97% Lean)||63%||62%||78%||69%|
Carnivore Diet Food List: Offal
The Cronometer snip below shows the nutrients in 2000 calories of beef liver. Liver contains heaps of vitamin A, folate and selenium, which is less prevalent in muscle meat. But you only need 30 g of liver a day to exceed the Optimal Nutrient Intakes for vitamins B12, A and copper. Organ meats can be seen as a supplement to the foundation of your meat-based diet to fill in some of the nutrient gaps.
The table below shows the scores for organ meats, which some ‘nose-to-tail’ carnivores like to include. Organ meats tend to have a higher nutrient density per calorie, so you won’t need to eat as much to get the nutrients they provide.
|Food||Nutrient Density |
|Nutrient Density |
The Cronometer snip below shows the nutrients provided by 30 g of the beef liver along with 1200 g of sirloin steak. While there are still a few nutritional gaps (like vitamins C, K1 and folate, which are more plentiful in plant-based foods and omega 3, which is more plentiful in seafood), we get a much better overall nutrient profile than steak alone.
If you’re willing to broaden your food choices, the following charts and tables show the satiety score and nutrient density per serving and per calorie of seafood. Again, you can access the more detailed interactive Tableau version here.
The table below includes some of the most nutrient-dense seafood. This includes fish, molluscs, and crustaceans.
|Food||Nutrient Density |
|Nutrient Density |
Eggs and Dairy
The chart below shows eggs and dairy. As you can see, eggs rank pretty well. However, you look at them.
Some people cannot tolerate dairy and do not include it for that reason. Others stay away from dairy because it is one of the only animal sources of carbohydrates.
|Food||Nutrient Density (Per Serving)||Nutrient Density (Per Calorie)||Satiety||Protein %|
|Whey Protein Powder||39%||48%||79%||59%|
|Fage (Greek Yogurt)||36%||56%||84%||71%|
|Cottage Cheese (Non-Fat)||33%||59%||91%||57%|
|Greek Yogurt (Non-Fat)||28%||61%||86%||69%|
|Greek Yogurt (Low-Fat)||24%||53%||83%||54%|
|Mozzarella Cheese (Whole Milk)||24%||44%||58%||27%|
|Mozzarella (Part Skim)||23%||48%||68%||32%|
To give you a complete picture, the following chart shows all six hundred of the most popular foods amongst our Optimisers in one chart. Again, you can view the full interactive version here if you want to dive into the detail.
- On the right, we can see plant-based foods like spinach, broccoli, asparagus, and watercress contain more nutrients per calorie.
- However, we see that meat and seafood win hands down in terms of nutrients per serving calorie towards the top.
In our Micros Masterclass, we guide Optimisers to form the base of their diet around their protein sources. This allows them to build a foundation with foods shown towards the top of these charts, which contain plenty of easier-to-find essential nutrients per calorie.
Once this foundation of adequate protein is in place, someone can augment their diet with other foods containing some of the harder-to-find nutrients to give them a complete nutrient profile.
In our classes, we don’t mind if you follow a plant-based, carnivore, keto, low-fat, high-fat, or other types of diet so long as you get enough of ALL the essential nutrients your body requires from food.
While some people choose non-starchy green vegetables to supply them with their harder-to-find nutrients, others will add in organ meats or seafood to round out their nutritional profile. It all depends on your preferences. A combination of both is OK too.
If you want to identify your current nutrient profile and the foods and meals that will fill the gaps, you can click here to take our Free 7-Day Nutrient Clarity Challenge.
What Nutrients Are Easy to Get on a Carnivore Diet?
There are many ways to do a carnivore diet. Because of this, one carnivore’s nutrient density and nutrient profile might differ dramatically from another’s.
As mentioned earlier, we encourage our Macros Masterclass participants to focus on hitting their daily protein intake with whole foods. This is because high-protein animal foods like meat supply clusters of nutrients that tend to accompany one another.
Some of the nutrients that are usually easy to obtain on an animal-based diet include:
- Protein and the amino acids that compose it,
- Vitamin A,
- Thiamine (Vitamin B1),
- Riboflavin (Vitamin B2),
- Niacin (Vitamin B3),
- Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5),
- Pyridoxine (Vitamin B6),
- Cobalamin (Vitamin B12),
- Copper, and
Once you hit your protein goal for the day, you may also be close to your targets for these specific nutrients. Hence, you can move on to focusing on some of the harder-to-find nutrients we will discuss in the next section.
What Nutrients Are Harder to Get on a Carnivore Diet?
Even if you’re doing the most restrictive ‘Lion Diet’ version of carnivore, you will likely hit the minimum targets for protein and the vitamins and minerals listed above. However, depending on the foods you include, several nutrients might not be as easy to get.
In the next section, we have listed out nutrients most critical for satiety that can be harder to find if you eat a more restrictive carnivore diet. We have also included a few of the top carnivore-friendly foods that contain them.
Aside from the amino acids that make up protein, our analysis showed that potassium is the second most significant nutrient for satiety. Thus, we will eat more calories until we get our fill of potassium.
The Recommended Daily Allowance for potassium is 4.7 g per day. However, it is estimated that over 97% of Americans can’t even hit this daily target!
A lack of potassium has been linked to hypertension and heart disease over the long term, as well as fatigue, lethargy, poor blood sugar control, and the dreaded ‘keto flu’ over the short term.
Unfortunately, animal foods are not the best source of potassium, so we must be intentional about getting enough.
Below, we included the top animal foods (including seafood and dairy) that are the highest in potassium.
- Lean muscle meat (chicken, beef, pork),
- Cheese, and
- Meat stock or bone broth.
If you are following a strict carnivore diet and cannot get close to your potassium intake, this is one of the few nutrients we recommend supplementing. You can check out our Optimised Electrolyte Mix for more details.
To learn more about the roles of potassium and what other foods contain it, visit High-Potassium Foods and Recipes: The Ultimate Guide.
Like potassium, calcium belongs to a group of minerals known as the ‘macrominerals’ and the ‘core electrolytes’. These are minerals we require in more substantial amounts. Hence, it might not be a surprise that calcium is critical for satiety!
Our satiety analysis showed that besides potassium and protein, we have the most substantial satiety response to calcium. Hence, our appetites will send us in search of more calcium until we get enough of this nutrient.
Depending on the foods your version of the carnivore diet allows, calcium might be easy to get for you. Some of the best sources of calcium—plant and animal both taken into account—are dairy products. So, if you can consume dairy, hitting the RDI and even our ONI for calcium might be easy for you.
Some of the top dairy-derived sources of calcium include:
- Cream cheese,
And some of the best dairy-free, high-calcium animal foods are:
- Anchovies (with bones),
- Sardines (with bones),
- Salmon (with bones),
- Crab, and
For more on some of the most calcium-rich foods and meals, visit Healthy High-Calcium Foods and Recipes.
Although sodium isolates (i.e., table salt) is allowed on carnivore, sodium is abundant in most muscle meats, seafood, and dairy products. When you eliminate carbohydrates from your diet, mineral loss tends to increase, so it is critical to consume adequate amounts of salt from salty foods (i.e., anchovies and sardines) or added salt from a trusted source.
Some of the best sources of sodium are:
- Pink or Celtic salt,
- Egg whites,
- Naturally cured meats,
- Cottage cheese, and
To learn all about the roles of sodium and where else to find it, check out Sodium in Food: A Practical Guide.
Selenium is a trace mineral found abundantly in plant foods like nuts and some animal foods. Our analysis shows that it is one of the most critical nutrients for satiety. Selenium is found readily in animal-based foods like:
- Beef liver,
- Ground beef,
- Cottage cheese,
- Tuna (yellowfin),
- Crab oysters,
- Clams, and
For all the details on the roles of selenium and where to find it, visit Selenium-Rich Foods and Recipes: A Practical Guide.
Magnesium is another core electrolyte and micromineral. It is abundant in plant foods but similar to potassium because it is relatively harder to get from animal foods. Our satiety analysis shows that we have a strong satiety response to magnesium.
Some of the best carnivore-friendly sources of magnesium are:
- Hard goat cheese,
- Non-fat yogurt,
- Egg white,
- Caviar, and
To learn more about what magnesium does and where to find it visit Magnesium-Rich Foods and Recipes: A Practical Guide.
Folate (Vitamin B9)
Folate is a member of the B vitamin family, which also includes thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6), and cobalamin (B12). However, unlike the other B vitamins, folate is not as abundant in animal-based foods.
- Egg Yolk,
- Oyster, and
For more information on folate, check out Folate (Vitamin B9)-Rich Foods and Recipes.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are fatty acids with a double bond at the third carbon position. While there are plant-based and animal-based omega-3 fatty acids, those from animal foods are in the most bioavailable forms (DHA and EPA). The omega-3s found in plant foods must be converted into these active forms in an incredibly inefficient process.
Our analysis shows that we eat fewer calories when consuming more omega-3 fatty acids. Some of the best sources of omega-3s come from seafood, like:
- Fish oil,
- Cod liver oil,
- Tuna, and
And animal foods like:
- Chicken drumsticks,
- Mozzarella cheese,
- Chicken breast,
- Chicken thigh,
- Pork cracklings,
- Sirloin steak,
- Whole eggs,
- Plain yogurt,
- Half-and-half milk,
- Cheddar cheese,
- Grass-fed beef,
- Lamb, and
- Pastured pork.
To learn more detail on omega-3s, visit Omega-3-Rich Foods and Recipes: A Practical Guide.
Vitamin E is a core antioxidant abundant in nuts and seeds. However, it is a bit sparser in animal foods. Some of the best sources of vitamin E from animal foods include:
- Beef heart,
- Orange roughy,
- Lobster, and
Because of its role as an antioxidant, some studies have shown that a diet free of processed seed oils—ironically high in [poorly bioavailable forms] of vitamin E—tends to decrease one’s demand for this nutrient. There aren’t any studies to my knowledge examining our demands for this nutrient on a meat-only diet.
For more on vitamin E, check out Highest Vitamin E Foods and Recipes.
Manganese is a trace mineral we don’t need much of, but it’s more challenging to get if we’re only consuming ruminant meat (i.e., lamb, beef, and veal). Aside from being necessary for satiety, manganese is also critical for various functions.
Some of the animal foods richest in manganese include:
- Chicken breast,
- Ground beef,
- Milk, and
For more on where to find manganese in plant and animal foods and what it does, visit Manganese-Rich Foods and Recipes.
Many mammals synthesise their own vitamin C. However, it is an essential nutrient that humans must consume from their diet.
Current research on the vitamin C content of animal foods is sparse. However, researchers like Amber O’Hearn have shown there may be much more. This could explain why many long-term carnivores have made it so long without developing diseases associated with vitamin C deficiency, like scurvy.
Muscle meats are thought to contain the most vitamin C, followed by organ meats like the adrenal glands, liver, brain, eyes, spleen, and kidneys. These organs also require the most significant amounts of vitamin C in the human body, so it’s critical to eat up to support them!
Which Nutrients Can You Overdo on a Carnivore Diet?
While getting some nutrients from animal foods can be challenging, it can be easy to overconsume others! Hence, there are a couple of nutrients you need to ensure you’re not overdoing on a carnivore diet.
Copper is essential for human life; we require it to synthesise enzymes that synthesise and breakdown neurotransmitters and hormones, detoxify, and regulate organ function. However, you can have too much of a good thing! Too much copper can result in a condition known as copper toxicity.
Copper toxicity often occurs when someone consumes a substantial amount of copper in proportion to zinc and iron. Copper works in tandem with iron and zinc, meaning too much copper can deplete our iron and zinc levels. Hence, vegans and vegetarians are often at risk for copper deficiency because it provides less zinc and iron. For this reason, we should consume these nutrients in approximate ratios and use super high-copper foods as adjuncts to an otherwise nutrient-dense diet.
Copper is abundant in offal meats and certain kinds of seafood. However, it is most concentrated in liver. Although meat contains a substantial amount of zinc, you can easily overconsume copper in proportion to zinc if you consume a ton of liver.
Like copper, vitamin A in its bioavailable retinol form is found abundantly in animal foods like beef, veal, lamb, and cod liver. In fact, liver is the most concentrated source of vitamin A currently known.
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning our bodies store it for ‘a rainy day’. Hence, overconsuming it for long periods can result in vitamin A toxicity. This may be part of why so many people fear eating liver.
The Tolerable Upper Limit (UL) for vitamin A has been set at 3000 micrograms or 10,000 IUs. This equals around two ounces (56 g) of cooked liver, eaten consistently daily. This limitation is somewhat of an incentive to switch it up and not eat the same thing day in and day out!
While liver is undoubtedly a nutrient-dense superfood, its high vitamin A and copper contents should be acknowledged.
Should You Target Protein or Fat on a Carnivore Diet?
One of the ongoing controversies in carnivore circles is whether we should prioritise fat vs protein. We’ve covered this topic in detail in the article, High Protein vs High Fat: What’s Ideal for YOU? but to summarise:
- A higher protein diet tends to provide more nutrients and satiety than a high-fat diet, so if your goal is weight loss, then it’s wise to emphasise protein rather than adding extra fat.
- If your goal is elevated ketones for therapeutic or neurological purposes, a higher-fat version of carnivore might be more appropriate.
The chart below compares the satiety response of protein vs fat.
- While non-starchy green vegetables may provide more nutrients per calorie, meat, seafood, and dairy provide more nutrients per serving.
- Organ meats like liver contain high qualities of nutrients like vitamin A, copper and folate. But we don’t need much of them to fill in the nutritional gaps they provide.