The media’s been bombarding us with the conception that meat isn’t healthy for us and that in some cases, it may be even deadly. But before making assumptions, let’s have a look at the real nutritional value of meat:
Red meat is rich in fat, protein, Vitamin A, B, D and E, iron, zinc.
Fat is the richest source of energy and also supplies essential nutrients. The more fat the meat contains, the higher the energy content.
Protein helps the body grow, maintain and repair. As meat is cooked, the water content decreases, making the nutrients more concentrated and therefore the amount of protein (energy) increases.
Vitamin A is important for the immune system and for normal development and function of the skin and the eye-sight.
Vitamin B which if not present in the body, will lead to an increased risk of intestinal disease, elevated blood levels which may lead to heart diseases and stroke.
Vitamin D is essential for the development and maintenance of bones. The deficiency of vitamin D has been found to lead to autoimmune disease, CVD and cancer.
Vitamin E acts as an anti-oxidant that protects the body’s cells from harm and damage.
Iron is responsible for the formation of haemoglobin in red blood cells and is part of the enzyme reaction that detoxifies our bodies.
Zinc is essential for growth and tissue repair.
All in all, all vitamins in meat support the normal growth and function of our bodies. Not to mention that meat intake leads tosatiety – the feeling of fullness after you have a meal- meaning that you are more likely to get hungry sooner after eating a salad rather than after eating meat!
Nonetheless, meat’s high level of fat has been blamed for causing obesity, cardiovascular disease (CVD), diabetes, cancer etc. But why is that the case?
Obesity comes when the total energy intake is more than the energy the body uses. Recent UK study has indicated that meat intake contributes to just 26% of our overall fat intake which means that even if we cut on eating meat that doesn’t necessarily mean that we will reduce the total amount of fat we take in.
Heart Diseases are considered to be triggered by meat due to the fact that meat contains a lot of fat. Several prospective studies have been carried out but results vary from study to study making it difficult to compare. Overall, findings are inconclusive because eating meat by itself is not enough of a factor. Furthermore, there are many other aspects to it such as lifestyle, genetic predisposition and diet that have an impact on our health and well-being.
Type 2 diabetes
Studies show that heavy-meat consumers are exposed to a higher risk of diabetes compared to low-meat consumers. Nonetheless, it is a matter of a level of consumption again rather than the intake of meat itself.
Studies have not reached a statistical significance which means that a conclusion cannot be made. Findings showed that the heavy-meat consumers are at a higher risk of cancer although it is unclear what amount of meat intake might be potentially associated with a risk of cancer.
The truth is that when meat is being taken as part of a balanced diet, there is a low likelihood of an increased risk of heart disease, obesity, cancer, etc. It is only theexcessive consumption of red meat that can lead to those. In addition, the various limitations of such studies make it impossible to establish a cause and effect correlation.
The Department of Health recommends a daily intake of about 70g per day. The type of meat also makes a difference – aim for lean cuts like beef tenderloin, ham or leg of lamb. Red meat can be part of a balanced diet including starchy carbohydrates (wholegrain foods), plenty of fruits and vegetables and moderate amounts of milk and dairy.
Written by Dr. Noel Duncan
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