We are carnivores

As paleo and primal become more complex, authoritarian, licensed, profit driven, subverted and infected with fear based marketing efforts, Primal North seeks to simplify, unify, and advocate a proper level of scientific skepticism to the world of paleo, primal and low carb nutrition. Meat is food, plants are medicine, food is fuel, and movement is pleasure. Lets stop making a mess of it!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Life Without Plants - Lessons from the Inuit and today's Zero Carbers

I was a very short time member of a well known zero carb group, lasting really only a week.  I had personal disagreements with the leader which caused me to leave.

Soon after that, annoyed but wanting to try zero carb or close to it, I returned to it and did my "Summer of No Excuses" during which time I ate fewer than 10 grams carb a day and 95% of my calories from animals, using plants only as herbs and seasoning, not the main course.

During this time I also ran my first half marathon distance, 13.1 miles, off road and liking to think at much the same pace as an Indian scout ;) I wish! LOL

So I admit that upfront I did not leave their circle on good terms, and feel free to accuse me of bias against online zero carb communities,  but I am not writing this to say their way of eating does not work because for many it does, just that some of the claims about the Inuit diet seem now to be inaccurate.

I do think it fair to say a lot of zero carbers remain my friends and see overall I am supportive of their way of eating as a viable, I just do not agree with the "historical base" portion.  The ideal is a simple one, by eating very very few but nutritionally complete foods we reduce our need for "other nutrients".  I would whole heartedly agree with that, and think a fabulous example is vitamin C.  Vitamin C, in part, is used to metabolise dietary glucose, so by not eating starch you simply need less Vitamin C thus even rare meat becomes an adequate source.

During my short time within the zero carb community I noticed a few things.

Please note:  Zero carbers try to stay under 5g total carbs a day on an all meat diet, even meat has some carbs so a true zero carb diet is not plausible.

  • We were told that beef (lean and fat) and water, were all the body required
  • That grass fed beef was a waste of money
  • That organ meats should be avoided and are "to carby" and their added vitamins are not necessary
  • That bone broth was not necessary
  • That inuits hunters (the healthiest) ate only the lean and fat, gave away the organ meat to the children and elderly or the dogs
  • There is no need to add salt or magnesium, if you get cramps or other symptoms you need more water, recommendation I got was to start at a gallon a day and this would resolve any cramps (I was definately getting keto cramps at one time, since resolved)
  • That the beef, beef fat and water approach is the ideal approach and most health issues with your diet can be resolved by restricting back to these and only these
The main focus is "lean and fat" is all that is required.  The ratio determined by your "Fat hunger".  In other words always be well hydrated, eat the fat until you no longer want more fat, then eat the lean until sated.  Simple advice that would go a long way to ensure you end up with a predominantly high fat diet.

Snipped from the website, its interesting that the  blog of the leader of the movement, the guy who keeps telling us that grass fed is a waste of money, is affiliated to and a customer of US Wellness.  Meanwhile advising newcomers as I was that it is a waste of money.

What I did learn interacting with the Zero Carb community

Hey its not all bad!  They gave me a lot of great stuff that has proven true to me over time.
  • Carbs really are optional at best
  • Keto adaptation period should indeed not be combined with working out, its best to just rest and at most gentle walks until you are fully keto adapted
  • Drinking lots of good water to stay hydrated is very important when very low carb
  • Worry far more about adequate fat then adequate protein, keto is protein sparring and you just simply need less if fully keto
  • How full of shit Danny Roddy and Paul Jaminet are when they talk about scurvee
  • Keto is so much better when done with real animal fats and minimal plant fats and proteins
  • Fiber sucks, and you will never be more "regular" then when you remove all sources of fiber from your diet and adapt

As for the Inuit? I have learned many of these claims are not true.

In fact this is when I started "Primal North" and my own twist on things "Eating your odd bits" aka organ meats and bone marrows.  As to me this more accurately reflected the diet of hunter tribes such as the Inuit and the Plains Indians.

Inuit and Fish and Bone Broths

Inuit would slice off the lean, and the toss the skin, of fish caught that day.  They would cook fish that were over a day old.  They would also eat fish that had been poorly stored and partly rotten, without fear.

They would feed the scraps of fresh eaten raw fish to the dogs, but the scraps did not go exclusively to the dogs.

Traditional Inuit Fish (Bone and organ) Broth

Inuit did indeed drink bone broth for one, actually every single day.  Their fish broth was consumed almost daily and was created by slowly simmering fish heads, guts, spines, etc... (including all the organ meats).  Yes, they also fed these scraps to the dogs but not exclusively as noted above.

Inuit and Liver / Organ Meats

When a seal is killed and dressed out for the feast, it is split open and laid out raw.

Hunters will eat first, and will use a tea cup to drink the warm blood (to warm themselves) and cut a peice of liver.  Liver being considered a choice cut (not something tossed to the dogs as I was once lead to believe).

Quite often the blood and fat would be mashed up with some brain between the fingers and enjoyed.

The hunters would then also eat lean and blubber to sate their appetite.

The women would then go for any remaining liver, the intestines and whichever amount of lean and blubber those wished.

Polar Bear Liver = Fatal

Polar bear liver is never eaten as it contains very high concentrations of Vitamin A and is fatal to humans AND dogs.  Polar bear meat, as an eater of carrion, is always cooked first and not consumed raw to avoid trichinosis.


Blood is not just a rich source of nutrition, it is incredibly reverred by the Inuit.  Inuit have a spiritual belief that seal blood is connected to human blood and a health beleif that drinking seal blood fortifies human blood and restores our health.  Seal blood is enjoyed fresh from the kill.

Reverence for their Food

Unlike the zero carb community online who seems not at all bothered by the wastefulness of not eating any organ meat or bone marrow, or the horrid conditions at CAFO's, (and I am not trying to paint members with a broad brush but lets face it we support this with our pocket books if not our morales) the Inuit are quite reverant and respectful of their kill.

The Inuit believe there is an agreement between man and seal that a hunter will only kill what is necessary for feeding his family.

Seals are thought to be constantly thirsty, as they live in salt water.  An Inuit hunter will offer a dying seal he has taken, a drink of fresh water, so it need not die with thirst.

No attempt is made at "Seal husbandry". 

Further Reading / Viewing

The plains Indians, some tribes, lived exclusively on buffalo.  Here we find out about how it was dressed and consumed.

Anthony Bourdain eats raw seal with the Inuit

"I can't wait to eat the brain" ~ Says Grandma

Pass some time in your own igloo learning Inuit String Art

Check out Inuit ice fishing legend Sara Annanak catching Arctic Char

Sources etc...

John Tyman's Inuit Food

Discover Magazine:  The Inuit Paradox

Vilhjalmur Stefansson:  My Life with the Eskimo


  1. Haven't studied the Inuit in particular, but from a nutritional point of view, this sounds accurate. Liver is full of nutrients. Blood is full of salt (among other things); it is (or was) a traditional food that you can still buy off the shelf in parts of Europe. According to Phinney & Volek, the Inuit made broth out of ice of a particular age to get the right salt content; they knew salt deficiency makes you sick.

    Some years ago, Michael Eades wrote a post about copper deficiency via overdosing on zinc. If you're eating mostly muscle meat, this can happen; however, organs (especially liver) are rich in copper.

    1. Thank you for the feedback, great stuff!

    2. You may find this textbook very interesting. It's Imagining Head Smashed by Jack W. Brink, published by Athabasca University Press. It's about pemmican and a buffalo jump in Alberta. I liked it. You can get a free PDF here: http://www.aupress.ca/index.php/books/120137

  2. I am a very-low-carber. I keep my carbs to less than 10 gm per day. I agree with the plan, it works for me and I believe it would work for the majority of people.

    However, what I cannot get my head around is the argument that we should avoid organ meats, etc. If one reads any of the stories and biographies of various humans throughout history, one finds they ate everything that wouldn't kill them. I have read several articles saying many of the natives of the western United States were tall and good looking and about as healthy as a human could get. Their diet was of course animal, with a few in-season fruits and plants, and they ate everything that was digestible. About the only thing not eaten was the hide and hair.

    A muscle-meat diet is probably not good for us given our apparent culinary evolution.

  3. It only makes sense that we don't need to eat plants DIRECTLY, since the animals we eat have already done it for us.

  4. Are you still currently eating this way? If not, why? I'm very much considering it as many plants and fruits give me trouble (fructose malabsorber), and starches just seem to cause intense food cravings and make me want to binge on anything and everything. This seems like the logical way to go, but everyone tries to scare you off of it. Dr. J with his "safe starches" says I could get gut cancer from no mucus, kidney stones, dry eyes, hypothyroid, etc. There's a lot of scare factors out there, which I know some are not true, but it still makes one think hard on any dietary decision. However, if I keep eating the way I currently am I'd probably end up with cancer anyways right? :)

    1. Hi, to be honest I think the greatest way to trigger that epigenetic switch about cancer is to worry about getting it. No lie, Gabor Mate MD has many studies on this, and the correlation between getting cancer and fearing getting cancer is very high...

      I still eat the vast majority of my food from animals, and a few plants usually a ceasar style salad.

      I know Jaminet has many many claims about low carb, sadly he considers low carb to equal starvation so anything that goes along with starvation he will convince you happens on low carb as well. Clearly starvation and low carb are two entirely different interventions with far different typical outcomes. Low carb usually leads to health, starvation usually leads to death ;)

      The most important thing you can do on very low carb is to NOT worry about calories and eat a little more than you think you need. Women especially seem to have it drilled into them that they MUST cut calories. Cutting calories to much while low carb is a no no. Just eat good proper real meals and enjoy :)

      Good luck!

    2. Thanks so much for your quick response! I appreciate it! Sounds like I'm on the same page as you for sure...I came across the same conclusion about making sure I eat enough so as not to lose fertility, etc. It seems that's the key for women. It's not necessarily that low carb causes fertility problems, but the fact that you naturally eat less cause you aren't in that food/reward loop anymore, feeding the beast.

      Thanks for the perspective on Dr. J. I admit to trying his plan twice and failing miserably. Something just didn't make sense. I've done a bit more digging into his mucus theory, and I'm not finding any good evidence for it.

      And that's super interesting about the cancer study. Maybe stress causes cancer haha?! So much for our healthy diets lol. J/K.
      I had cancer as a child, though, and I definitely wasn't worried about cancer then...just luck of the draw. However, now of course, I'm intent on making sure I don't get it again. You're right, though, worry doesn't stop it from happening if it's going to.

      Thank you again for your perspective and not dodging the questions...I hate it when bloggers do that! :)


Approximately half the comments I get are only semi interactive, with the real goal of adding a hyperlink to some commercial product. Just enough text to get past a spam filter.

For this reason I moderate all comments, all the time. I do not delete comments that disagree with me, I welcome them.

I do not approve any comment that contains a link to a commercial product. Such links are not required to make a comment.

In short if you came to pretend to interact but instead advertise, you are wasting your time.

Debate is welcome.