Why Do You Eat Your Meat Raw?

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Why Do You Eat Your Meat Raw?

It seems like almost every week that a new person who has stumbled into our Zero Carb Facebook group Principia Carnivora asks this question. Since it comes up so often, I have decided to take some time to articulate my personal reasons for choosing raw meat over cooked meat.

When I first started a Zero Carb diet 21 months ago on January 1, 2015, I began with a wide variety of animal foods: eggs, cheese, butter, cream, bone broth, chicken, pork, and beef. All of it cooked. I really struggled with Zero Carb in the beginning because I simply did not feel that good no matter what I ate. Removing all plant foods from my diet certainly helped, but I was still experiencing a lot of negative symptoms from the animal foods I was eating. The biggest symptom with the most impact on my quality of life is chronic migraine headaches.

About 6 months into my Zero Carb journey, I finally discovered that I am histamine intolerant. Histamines are in all aged and fermented foods, as well as eggs and any foods that are slow-cooked, and this is why I have continued to struggle with chronic migraine headaches on a Zero Carb diet. One-by-one, I removed everything from my diet except for beef. And even with the beef, I have to make sure that I get it as fresh as possible and use it immediately. The longer beef – or any meat – is aged, the more histamines it will contain. The longer a steak sits on the shelf after being cut off of a main primal piece by the butcher, the more histamines it will contain.

All last winter (2015-2016), I was eating very lightly pan-fried fatty beef chuck roast steaks. And when I say lightly, I mean 30-60 seconds per side, leaving the meat blue-rare inside. This was working to some extent, but I did not feel all that good. In fact, I got a terrible cold virus last winter that came back three separate times! I literally never get viruses, so to have the same one three times in just a few months was both very worrisome and very unpleasant. The last time I had a virus prior to this was in the winter of 1999-2000, when – incidentally – I was also eating a fair amount of cooked meat (one of my earlier attempts to escape veganism, LOL!).

So, I knew I should be eating my meat raw, but the cold, wet winter and the state of my mind at the time, were really making it difficult for me to do this. Once the weather warmed up a bit, however, I decided to give fresh raw ground beef another try. After a few weeks, I got used to it and then the taste of the cooked meat wasn’t all that enticing any more. Nevertheless, I continued to have a cooked meal here and there, very rarely. But each time I did this – I noticed that 1) I did not feel as well after eating the cooked meat as I did after eating the raw meat; 2) I did not digest the cooked meat as well as I digested the raw meat; and 3) I could tolerate much more fat when I ate it raw verses cooked.

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LEM Big Bite #12 All Stainless Steel Meat Grinder

One of the things I have personally found very helpful on my Zero Carb Journey is periodic fasts. I have completed three separate 16-day fasts (each were a combination of water and dry) over the past 21 months. Each of these fasts has helped me quite significantly. Histamines build up in the body over time and fasting is the single most effective method I have discovered to allow my body to eliminate them from “storage.” When the meat I can normally eat without issue begins to give me migraine headaches, then I know my histamine “bucket” is full so-to-speak and it is time for another fast.

I just completed my most recent 16-day fast a week ago. It went really well. But coming off the fast has been both challenging and enlightening. First, I decided to experiment with Fiji water and it gave me a migraine headache and caused me to feel generally crappy. This tells me that the company adds minerals to the Fiji water, which is implied but not directly stated on the label. I am 100% certain of this because I felt exactly the same way as I always feel after taking any supplements of any kind. They all make me very very very sick just like the Fiji water did.

After I recovered from the Fiji water debacle, I decided to try cooking my meat one night. I had broken my fast 6 days earlier and – up to that point – I had eaten only raw ground beef according to my usual custom. Although I am kind of unhappy with myself for choosing to cook my meat this night, I gained an enormous amount of clarity about what my body does and does not like due to this unhappy choice. So, ultimately, the experience was an extremely valuable one because of the new knowledge it brought me.

Needless to say, my body had a very negative response to the cooked meat. I started getting a migraine headache within a few hours of eating it and, 3-days later, I am still suffering the consequences. The next morning, lymph nodes throughout my body were incredibly painful. The effects from eating the cooked meat were so bad, that I actually had to go back on a short dry fast to give my body a chance to work through it. I tried eating my normal fresh raw ground beef the next day, but that just made the migraine headache and lymphatic inflammation worse.

This is one of the reasons I am such a huge advocate for both fasting and doing a bare bones version of the Zero Carb diet if you are new to this way of eating. There are so many potential variables when you eat any and all animal foods that there is really no way to tell how you are responding to them if you include them all indiscriminately. If you start with just fatty beef and water, then you have removed all of the most potentially problematic foods in one fell swoop. After you have eaten only beef and water for 30-days, you can then test other Zero Carb foods one at a time to see how you do with them.

Fasting takes this process one step further by eliminating all food for a period of time. This way when you add back a food, whether from a basic beef and water diet or from a fully fasted state, your body can give you a much clearer response to whatever food you are testing. This is what happened to me with this last fast I did. Being away from any cooked meat for a while prior to the fast, and then doing a long fast, made it considerably easier for my body to let me know that it really really really does not like cooked meat.

Prior to this, I was living in a fantasy world that I could sort of go back and forth between raw and occasional cooked – if and when I felt the desire for it – but this experience has shown me just how utterly delusional that idea was! From here on out, I am no longer seeing cooked meat as an option for myself. This was a very powerful transformative “a-ha” moment for me. I will never again choose to eat meat that has been cooked even the tiniest bit. Cooked meat is now in the same category as plant foods: it is no longer a “food” as far as I am concerned.

While some people might find this realization to be even more restrictive than what most would already perceive to be a very restrictive Zero Carb diet, I personally find it quite liberating to have finally reached a very definitive conclusion on this issue. There is no more doubt about it, and it is one less decision I need to make. It is all raw all the way for me!

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Lex Rooker: The Unique Healing Power of an All-Raw Zero Carb Diet

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Editor’s note: This testimonial was originally published on a raw paleo forum website. However, it has since been removed for unknown reasons. I contacted Lex via email and asked him if I could please re-publish it on my blog, and he gave me his permission to do so. As someone who only benefits by eating his meat and other animal foods raw, I feel his story is simply too valuable to get lost in the ethers.

Health Problems From the Start & Conventional Treatments

It seems I’ve always had some sort of health problem. I was born in 1951. My mother had no breast milk so I had to be bottle fed. I was prone to colic and my thymus gland (a baby’s 1st defense against infection), didn’t shrink at the rate the doctors thought it should so they decided to intervene. At that time the doctors thought that radiation would cure everything so they gave radiation treatments to my lower throat area. This did cause the thymus gland to shrink, however, it also caused tumors to grow on my thyroid gland by the time I was age six. The tumors were removed, they were said to be benign so everyone thought that was that. Unfortunately, the tumors returned when I was 10 and they had to be removed again – this time they took half the thyroid too. Problem apparently solved.

By age 15 I had cystic acne, which again was treated with radiation. It did seem to help the acne, but 20 years later I started developing skin cancer lesions on the areas of my face that had been exposed to the radiation. To this day I see a dermatologist every six months to have the lesions frozen off. And I now refuse all forms of “preventive diagnostic radiation” like annual dental X-rays.

I was a heavy milk drinker as I was told by parents and doctors that milk was important for health. The more dairy products I ate the worse my acne and I had constant post nasal drip and phlegm. This got remarkably better when I gave up dairy, but I digress…

As a teenager I started getting migraine headaches. I would get at least 3 headaches a month, and the pain was so bad that at times I just wanted to die. The doctors couldn’t find anything wrong, and just prescribed heavy duty pain killers. I started reading everything I could find about health at that time in hopes of finding something that would take the headaches away.

Alternative Health Options

I read Sheldon, Bragg, Carrington, Professor Hotima, Victoris Kulvinskas, Norman Walker, Wigmore, Pritikin – you name the guru, I tried the cure. I did a 31 day distilled water fast (Bragg), and went from 180 lbs to about 96 lbs – almost died, but was convinced that it would be worth it if the headaches went away, and they did for almost 2 years. The problem was that I was so weakened by the fast that it took those 2 years to recover, and then the headaches returned.

I juiced carrots, celery, parsley, beats, and turnip greens and drank the juice by the quart until my skin turned orange (Walker). I raised wheat grass and drank 8 oz of wheat grass juice per day (Wigmore). I sprouted soybeans, wheat, millet, buckwheat, and sunflower seeds, and made ‘rejuvilac’ (Kulvinskasv). I made ‘Essene’ bread from sprouted grains and lentils. I ate cherries by the bushel basket when they were in season (Sheldon), and drank a quart of a tonic made from apple cider vinegar and honey every day (Bragg). None of this did any good. My headaches were as bad as ever, and I felt terrible most of the time.

By then we had the vegetarian movement so I went totally vegan from about 1978 until 1989. My health became so bad that it was painful to get up in the morning. My joints hurt and my teeth were losing their enamel. Not only did I have the killer headaches that would send me to bed in the dark with a heating pad over my face, but my muscles would go into hard painful cramps and spasms that would send me to the emergency room for a shot of muscle relaxant and pain killer.

The interesting part is, I was eating large amounts of whole grains and avoided all those bad “fats” like the plague. I tried the fruitarian route and only lasted a couple of weeks before I was so weak that I could hardly move.
About this time I discovered Pritikin, and that probably saved my life. I went back to eating meat in small amounts but held to the low fat theory because of all those “studies” that showed that animal fat was the cause of heart disease and cancer. At least life was somewhat normal and I felt OK (but not great) most of the time. Still had the headaches but they were once a month or so.

Paleolithic Transition

It was in late 1999 that I ran across Ray Audette’s book Neanderthin. This is also about the time that this wonderful world of the Internet really started to become useful. I started researching the Paleo type diets and began to slowly move in that direction. I still cooked everything, but cut out grains, dairy, and the like but was convinced that my diet still needed to be predominately fruits and vegetables with just small amounts of meat – sort of a super Pritikin without the grains, dairy, and potatoes. I would eat large salads (2 gallon bowl) of mixed greens and veggies with about 8 oz of meat at a meal.

Things got considerably better on my interpretation of the Neanderthin diet, but by this time I’m getting older. I hit 50 in 2001. I was still getting the occasion headache but now it was once every couple of months. I have also suffered from Prostatitis (inflamed prostate gland) since about age 25. I’d get flair-ups every couple of years that would send me to the hospital and I’d be on antibiotics for 6 – 8 weeks. One of these bouts hit in 2003 and this is when they discovered that my blood pressure was rising (147/90 at the time), blood sugar was elevated (fasting level 140), and triglycerides were about 500. All of this was attributed by the medical profession to just normal aging. This was also about the time that the dentist determined that I had advanced gum disease would need to see a specialist as both gums and bone holding the teeth were receding.

I was told that I would need to start taking blood pressure medication, diabetic pills, and cholesterol reducing drugs. The doctors said, “Of course there will be side effects like impotence, nausea, headaches, etc., but we should be able to control most of those by rotating through different drugs” As you can imagine, I was not thrilled.

It was back to the Internet where my next revelation was that I got the “hunter/gatherer” thing backwards. Hunter is first and so diet should be mostly meat. Gathering is for lean times when meat is not available. I had been doing almost the exact opposite. So now I moved to eating a large serving of meat or eggs at each meal but was sure to supplement with a salad and fruit to get all those necessary vitamins and minerals that you just couldn’t get from meat (you know, like vitamin C). I still cooked the meat to at least medium well and I just couldn’t eat fat, it would make me gag. I did notice an immediate improvement in digestion with the change to a higher protein way of eating. Much less gas and indigestion.

About this time a friend gave me a book on the Lewis and Clarke expedition where many of their journal entries were reproduced. I found it amazing to read that each man would often eat 9 lbs of meat after a day of heavy labor. Lewis also recounted that when they would kill a large animal, that the Indians would eat the organs raw. There were times when they subsisted on nothing but Pemmican (mostly dried raw meat and fat) yet remained in perfect health. This helped me to better understand just how much meat I really needed to eat as well as the importance of fat.

A year or so ago I ran across Geoff’s Raw Paleo Diet Yahoo! group and read every post with relish. It is this group and the links that Geoff provided that gave me the courage to try eating meat raw and ultimately doing away with fruits and veggies altogether. I figured that if Vilhjalmur Stefansson could do it then I could too. It was not easy but I did do it almost over night. I think the transition took about 3 months total. I’ve recounted some of the milestones of my return to health in that forum. In the beginning I would have killed for a Pepsi or cookie or a piece of fruit. Now I don’t miss the carbs at all, and seldom think about food. I eat once a day, about 2 lbs of mixed raw organ and muscle meat from grass fed beef – that’s it.

At this time my blood pressure is 102/67, my blood sugar stays right around 95 – 100, pulse has dropped from a resting rate of 78 to a resting rate of 60, and the dentist is amazed at the return of bone density and solid pink gums. Pain from arthritis in hands and knees is completely gone. Cancerous lesions on my face have all but disappeared (I used to have at least a dozen every 6 months and last month there were none). Still have prostate issues but I do see improvement there also. I used to get up every 2 hours at night, and after a year on this diet it is every 3 – 4 hours depending on how much water I drink before going to bed. I will be going to the doctor for a physical in a few weeks and will report cholesterol, triglycerides, and anything else of interest to the group when I get the results.

Lex Rooker’s journal is still publically available on-line and may be read here:

htstp://www.rawpaleodietforum.com/journals/lex’s-journal/