The topic of red meat is always one of controversy. Humans have consumed it throughout history, yet many believe that it can cause serious harm. Red meat has been increasingly blamed for everything from heart disease to cancer. The media love to create sensational headlines about the dangers of red meat, but these claims are often misleading. Environmental and ethical issues aside, it is loaded with beneficial vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other nutrients.
Meat is not meat
Today’s meat is very different from the meat Fred Flintstone threw on the fire. Back then animals roamed free and ate grass, plants or whatever they could hunt. Now our cattle are born and raised in a factory, fed grain-based feed, then injected full of antibiotics and hormones to make them grow faster and fatter. Then, some are even more processed after being slaughtered: either smoked, cured, or treated with nitrates and preservatives.
So it is important to realize that not all meat is the same. Studies suggest that processed red meats, like bacon, hot dogs and cold cuts, are particularly unhealthy. They contain preservatives, nitrites and nitrates, which are believed to be cancer causing agents.
Grass-Fed, Organic Meat: Naturally fed, raised organically and no drugs or hormones.
Conventional Red Meat: Largely unprocessed, but usually factory farmed. E.g. beef, lamb, pork
Processed Meat: E.g. Sausages and bacon.
White Meat: E.g. chicken and turkey.
Red meat is nutritious
Red meat it is loaded with beneficial vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other nutrients - which are vital to proper functioning of nearly every system in your body. It is very nutritious, especially from animals that have been naturally fed and raised. It’s a great source of protein, iron, B3, B12, Zinc, creatine and various other important nutrients. And it’s crucial to get these vitamins from whole foods sources.
Grass-fed beef is even more nutritious than grain-fed, containing plenty of omega-3s, the fatty acid CLA, along with more Vitamins A, E.
Most of the numerous studies that indicate increased risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes are largely observational in nature, which does not necessarily prove causation, rather just correlation. They tell us that people who eat more red meat are more likely to get sick, but they do not prove that red meat caused anything. And despite claims by mainstream medical establishments, there’s no consistent evidence demonstrating that the saturated fat found in red meat significantly raises blood cholesterol levels.
Most studies focus on red meat itself without distinguishing fat content, so it's unclear whether all red meat or just fatty red meat is unhealthy. Once again though, the benefits of organic grass-fed meat are highlighted, as most studies reveal that the risk association is found more for processed meat, not unprocessed red meat.
Other studies show that it may not be the meat itself that is contributing to the increased risk, but rather harmful compounds created when the meat is cooked. When meat is cooked at a high temperature, it can form harmful compounds. Likewise - avoid charred meat, as it can be carcinogenic.
So, many people will continue to think that red meat is unhealthy, while others think that red meat is nutritious – and the truth really lies somewhere between. As with most foods, red meat in moderation probably won't kill you. Life with meat is better than life without it. (With a good glass of red – for the antioxidants, of course)