Many carnivores have begun adding fruit into their animal-based diets, transitioning from a carnivore diet to a meat and fruit diet. This is one of the most common diets I get asked about, in fact—is the meat and fruit diet a good idea? Does it make sense to add fruit to your meat? Is there anything absent from the strict carnivore diet that adding some fruit can help?
I actually think it’s a good idea for a lot of people. Here’s why adding the meat and fruit diet might make sense for you:
Fruit “wants” to be eaten.
The most common reason why people switch to carnivore is to avoid chemical anti-nutrients that plants expressly produce to dissuade animals and insects from eating and digesting them. Seeds and grains employ lectins and other allergenic proteins that impair digestion and cause gastric distress and mineral imbalances so that the herbivore that eats them is less likely to actually digest it or come back for more. They can’t run or fight back with claws and teeth so they go the chemical warfare route.
Animals can run, hide, fight, bite, and struggle. They don’t need the chemical defenses. Once you get past those claws, teeth, hide, and foot speed they’re incredibly nutritious and easy to digest. Meat doesn’t “want” to be eaten, but it’s neutral on the matter once the presiding central nervous system has been nullified and silenced.
Fruit, meanwhile, wants to be eaten. If an animal eats fruit to get the sugar and nutrients and tosses or poops out the seeds, the fruit wins. The seeds have a chance to germinate and grow into another plant—to keep the genes flowing through time. There’s no reason for the flesh of the fruit to have a robust arsenal of anti-nutrient compounds. And sure enough, fruit is quite low in these compounds.
Fruit is easy to digest. Some of the more fibrous varieties can cause issues if you have preexisting issue with fiber. Some of the FODMAPs found in certain fruits can also mess with digestion in susceptible FODMAP-sensitive people.
Fruit has polyphenols
One of my biggest criticisms of pure carnivore has always been the lack of polyphenols—of the plant compounds found in fruits, vegetables, coffee, wine, chocolate, and pretty much every plant on earth. Polyphenols are defense chemicals that plants employ to ward off disease, fungal infections, and other microbes. For instance, when a plant is stressed, it will often produce more polyphenols. Cut a purple sweet potato on the vine and it will up regulate anthocyanin content. This is a common feature and it’s meant to fight against pathogens that could invade.
But when an animal like a human eats these polyphenols, good things happen. They are minor stressors that induce a hormetic response—we adapt to the stressor and get stronger, healthier, fitter, and more robust in the process. On the cellular level, a polyphenol like blueberry anthocyanin can appear stressful in the acute time frame. It “damages” the cell, but then the cell recovers. On the organism level, blueberries create a rebound effect that leaves us healthier. The organism and all the cells within grow more robust. Pure carnivore diets almost never contain these compounds and thus suffer from their lack.
Some of these compounds, like quercetin (found in apples and onions) may even show efficacy against many of the autoimmune issues that bring people to carnivore in the first place.1 Berries and pomegranates also show potential against rheumatoid arthritis.2
Fruit may improve digestive health
Now, many people get into carnivore because they have issues with fiber. Either it constipates them, gives them diarrhea, or both. It can even exacerbate certain patients with digestive disorders like IBS. But fruit fiber may be different than grain fiber. Now, some people will have different reactions, but by and large fruit fiber is easier to digest than grain or vegetable fiber. Some of the more fibrous varieties can cause issues if you have preexisting issue with fiber. Some of the FODMAPs found in certain fruits can also mess with digestion in susceptible FODMAP-sensitive people.
Take constipation. Carnivore often fixes constipation, but in a sizable minority it seems to worsen or even cause it. Some would say that you’re not actually constipated, that there’s just “less waste.” Very possible. But what if you truly are constipated on carnivore?
Kiwis may help. Two kiwis a day have been shown to reduce constipation.3 A review of kiwis for gastric disorders found that kiwifruits have the potential to improve GI function via many different mechanisms.4
Studies in large populations find that fruit fiber is even linked to lower levels of diverticulitis, while vegetable fiber is linked to higher levels.5 This suggests that fruit fiber may be gentler on the gut. The bulk of the evidence suggests that fruit is more helpful than not for constipation.6
It’s true that none of these studies are looking at people on carnivore diets. They’re using regular people on standard diets—results may not apply. But if carnivore doesn’t seem to helping your gut issues, or they could at least be better, you might consider incorporating some fruit.
Fruit may reduce carcinogen formation and inflammation when eaten with meat
We’ve known for awhile that consuming polyphenol-rich plants—like cruciferous vegetables, leafy greens, and red wine—with your meals reduces the inflammatory response upon eating, even lowering postprandial lipid oxidation and the formation of carcinogenic compounds in the gut. That’s true for fruits, too. One found that adding fruit solids to meat sausages reduced the oxidation of lipids in the meal upon consumption and during storage.7 I don’t recommend blending fruits into your meat, but eating an orange with your steak will have much the same effect.
Speaking of oranges, concentrated sources of orange—orange juice—reduce the inflammatory effects of a junk food meal. They reduce lipid oxidation and make an otherwise unhealthy meal healthier.8 Imagine if you added an orange to your healthy steak dinner.
Fruit may provide nutrients your carnivore diet is missing
If you’re not eating many shellfish, your carnivore diet could be a little low in manganese. Eating blueberries or pineapple will top you off.
If you’re not eating your meat rare with all the juices, your carnivore diet might be low in potassium. Eating almost any fruit will provide ample amounts of potassium.
Fruits also provide vitamin C, which is often lacking on carnivore diets. The vitamin C requirements are also lower when you’re carnivore, but just in case it wouldn’t hurt to have a bit more.
Fruits are rich in carbohydrates, which can be useful if you’re engaged in a ton of intense physical activity that burns through glycogen. Fruit is a great way to top off your glycogen stores.
Fruit provides variety to your meat-based diet
Fruit is more than you think. Tomatoes are a fruit. Squash are fruits. Avocados are fruits. Anything with a seed surrounded by edible flesh is a fruit, even if we normally treat it more like a vegetable.
That means you can have tomato and avocado salad. You can have mashed butternut squash or roasted kabocha squash. You can eat pickles or fresh cucumbers. You can grill zucchini. You can have peppers of all kinds.
Allowing fruit into your carnivore diet provides the opportunity for far more variety than you’d think. It’s not just eating mangos and pineapples and berries. If you find the carnivore diet boring or difficult to maintain despite health benefits, incorporating a little fruit may be just the thing you need to make it more sustainable.
Let’s go through a definitive comprehensive list of fruits that qualify for the meat and fruit diet:
Stone fruits—nectarines, peaches, cherries, apricots
Tropical fruits—mangos, pineapple, breadfruit, papaya, banana
Melons—cantaloupe, watermelon, honeydew, Tuscan
Citrus—oranges, tangerines, grapefruits, lemons, limes
Figs and dates
Berries—strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries
Winter squash—delicata, butternut, kabocha, pumpkin, acorn, honey nut
Summer squash, zucchini
Peppers—hot and sweet and in between
The meat and fruit diet is anything but restrictive. You can really diversify your diet by including fruit. And if you’re worried about the sugar content, you can eat low sugar fruits like berries, avocado, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and squash.
Do you eat the meat and fruit diet? If so, what fruits do you include? If you don’t, what fruits do you miss (if any)?
Thanks for reading everyone.