The “red meats” are probably the most controversial of the food categories It is very clear that an excess of meat in the diet can cause all kinds of problems from the high amounts of fat and sodium, and likely from excess protein as well. The saturated fat concentration is probably the worst aspect of meat. But many doctors and other people believe that they have to eat red meats for a balanced diet?that without the protein and iron from meat, they will be undernourished. Eating meat does make it a little easier to obtain these nutrients, but the negative aspects of beef and other cultivated red meats, I believe, outweigh the positive, especially when meat is eaten at all regularly. I personally have chosen not to eat red meats, and many more health-oriented people are making that same choice.
The cow-steer-cattle family is what most people think when we say “meat.” We will call this “beef,” and most of our discussion refers to this flesh of the cattle, because that is the commonly consumed meat, though in some cultures lamb or pork is more common. Meat is basically the muscles of these animals. The organs such as the liver and heart are usually referred to by their specific name or as organ meats.
There are many parts of the steer that are commonly eaten. They all provide a high amount of complete protein, as these muscle meats are very close in makeup to human protein. Meats, then, probably supply the best mixture of the amino acids to build human tissues. But the different cuts of meat may vary greatly in their fat content, and this is, again, the greatest concern with meat. If eating meat, it is wise to eat more of the leaner cuts, such as flank or round steak, rump or chuck roasts, lean ground beef or stew meat, veal cutlets, or sirloin steaks, at the higher end. The richer and fattier meats also tend to have the richer flavor, as it is the fats, especially the saturated ones, that tend to add flavor to these foods. T-bone and porterhouse steaks, ribs, rib roast, brisket, pork chops, and ham are higher in fats, about 35?5 percent; this may vary somewhat depending on the grade of meat?choice, prime, or good. The good grades usually contain less fat, which can make them a little less tender. The higher-grade meats are usually fattened on special foods just before they are slaughtered to make them more flavorful and tender, as well as higher priced. The highest-fat meats are the processed ones, such as bacon, lunch meat, canned hams, and salami. These “foods” also usually have very high sodium levels and chemical additives, such as nitrates, which may add further dangers.
Besides the protein, fat, and calories in the meats, there are many other nutrients. The iron content is very good and more usable by our body than iron from any other source. Zinc and selenium are found in some meats. The B vitamins are in fairly good levels, especially hard-to-get vitamin Bit. Niacin, folic acid, thiamine, and pantothenic acid are also found in most meats. Vitamin A levels are only moderate though very high in liver. Vitamin E and D are minimal. Potassium and phosphorus are the highest of the other minerals. The low amount of calcium makes the calcium-phosphorus ratio of meats another concern in terms of the health of our bones and kidneys. Sodium is also found in larger amounts than in other foods, but if meat is unsalted, it is not very high.
Beef or calf liver is known to be one of the most concentrated sources of nutrition available. The liver, though, may concentrate chemicals and other pollutants as well, since it handles much of the body’s detoxification in humans and animals. Liver is fairly low in fat and high in protein. It is very high in pre-formed vitamin A?eight ounces of liver have 100,000 IUs, which may cause some side effects, though this is rare with infrequent intake. The vitamin By level is also the highest of any food. Other B vitamins, such as riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pyridoxine (B6), biotin, and colic acid, are also high. Many of the minerals are very good, too, such as iron, zinc, copper, chromium, selenium, potassium, phosphorus, and sodium. Liver is often suggested as a medicinal food for anemia or fatigue because of its high iron and blood-building nutrients.
Other organs, such as tongue, heart, brains, and kidneys, are occasionally consumed by people with a taste for those things. These organs usually have a higher vitamin and mineral content than do the muscles, but they are not nearly as concentrated as liver.
Another red meat consumed fairly commonly, especially in the Middle Eastern countries, lamb is similar to beef in its nutrient makeup and high protein content, and is said biblically to be the closest to human flesh. Its fat content is about midway between that of the richer and the leaner cuts of beef.
Pork comes from pigs and is eaten by many cultures since the first fragrant burnings of pigs caught in the barn fire. Pig muscles?that is, pork?are similar to beef and lamb in their content of protein, fat and other nutrients. However, the cured pork products, such as ham and bacon, have very high sodium levels and contain other additives, making them foods to be avoided. Also, pork may more easily become infected with bacteria and parasites. It should be refrigerated at all times until it is cooked very well before being eaten.
In general, all meats need to be refrigerated and cooked. The high amount of fats can rapidly lead to spoilage at room temperature. Steak tartare (raw), as served in some restaurants, should be very fresh. Uncooked meat should not even sit in the refrigerator for more than two Day s. It is best frozen until ready for use. The meats can be used in a variety of ways?roasted, baked, fried, broiled, made into stews with vegetables, in soups, and to flavor broth and sauces. There are many kinds of meat dishes, and different cultures use meats differently. In Western countries, large pieces of meat are eaten as the main part of a meal, while in Asian cultures, most meals contain some meat, but in a small portion compared to the vegetables and rice. Meat foods are really not meant to be a staple in the diet.
There are many philosophical and health reasons for not consuming modern meats, at least in large amounts. The main problem is that meat cultivated toDay is not like the wild animals on which our ancestors lived. First, they used meat for feasts and special occasions, not as a main food. Also, the free-ranging animals such as deer, moose, bison, and cattle had a much lower fat content than present-Day animals. They lived naturally only on vegetation and were not force-fed on lots of grains with less activity. These practices have greatly increased the fat content of animals from about 5 percent with only 2-3 percent saturated fats (cattle have slightly more) to the modern-Day levels of five or six times that. These extra amounts of fat in cultivated meats may make the difference, especially in a less active culture, between disease and health.
Also, like chicken, cattle nowaDay s live in close quarters and may be fed more food and more stimulants and antibiotics to prevent infection. Hormones were used commonly for many years, but they are hopefully being reduced due to new laws. And the meat we call veal comes from poor little imprisoned baby cows whose lack of activity keeps their muscles weak, undeveloped, and very tender. They are fed an iron-deficient slosh to keep them anemic, which also makes their muscles (meat) white.
Wild game, such as venison and rabbit, tend to be lower in fats and possibly more healthy to eat because they tend to graze and eat naturally. But then, if we want these we often need, as in olden times, to go out and hunt them.
This is not a serious attempt at building an emotional case against the eating of meat. I am trying to provide a logical understanding of eating in general from a sensible and balanced point of view?and to provide information to help make the right choices.
The medical concerns over beef include increased cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, and atherosclerosis. This may lead to coronary artery disease and heart attacks or strokes. Vegetarians usually have much lower levels of cholesterol and triglycerides than meat eaters and also have less atherosclerosis and heart disease. Circulating fats tend to increase arterial plaque formation. Vegetarians also tend to have lower blood pressure. In some epidemiological studies with Seventh-Day Adventists who eat a vegetarian diet, they show a decreased death rate from heart disease and an increased longevity. If they do develop heart disease, it is about ten years later than the average population. Other factors, such as exercise, stress, sugar, and salt in the diet or the eating of more natural foods may also affect these statistics.
Cancer rates are increased with the higher amounts of dietary fats, which many studies relate particularly to colon, rectal, and breast cancer, though the risk of other types of cancer is probably increased as well. The American diet averages over 40 percent fat, much of this the saturated variety. Dietary changes may reduce cancer risks. High-meat diets may also influence kidney disease and osteoporosis, two other very serious diseases of aging.
Overall, the best way to use meat in the diet is to apply the following principles:
- Eat meat only in moderation. This means less meat than the average Arnerican now eats. Try more vegetarian dishes.
- When eating meats, try the leaner cuts. For most cuts, trim the excess fat.
- Especially avoid all the cured meats, such as bacon, ham, lunch meat, sausage, and franks, because of their higher fat content, high amounts of sodium, and cancer-causing chemicals such as nitrates. Chemical-free turkey franks and soy franks are now available as substitutes.
- When using meats, try them as smaller parts of other dishes, such as casseroles and big salads, or cooked with vegetables such as onions, garlic, carrots, or greens. This helps the meat go a long way in both cost and health.
- Add more fish to the diet in place of red-meat dishes. This will help cut cholesterol and fats and protect us from cardiovascular diseases.
- Increase intake of some of the anticancer and disease-protecting nutrients, such as zinc, vitamin E, vitamin C, beta-carotene, and selenium.
- Eat more fiber foods, such as whole grains and vegetables. This also balances our diet and is protective against the degenerating diseases.
- Exercise regularly.
- Do not use meat as a dietary staple. If it is consumed, use it as a special treat or celebration.
- It is not necessary to eat meat at Al. Try going without it for a month and see how you feel.