I will admit that I really, really like red meat. I do eat more chicken and fish, but for some reason I also really like beef mince, my husband hates it. I also like steak and lamb chops, though because of the price, I eat these a lot less of these. But if you are one of those people who eat red meat several times a week, is that okay? Or if you don’t eat it because you have heard it’s unhealthy or you don’t like it, is that the right way to go? I am not talking about ethical reasons anyone might have for not eating red meat, or any meat at all. I am just looking at whether it’s healthy or not.
Good news for red meat lovers:
Red meat does have a lot going for it health wise. It’s high in protein and iron. Two nutrients that are exceptionally good for us. Protein helps build our cells- muscles, hair, nails, and just about every other cell you have. It also helps repair tissues, e.g, muscles after exercise (don’t freak out, when you exercise your muscles get microscopic tears, these tears healing causes the muscles to become stronger, it’s a good thing) or injury. Iron helps transport oxygen around your body and helps maintain healthy cells and blood.
Red meat also contains other nutrients such as B-vitamins, which depending on the type, help you have a healthy nervous system, and help your body to effectively use energy gained from food. Zinc is also another nutrient found in red meat. Zinc helps keep your immune system healthy, and is good for your reproductive system. It also contains Phosphorus which is good for your bones and using the energy from your food, as well as potassium which helps your heart muscles, kidneys, and nervous system function correctly.
Red meat is high in saturated fat. It is almost impossible to avoid saturated fat unless you are vegan. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing, we need fats for our cell membranes and so our bodies can use fat soluble vitamins (Vitamins A- good for your eyes, D- essential for your bones, E- for great skin, and K- for healthy blood clotting so you don’t bleed excessively if you cut yourself). But too much saturated fat raises our bad cholesterol levels, which can end up clogging your arteries so that your blood can’t flow freely throughout your body. Saturated fat is the fat that goes solid at room temperature.
It is recommended that your intake of saturated fat is less than 10% of your total calorie intake. To get all the goodness from fat, also try eating healthier fats, these are not solid. You find them in olives and olive oil, avocados, seeds, fatty fish and nuts. These can be an excellent addition to many meals, even those containing red meat 😉
Good news for red meat dislikers/non-eaters… and still some hope for red meat lovers:
You don’t need to cut red meat out completely, but limit your servings to 7 a week maximum (and only 1 a week if you are following a meditteranean diet. A serving is around 60g, or a palm sized portion cooked. Make dishes with lots of veggies and legumes such as peas, lentils and beans to replace some of the red meat. White meats and fish also contain saturated fat, but they contain less than red meat, and also contain the nutrients that red meat does in varying quantities. You can replace a few of your red meat dishes with white meat and fish dishes. You can also try using healthier oils in your meals such as olive oil. These help lower the bad cholesterol. You can also choose leaner cuts of red meat, e.g. sirloin, or lean mince.
You can still get iron from eggs, green leafy veggies, beans, and lentils, if you don’t eat meat. Drinking or eating vitamin C rich fruits and veggies will boost your ability to absorb the iron, just avoid teas, chocolate, rhubarb and spinach for two hours before and after as these contain oxalates and phytates that interfere with the absorption of iron from plant sources. You can also get protein from other sources such as low fat dairy, eggs, tofu, beans, lentils, peas, nuts and seeds. If you eat a varied diet of fruits, veggies and grains (wholegrains are best), you will also be getting other nutrients that are important for you including zinc and B-vitamins.
You can create simple dishes, or get creative and make a lot of interesting dishes with veggies, even fruits. Some with red meat, and some with white meats, and some without any meat at all. So as with most nutrition advise, eat red meat in moderation, and if you don’t like red meat, or don’t eat it because of ethical reasons, there are still plenty of other foods you can eat to get your nutrients 🙂
Shaw Academy Nutrition manuals