The carnivore diet is an ultimate elimination diet. As a carnivore is an animal that eats meat, when you are on the carnivore diet, strictly speaking, you will only eat food that comes from the animal kingdom.

Accordingly, you will have to eliminate all plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, and nuts.

Many people start the carnivore diet in the hope of fixing their medical issues, such as food intolerance, autoimmune or hormonal issues. If this is your motivation, you may need to further eliminate groups of animal-based foods that cause your health problems. For example, some people may have reactions to dairy, eggs, or even pork and poultry and need to exclude those as well.

There are two main ways to start this elimination process: the pyramid method and the inverted pyramid method.

Let’s have a look at each of those methods and who they are suitable for in detail below.

The pyramid method

How to do it?

Under this method, you start with where you are now, i.e. at the base of the pyramid and gradually go up the pyramid, eliminating plant-based foods (grains, nuts, seeds, vegetables, etc.) and other potentially troublesome animal-based foods (e.g. eggs, dairy, chicken) over time.

Below is a visual example of this elimination approach.

The pyramid method of elimination - showing the elimination of plant-based foods and other trouble-some foods from the base up

You can go through this elimination process in any order and choose whatever you want to get rid of first. But it is probably a good idea to eliminate all soft drinks and ultra-processed foods of all kinds, whether they are plant-based or animal-based.

Next, you can target plant-based foods given the fact that we know even ordinary edible plants can contain many natural pesticides or anti-nutrients that have potential negative impacts on human health. [1]

You can cut out one group or a few groups at a time at any rate that you feel comfortable with. For example, you can first cut out all foods containing seed oil and grains and stay on this diet for a month. Next, you can remove all starchy vegetables and high sugary fruits and stay on this diet for another month, etc. However, if you want to fasten the process, you can shorten it to just one or two weeks per step.

If your health problem persists or you just want to experiment, you can then keep going up the pyramid, further eliminating animal-based foods that you suspect are causing troubles.

Once you’ve reached the top of the pyramid, where your health problem has resolved or you feel good with whatever foods remaining in your diet, if you like, you can gradually add one food back at a time and see how you feel.

Examples of elimination steps

Below is an example of the elimination steps that someone who is currently on the standard American diet may go through:

  • Step 1: Eliminating all soft drinks, processed foods of all kinds and seed oil
  • Step 2: Eliminating grains, nuts, seeds and high sugar fruits
  • Step 3: Eliminating all remaining plant-based foods
  • Step 4: Eliminating dairy products
  • Step 5: Eliminating pork and poultry
  • Step 6: Eliminating seafood
  • Step 7: Eliminating eggs.

By the end of step 6, what you’re left with is just ruminant meats and organ meats.

After this elimination process is completed, you may want to add back one food at a time and see how your body reacts and decide what will be your best diet going forward.

Below is an example of elimination steps that someone who is currently on the ketogenic diet may go through:

  • Step 1: Eliminating all soft drinks, processed foods of all kinds and seed oil
  • Step 2: Eliminating all remaining plant-based foods
  • Step 3: Eliminating dairy products
  • Step 4: Eliminating pork, poultry, and eggs
  • Step 5: Eliminating seafood.

Being on the ketogenic diet means you are already fat-adapted and you can move through the steps faster and are likely to experience less severe adaptation problems.

How fast should you go?

How fast and how smooth you can go through the elimination process to reach the top of the pyramid depends upon your current diet, health condition, and how willing you are to cope with adaptation issues.

If you are on the standard American diet that is generally high in calories, unprocessed food, and added sugar, you may want to go through the elimination process slowly to avoid an avalanche of adaptation issues like headache, brain fog, diarrhea, bad breath, muscle soreness, night sweat, nausea, fatigue, food craving, and vertigo.

However, if you think you can cope with those adaptation problems and would rather want to get it over and done with quickly, you may reduce the number of steps and the length of time you stay on each step.

Advantages of this method

The advantage of this method is it is more gentle on your body as it allows your body time to detox and adjust to the new diet. Adaptation problems, therefore, are less likely to be severe.

Disadvantages of this method

The disadvantage of this method is it takes time to see the result. For some, not seeing the immediate amazing results that others have been talking about may be too discouraging that they end up giving up too early.

Who should use the pyramid method?

The pyramid method is probably more suitable for people who don’t have a specific medical issue that they want to resolve through the carnivore diet. Rather they are just curious or interested to see if they can improve their health through this way of eating.

If they have a specific unresolved health problem that they suspect due to food intolerance or sensitivity, the pyramid method is a lengthy way to pinpoint the cause of the problem.

The inverted pyramid method

How does it work?

Under this method, you start at the apex of the pyramid with just one food group that you feel the safest and gradually add more food groups back over time and see if your body is okay with them.

Beef is a safe food to start with. When did you last hear that someone is allergic to beef? Meat allergy is extremely rare compared to common plant foods like nuts and grains. Nuts and grains are plants’ babies, therefore, they are packed with anti-nutrients to protect them from predators.

Below is an example of the steps that you can go through under this approach:

  • Step 1: Eat only beef and eliminate everything else.
  • Step 2: Add other meats and organs from ruminants (lamb, goat, deer, bison etc)
  • Step 3: Add pork
  • Step 4: Add poultry
  • Step 5: Add dairy
  • Step 6: Add eggs.

An inverted pyramid showing the apex has only beef and gradually including more food groups as you move upward.

Advantages of this method

The advantage of this method is it is simpler to implement and probably quicker to see the results because you eliminate all plant foods at once.

Disadvantages of this method

The disadvantage of this method is you are likely to have to deal with a series of adaptation issues like severe headaches, brain fog, night sweat, fatigue and diarrhea all at once. This sometimes can be impossible to cope with. For example, if you have a corporate job, it’s probably not easy to deal with non-stop diarrhea for a couple of weeks.

Who should use the inverted pyramid method?

The inverted pyramid method is more suitable for people who want to resolve a specific health problem with the carnivore diet.

It is a simpler and quicker process that can help pinpoint what problematic foods are and probably will deliver hopeful results faster.

Doctors’ view

A few doctors who are proponents of the carnivore diet (e.g. Dr Kevin Stock, Dr Shawn Baker and Dr Paul Saladino) appear to be in favor of the inverted pyramid approach, recommending trying out the meat only diet for 30 days and see how you feel at the end.

Your own elimination approach

You can also make up your own approach that is a combination of the above two.

For example, if you don’t have any specific health issues with any food group, and know from your research what foods you want to keep on your diet going forward, you can jump straight there and eliminate everything else.

For example, if you think you are okay with dairy and eggs and decide that you want to cut out all plant-based food from day one, you can jump straight to eating only the following foods: ruminant meat, pork, poultry, seafood, dairy, eggs, organs, bones and honey.

A pyramid showing the base with various plant and animal based food groups and the top showing only animal-based foods.

This is basically the ‘broad carnivore version’ that I talk about in this post where you can eat all animal source foods. This version is suitable for people who don’t have issues with any of the foods listed above and just want to eliminate plant toxins from their diet.

Alternatively, if you just want to reduce plant toxins but still want to have a small amount of plant foods every now and then, you can jump straight to eating the following foods:

  • ruminant meat
  • pork
  • poultry
  • seafood
  • dairy
  • eggs
  • organs
  • bones
  • honey, and
  • seasonal fruits and vegetables.

This is what I call the ‘ancestral carnivore’ version which tries to mimic the way our ancestors ate. If you decide to include some plant foods in your diet, it is important to learn how to reduce your intake of plant anti-nutrients which I talk about in this post.

However you want to try out this elimination diet, please consult with your doctor and get tested and as well as any help you might need before starting.

DisclaimerThe information in this post is for reference purposes only and not intended to constitute or replace professional medical advice. Please consult a qualified medical professional before making any changes to your diet or lifestyle.