Can You Drink Coffee On The Carnivore Diet? (Why and Why not?)

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Man pouring coffee on filters

Most people enjoy a nice cup of coffee in the morning to get going which brings us to the question. Is coffee allowed on the carnivore diet? The short answer is a flat out “no”, otherwise you are not practicing a true carnivore diet.

The carnivore diet is essentially a hardcore elimination diet that removes all plant-based foods and allows only the consumption of meat, salt, and water as a beverage.

Coffee is derived from coffee beans which is plant matter.

But for the sake of debate and to help make educated decisions let’s look at the pros and cons of coffee and how they would relate to the carnivore diet.

Hopefully this will help you decide if kicking the habit is worth it or not.

Carnivore Diet Philosophy

The idea of the carnivore diet is that by eliminating plant-based foods from your diet you will reduce certain stressors like histamines, oxalates, phytic acids (anti-nutrients), and essentially all the naturally produced pesticides that plants create to keep critters like bugs, fungus, bacteria, and humans from eating them.

When humans eat plants or plant matter over extended periods of time they can potentially develop autoimmune issues, food sensitivities, increased inflammation, and even allergies.

Some people experience great relief and reduced symptoms from the elimination of plant foods.

Also people on the carnivore diet, (after their adaptation period), have experienced better sleep and increased energy. If you want to learn more about carnivore check out our carnivore diet guide called, “Carnivore Diet 101: A Meaty Resource”.

So, if the carnivore diet is the ideal diet offering better energy, then why would you need coffee?  Maybe it has nutritional benefits?

A man with coffee beans in his hands.

Some Reasons On Why coffee Is Good For You

Flat out, coffee has a good amount of antioxidants. Antioxidants have been a hot topic for many years now and according to some studies they are great at reducing the risk of certain diseases.

The idea is that our bodies and cells are threatened and attacked by free radicals which are molecules with unpaired electrons. These free radicals get a little crazy and wreak havoc on protein and DNA. When you drop antioxidants into your bloodstream they essentially go around disarming the free radicals.

Some researchers and doctors say disarmament of free radicals helps reduce aging and may reduce the chances of developing cancer…but this is all highly debatable because a lot of the studies are based on epidemiology.

Also, the US Department of Health and Human Services has recently said, “Considerable laboratory evidence from chemical, cell culture, and animal studies indicates that antioxidants may slow or possibly prevent the development of cancer. However, information from recent clinical trials is less clear. In recent years, large-scale, randomized clinical trials reached inconsistent conclusions.” (1)

One other point: Coffee has more antioxidants than any other food group. (2)

However, depending on who you talk to antioxidants have downfalls.

Coffee Has Vitamins and Nutrients

It’s a bit obvious but yes coffee does have a fair amount of vitamins and nutrients, (but this ain’t nothing compared to meat.)

This is what you would find in an eight ounce cup:

  • Vitamin B1 2% of DV
  • Vitamin B2 11% of DV
  • Vitamin B3 2% of DV
  • Vitamin B6 6% of DV
  • Folate 1% of DV
  • Phosphorus 1% of DV
  • Magnesium 2% of DV
  • Potassium 3% of DV
  • Manganese 3% of DV
Woman Holding Coffee Being Happy

Some Coffee Studies To Help You Feel Better About Drinking It

Here are a few stats based on studies that appear to show coffee has some benefits by reducing the risk of certain diseases and ailments. But I would like to point out that most of these studies are based on epidemiology which is incapable of proving causation.

These kinds of studies do not have a control. It’s basically taking food questionnaires from people and going off their word.

These types of studies are so flawed that Dr. Georgie Ede of Diagnosis Diet wrote an informative article on them.

She sums it up by saying, “the problem is that the lion share of mainstream nutrition advice comes to us not from biochemistry, physiology, or other scientific fields, but rather from the field of nutrition epidemiology, which is not scientific at all. In fact, of all the methods researchers can use to study human nutrition, epidemiology is arguably the least reliable.” (3)

Here’s a few stats I found interesting:

  • 20-30% lower risk of premature death
  • Decreases chance of women getting depression and also decreases the chance of suicide from such depression
  • Decreased chance of getting Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, strokes, heart disease and some cancers like colorectal
  • Decreases chances of developing liver cirrhosis, (scared up/damaged liver) yet this is debatable.
  • Reduces chances of developing diabetes by 23-50%
  • Reduced risk of Alzheimer’s by up to 65%
  • Reduced risk of Parkinson’s by up to 32-60%
  • Reduced risk of Type 2 Diabetes by up to 23-67%
  • Reduced risk of Liver Disease by 84% (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9) (10) (11) (12)

Remember though these studies are mainly observational and based on epidemiology…so don’t take them to the bank.

Coffee As A Drug

Caffeine is a drug

Yep, caffeine is a drug. In fact, it’s the most consumed psychoactive drug on the planet. People are straight-up addicted.

One cup of coffee can have anywhere between 30 and 300 milligrams of caffeine. The amount of caffeine depends on the beans and also how the coffee bean was roasted.

A dark roast has less caffeine when compared to a light roast. The reason being a dark roast is cooked longer which burns more of the caffeine away.

The benefits of caffeine

Caffeine is considered an “upper” and has been shown to boost mental function and clarity, help mood enhancement, create quicker reaction times, and overall helps with certain cognitive functions. (13)

And while on the topic of drugs, we discuss how cannabis, aka marijuana, is applied to a carnivore diet here.

Some Reasons on Why Coffee is Bad for You

As you know if you do drugs too often you will create a tolerance level and the only way to get previous effects are to keep increasing the dosage. With coffee, over time the beneficial effects will slowly start to disappear and you will find yourself drinking a whole pot or two every day.

Some people start to see coffee more as a crutch and figure quitting is a great idea yet they soon find out that this drug has withdrawals. Common withdrawal side effects are headaches, irritability, and brain fog.

Why you may want to quit:

  • Causes anxiety
  • Can stress adrenal glands
  • Can increase cortisol
  • Can increase blood pressure
  • Some people get panic attacks
  • Not good for sleep (Stop drinking after 2 pm)
  • Some people get heart palpitations
  • Contains trace amounts of acrylamide. This substance is a carcinogenic compound. Apparently coffee doesn’t have threatening levels though. (14)

Need some further reasons to quit? We have more in this article:

Nasty Moldy Mycotoxins

Overexposure to certain molds has had some negative effects on humans and create chronic health problems. There are whole industries and products created for the reduction and remediation of mold.

The reason mold is a health culprit is because it produces what’s called mycotoxins. These mycotoxins can be found on most plant-based food products like cereal, nuts, beans, and even spices.

When it comes to coffee there are two types of mycotoxins that stand out.

  • Aflatoxin B1 which is a carcinogen
  • Ochratoxin A which is also a carcinogen but way weaker

The cool thing is that small amounts of mycotoxins are easily neutralized by your liver, assuming you have a functional liver. (15)

Concerned about mycotoxins in your coffee? Well, check out Kion Coffee which tests their coffee for mold and pesticides. They use organic beans and have a good reputation for quality.

Kion is my go-to brand for coffee and other amino acid supplements. It’s Ben Greenfield’s company so you know it’s high quality! Check them out and you see what I’m talking about.

Mycotoxins can be found in Coffee!

Over the past few years, coffee contaminated with moldy mycotoxins has been a hot topic and highly debated.

Some people claim that low quality coffee contains higher levels of mold and mycotoxins which in turn may create certain unwanted symptoms to those who drink it. Some of those symptoms are brain fog, headaches, body aches, and low energy. Basically the opposite of what coffee is supposed to do for you.

In fact Joe Rogan has had a number of Podcasts with health experts and coffee specialists speaking on the subject. Perhaps the most famous was when Dave Asprey of BulletProof, was on and claimed 70% of coffee is contaminated with mold.

This prompted Joe to do his own test in which he privately had 4 different brands of coffees tested. He tested bags of coffee from Whole Foods, Bulletproof Coffee, Starbucks and Cave Man Coffee.

Turns out none of these brands tested positive for mold or mycotoxins. Mr. Asprey appeared to be full of it.

Joe Rogan Exposes Dave Asprey and Bulletproof Coffee for False Claims on Mycotoxins

There have been other larger studies too like one that found 33% of all green coffee beans coming from Brazil having low levels of Ochratin A.

Also 45% of coffee coming from commercially available coffee roasters had some levels of Ochratin A.

Also one should know that decaf generally tests the highest for mold but roasting coffee can decrease levels by 42-55%.

Mold and mycotoxins are not new to coffee growers and they have their own methods to mitigate the problem called “wet processing”.

The other crazy thing is that caffeine in itself is a natural inhibitor of mycotoxins. (16)

Fresh Coffee Cherry

Healthier Coffee Suggestion

If mold and mycotoxins are scaring you but you are not ready to give up the habit some people have recommended single batch coffee. Single batch is how it sounds, the coffee produced from one crop that isn’t mixed with others which is known as a blend. The idea is that there would be fewer chances for contamination.

Also coffee that is grown at higher elevations is supposed to have less chances of mold due to less humidity. Mold thrives in wet and humid environments.

One other suggestion is to stay organic. Try to minimize your exposure to man made pesticides, you are already ingesting plant made pesticides which should be enough.

One big mistake to try not to make is adding anything to your coffee such as sweets or MCT oils or protein powders.

We wrote a whole article on oils:

Remember sugar and sweets are a big no no.

What I Do When Drinking Coffee

I try to find single-source coffee grown in higher elevations but if I see a sale at the local grocers and the coffee is organic and looks good I will try it.

Andy Drinking Coffee Colombia
That’s me drinking coffee in Colombia at a fully organic coffee plantation. No mycotoxins or pesticides.

My brew technique is straight-up French Press. I’ll drink it black but usually I add Kerry Gold grass-fed butter, a teaspoon or two, and blend it up. It’s just another way to assure I’m eating enough fats.

Oh yeah, good water is important too. Tap water is nasty as it has added chemicals and run through old pipes. Not exactly optimal. I get water locally from a company that sources it from a spring. It’s the best.

Quit Coffee on Carnivore Diet?

Now you have seen most of the good and most of the bad when it comes to coffee. The question still remains should you stop drinking coffee on the carnivore diet? If you are trying to obtain optimal benefits and eliminate as many causes of inflammation I would say lean to yes.

But that brings up a major challenge to those new to the diet.

If you are new to the carnivore diet and have been drinking coffee for some time you are going to most likely experience some nasty symptoms from the adaptation period of the diet.

What’s the adaptation period? This is in the first few couple of weeks of the diet where you may get something called the keto flu. This flu is just a name and not some kind of infection. You basically get flu-like symptoms but when your body is adapted they go away.

This may be even more challenging for a coffee drinker as the withdrawal symptoms from quitting with be coupled with the keto flu, making it even more challenging.

Some carnivore dieters have recommended quitting coffee after 30 days of being on the diet. This way you potentially reduce the severity of symptoms.

We go deep and wrote an article with potential remedies and tips if you do start to get a little bit of that keto/carnivore flu.

Different levels of coffee on the carnivore diet.

My Experience with Quitting Coffee on Carnivore

I did 12 weeks of strict carnivore but kept drinking coffee every morning. I didn’t really get any major keto flu symptoms.

However a month ago I decided to give up coffee and go full carnivore again, (call it a meat cleanse), to see if it had an effect one way or the other. The first two days I had mild headaches but nothing major. I considered it pretty easy to quit from a symptom/withdrawal point of view but challenging from a want point of view. The hardest part is resisting when you smell coffee.

After a week or so it was less of an issue. I did 3 weeks no coffee but can’t tell if I have any health benefits. Sleep was the same and everything else was similar. Since then I have gone back to coffee, I just like it in the morning when reading and writing. For now, I’m back on the coffee train.

What Do True Carnivore Dieters Think?

The cool thing about the carnivore diet community is that they could care less. From the advocates, influencers and chat room moderators they all don’t care.

In fact, that’s the cool thing about this carnivore community. It’s the exact opposite of what you get when you are in a vegan or vegetarian group. They throw the dogma and BS out the door. The general theme is to do what you can and what’s good for you as we are all different.

If you are interested in starting the carnivore diet here is a quick post that will help you get started. Carnivore Diet Starter Kit: 5 Essential Items to Get Going.

Motivation

If you are looking for a little motivation and help along the way you can book me as your personal carnivore diet coach. I work with Dr. Shawn Baker’s coaching group at MeatRX.

Book Andy here.

Also if you get a chance pick up these two books:

  1. The Carnivore Diet by Dr. Shawn Baker
  2. The Carnivore Code by Dr. Paul Saladino

Thanks for reading and as always please note that I am not a doctor and am not giving out health, nutritional or medical advice. Do your own research and consult with an expert before making any life-changing decisions. Good luck!

Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor. Consult with and ask your doctor about any diet or medical-related questions. No information on this site should be used to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure any disease or condition.

Andy Storey

Artist, Designer, Sportsman, Athlete and Carnivore Diet Coach at MeatRX. Sharing my adventures in life, health, and wellness one post at a time.

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