I am always slightly amused that, when people find out I’m a nutritional therapist, they might start telling me of a healthy habit they have, or something they avoid to get a nod of approval. I am always curious to know and happy to listen but one of those things is often….”I make sure I don’t eat much red meat”, and although many of us are becoming more aware of the need for healthy fats in the diet, the benefits of red meat are definitely not being shouted about! So I intend to do just that…
Firstly, I’m not ignoring the various headlines on studies that have linked eating red meat and saturated fats to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, cancers, or obesity, and though not plucked from thin air they have many flaws or are based on poor evidence…….
One big problem is the lack of distinction between processed and unprocessed meats; don’t be comparing my meals of a grass fed steak and veg to that of a highly processed poor quality fast food burger (and this seriously happens)! Using this as an example someone who regularly eats the burger is also regularly consuming highly processed grains and oils, and likely some sugar laden sauces and/or drinks, whereas the first meal is providing good quality nutrient dense protein, fats, fiber, and many micronutrients. So what’s more likely to be the issues there?
Other lifestyle factors – another consideration that isn’t taken into account in many of these studies is other lifestyle habits such as alcohol, refined sugar consumption, vegetable and fruit consumption (or lack of), physical activity, smoking, etc, all of which would have an effect on someone’s health status or risk of certain diseases. A strong healthy user bias has been found, where those who regularly ate red meat were also more likely to have unhealthy habits such as those just listed….correlation not causation. If we were to be fed (pun unintended!) information based on studies of people who were eating a diet based on good quality grass fed red meat, fish, vegetables, fruits, and healthy fats, I’m sure it would be a very different story.
Now for the juicy good stuff and why I don’t want you to miss out 😉
As well as a delicious source of protein grass fed red meat is one of the best nutrient dense foods available providing whole host of minerals and vitamins.
One of the most well known benefits is being a brilliant source of heme iron which is highly bioavailable (meaning well absorbed and utilized by the body) and although iron can be found in certain vegetables this is non-heme iron which is poorly absorbed in comparison. Similarly we get a bioavailable source zinc (along with many other vital minerals including magnesium, copper, selenium, chromium, phosphorus)
It is an easy way of getting significant levels of B vitamins which are involved in the function of nearly every system in the body, including B12 which we can not get from plants, as well as contributing a very well absorbed form of vitamin D. B12 deficiency is a health issue that cannot be ignored, I wrote more on the risks and symptoms here.
Grass fed red meats also boast a great fatty acid profile and is one of the best sources of CLA, a type of fat with high antioxidant properties, and a popular supplement within the sports and weight loss industry. Many of us are far too happy to repeatedly eat the same cut of chicken, but gram for gram chicken breast is actually one of the lowest in micronutrients.
In short unprocessed red meats are extremely nutrient dense and have a worthy place in a health promoting diet and lifestyle! Cook up those grass fed steaks, homemade burgers, and
Chops, and serve with a big ol’ pile of veggies!