Is meat a nutritive food offering you important vitamins or is it something harmful to your health? There are mixed approaches about meat and hence this food lies in a state of confusion.
To clarify these opinions, the present article will focus in detail on both the aspects- the benefits of red meat and the possible risks attached to it.
The flesh of animals prepared and consumed by humans as food is known as meat. It could consist of steak, chops, ribs, or roast or in-ground form as consumed in most of the countries in the present times. It is essentially the muscle tissue of birds and mammals.
The primary source of meat in most parts of the world presently is domesticated animals raised on big industrial farms while there may be some traditional cultures where hunting is the only way of obtaining it.
Meat can be categorized into – red meat and white meat.
Red Meat – This is obtained from mammals and consists of more of iron-rich protein myoglobin in its tissue than in white meat.
White Meat – Obtained usually from birds, white meat is generally lighter in color than red meat.
When we talk about meat, it can be lean meat or processed meat. Processed meat refers to the one which has been altered by salting, currying, smoking or drying purposes to increase the shelf life and to increase the taste. Processed meat includes examples like sausages, salamis, bacon, hot dogs, etc.
Lean meat, on the other hand, refers to the variety that has lower calories and fat content
Talking about nutrition, lean meat comes across as an excellent source of protein containing about 30% of protein by weight after cooking.
Secondly, animal protein offers all nine essential amino acids including calories, protein, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6 and B12, Phosphorous, iron, zinc, and selenium.
The liver and other organs consumed are also storehouses of choline which is an important nutrient for brain, muscle, and liver health.
How cooking methods impact meat
Other than the food itself, it is the method of cooking used which can hurt your health.
When meat is grilled, barbecued, or smoked at high temperatures, it results in releasing of fat that drips onto hot cooking surfaces. This further leads to the production of toxic compounds called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which can grow and soak into the meat.
PAHs are carcinogenic, implying they can cause cancer. But if you keep the smoke to a minimum and simultaneously wipe away drippings, it can help in reducing PAH formation by up to 89%.
Another kind of carcinogenic substance is Heterocyclic aromatic amines (HAAs), formed when meat is heated to high temperatures, resulting in a dark crust. These are also formed when meat is chill stored or ripened in the fridge for a longer time.
Meat and Different Medical Conditions
Cancer due to meat
The researchers suggested that increased intake of meat could result in various types of cancer including prostate, kidney, digestive tract or breast cancers. However, on further segregation, it was found that almost in every study the reason for the cancer was not the meat directly but the way of cooking it.
The increased risk of cancer has been associated with the high intake of processed meat and well-done meat i.e. which has PAHs or HAAs.
Type 2 Diabetes
Now, this has both types of studies. While one kind of study shows that consuming more than half a serving of red meat daily increased the risk of developing diabetes within 4 years by 30%, the other kid of study show that low-carb diets, which tends to be high in meat, lowers blood sugar levels and other diabetes markers.
Thus it may be possible that the subjects of the former set of the study did not opt for healthy eating habits and may have avoided eating many vegetables or had consumed too many carbs etc. Other dietary factors play an important role when we talk about diabetes.
A large number of studies have shown a relationship between increased risks of heart disease with high intake of processed meat.
Also as per some controlled studies, frequent meat consumption including high-fat varieties has shown to have a positive or a neutral effect on heart disease risk factors.
Controls weight or increases obesity
This again has both kinds of answers if we look at the researches.
In one set of studies, researchers found a relationship between frequent red meat consumption and obesity. But these observations didn’t include the other types of foods eaten by these people and thus the overall diet could be a possibility behind obesity.
Also, studies are supporting that even if it is meat, consuming fresh, whole foods appears to benefit weight loss.
What are the benefits of eating meat?
No doubt meat is a nutrition-rich food if one intakes it in the right way and appropriate quantity.
Lowers appetite and increases metabolism – Protein is considered to be lending you the feeling of fullness and increasing your metabolism. Meat is a high-protein food and works on the same.
Makes bones stronger – There is an improvement in bone density and bone strength with the help of animal protein. Studies suggest how the intake of red meat resulted in a decreased risk of hip fracture in women.
More iron consumption – Your body is better in absorbing heme iron which is obtained from meat compared to non-heme iron in plants which is not well absorbed by the body.
Eating or avoiding meat is a matter of personal preference. But for those who want to eat but are apprehensive looking at its associated bad effects, here are a couple of ways you may have meat which will help you in reaping the most of its benefits and minimizing the negative impacts.
Choose non-processed products over processed ones.
Add organ meats to your diet and take benefit of their high nutrient content.
If you want to have grilled, barbecued, or have to use another high-heat method, ensure that you wipe away drippings immediately and avoid overcooking or charring.
Eat meat with plant-based foods. These are rich in fiber, contain valuable antioxidants, and help in balancing your diet.
Try knowing about the diet of the animal. Select grass-fed beef. Cattle that intake a natural diet of grass than grain consist of more healthy omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants.