13 November 2015

Health benefits of red meat

A little while ago, the World Health Organization made occupied many major news feeds when it published a study linking processed meat and red meat to cancer risk. While the research behind this, and the findings published are entirely valid, much of the mainstream media ran with it is without truly understanding the piece. The key takeaways of the study were written about previously, but in short, the WHO is not recommending cutting red eat from a healthy diet, but instead acknowledging slight, yet distinct contributions to specific variations of cancer when red meat is heavily processed and cooked under harsh conditions. As always, it’s important to understand that health and well-being should not be taking as an absolute plus/minus formula, but a very complex quantum of correlated factors of contributions. In simpler terms, health, including cancer prevention is a fine and delicate balance and there are very few instances where doing as much as possible, or as little as possible, will absolutely lead to greater long-term well-being.

In regards to red meat consumption, this means it's important to understand the benefits as well as the dangers and decide for yourself. Below are the most significant, evidence-based health benefits that come with eating red meat.

One - red meat is a strong provider of protein and healthy fats
Protein doesn’t need much explanation in terms of benefits. Hair, nails, muscles, bones, and other essential components of the human body require protein to grow, strengthen and repair. Proteins are made up of building blocks called amino acids and it is without any doubt that animals are the richest sources of protein and contain all of the amino acids we need. Non animal sources such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains and seeds lack the same variety and wealth of these amino acids.

Animal fat however has had bad reputation for a few decades, but the research is coming through and people are beginning to understand that despite popular believe, red meat’s fatty profile is actually its strongest attribute. Animal fat, which is largely saturated fat is an excellent source of caloric energy, contribute to critical metabolic function and protects against oxidative damage. Unlike most cooking oils (seed and vegetable), animal fats found in the likes of coconut and palm oil, ghee, lard and butter hold up in extremely high temperatures and thus are resistant to oxidative damage making them optimal for cooking.

Two - red meat is a rich source of iron, zinc and B vitamins
Beef, lamb, goat and pork (which is counted as red meat here just to separate it from fish and poultry) are rich in necessary iron, zinc, vitamin D and numerous B vitamin levels. This much is relatively well known. What isn’t as widely aware is that red meat has significantly more b12, iron and zinc, and a much more beneficial fatty acid profile compared to fish and poultry. Where white meat like poultry and fish is generally a leaner source of protein with less fat, the vitamin, mineral and healthy saturated and monounsaturated fats indicate optimal nutrition involve both when sources locally, fresh, and free of chemicals, preservatives and hormones. Gentler cooking methods with minimal burning is advised as well.

Three - red meat is delicious and satiating
This last point may not seem as important as the other two, but it absolutely is - despite its subjectivity (not everyone likes red meat, which is totally fine). Due to the minimal carbohydrate and sugar content of red meat, as well as the high protein and healthy fats, all animal products, when produced locally, fresh and free of all things mass-agricultural, is more satisfying to the appetite than most other food sources. Regardless of personal tastes and preferences, meat is more likely to keep one fuller for longer, than fruits, vegetables, grains and sugars - even natural healthy sources.

Locally sourced, chemical and hormone free and Grass-fed is the way to go
Anecdotally, it’s more reasonable to someone to pound away inexplicable amounts of rice, pasta, carrots, cereals, or grapes than it is steak. Rarely would someone fill themselves up on strawberries or garden salad - yet even the best of people can imagine reaching a sleepy maximum at a slow-cooked rib festival. And, despite conventional wisdom, the reality that some foods satiate more than others is a part of the nutritional benefit those foods have. Life is dynamic, sporadic and sometimes even chaotic. The pursuit of having a similarly portioned, pre-planned meal every 2-3 hours may not be sustainable for the long term for most people. So, if opting for a fatty lamb chop rather than lean chicken breast, keep hunger off of your mind, throughout the day, than that, plus all of the other nutritional benefits that come with it, is a huge win. So the next time you’re enjoying a nice medium rare cut of grass-fed beef, don’t worry about cutting away that fatty strip, remember that not only is it delicious, but it may be the healthiest part of the meal. Enjoy.