The question “is red meat bad for you” has been a very hot topic lately.
Red meat provides high amounts of:
- Iron (heme)
- B Vitamins
- Bioavailable protein
- Essential amino acids
- Vitamin A
What About The Red Meat Study review?
There are plenty of reasons why red meat is good for you. The uproar and subsequent alarmism resulting from the Harvard research review is a lot less of a sure thing than you’d think.
- Other variables are at play: including age, genetics, education levels and access to health services confound research
- It’s really just a guess: When researchers give people questionnaires and ask them to remember what they ate for a week, those answers are basically just best guesses — not scientific results
- Lack of personalization: It is a challenge to say that avoiding red meat consumption is what you should recommend to the entire population — diets need to be individualized depending on a person’s health concerns (diabetes, heart disease, etc.)
- There is researcher disagreement: the authors of the studies reviewed in this analysis admit the evidence is weak, and that it is far from certain that meat is really to blame — there are other diet and lifestyle factors to consider
- Scientific opposition: a panel of the international researchers who were included in the study said people do not have to cut back for health reasons (but may wish to for ethical reasons). Only three of the 14 panelists said they support reducing red and processed meats.
So, How is Red Meat Good For You?
1. Red Meat Boosts Your Immune System
There are many ways that red meat improves immune function.
- Red meat contains preformed Vitamin A. Vitamin A is crucial for preventing flu, infection, and vomiting.
- Vitamin A is only found in animal sources. Beta carotene is the precursor to Vitamin A that is found in plants.
- Many people, due to genetics or various health issues, cannot convert beta carotene into Vitamin A, putting them at a huge risk of illness.
- Women have been found to be particularly at risk, especially this generation who avoid eating meat.
- Zinc is only found in animal sources, especially red meat. Zinc is important for immune function.
- People who do not eat meat are at a high risk of zinc and Vitamin A deficiency
2. Red Meat Helps with Wound Healing and Healthy Skin and Hair
The minerals, fats, and nutrients found in red meat help to encourage and speed wound healing. They also promote healthy skin and hair.
- Zinc improves wound healing and acne
- Essential amino acids are only found in completion in animal products. Amino acids are important for skin and hair health
- Red meat provides highly bioavailable protein to help with cell turn over and healthy skin and hair cell structure
3. Red Meat Can Help Prevent Liver Disease
Choline is an important nutrient found in red meat as well as eggs.
- Choline deficiency is known to cause liver disease
- Because choline is found predominantly in animal-derived foods, vegetarians and vegans may have a greater risk for inadequacy
- Choline deficiency can cause muscle damage, liver damage, and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)
- It is the most common chronic liver disorder, present in up to 65% of overweight individuals and 90% of those with obesity
- Choline deficiency caused NAFLD can lead to cirrhosis, liver failure, and liver cancer
- 40% of women have a gene variation that causes them to be more susceptible to NAFLD; getting enough choline is particularly important for this population
4. Red Meat Is Crucial for Brain Development and Cognitive Function
Choline and B vitamins contribute greatly to brain development. Not only that, but choline helps prevent neurological disorders and cognitive decline as we age.
- People with Alzheimer’s disease have lower levels of the enzyme that converts choline into acetylcholine in the brain. This means choline is crucial for Alzheimer’s prevention.
- Studies have shown a link between cognitive performance in adults and both higher choline intakes
- Studies have shown that people with low choline levels had poorer sensorimotor speed, perceptual speed, executive function, and global cognition than those with higher levels.
- Other studies have found that those with higher choline intakes had better verbal memory and visual memory
- B12 deficiency can lead to mental confusion and forgetfulness because vitamin B-12 is necessary for healthy brain function. Without treatment for vitamin B-12 deficiency, neurological complications can become permanent.
- Vitamin B12 deficiency, common in those who do not eat red meat, can cause memory loss, confusion, depression, seizures, and more.
5. Red Meat Helps to Break Down Carbohydrates and Enhance Insulin Function
Zinc helps break down carbohydrates in the body. It also helps control blood sugar.
- Zinc is important in insulin action and carbohydrate metabolism
- Zinc deficiency is more common in developing countries, where diabetes is also showing an exponential increase in prevalence.
- Zinc improves fasting insulin level and fasting glucose
6. Red Meat Helps Prevent Infections and Inflammation
- Vitamin A prevents infections and is only found preformed in animal products
- The risk of inflammation is also reduced by good intakes of vitamin A
- A lack of zinc, as often seen in meatless diets, leads to greater risks from bacterial infections and sepsis
- Zinc is involved in controlling oxidative stress and regulating inflammation to normal levels.
7. Red Meat is Important for Human Growth
There are many factors in red meat that are very important for human growth and development. Iron and zinc are two of the most important trace minerals in your body.
- Animal source foods can provide a variety of micronutrients that are difficult to obtain in adequate quantities from plant source foods alone
- Six micronutrients that are particularly low in vegetarian diets are vitamin A, vitamin B-12, riboflavin, calcium, iron and zinc
- Negative health outcomes associated with inadequate intake of these nutrients include anemia, poor growth, rickets, impaired cognitive performance, blindness, neuromuscular deficits
- Animal source foods are particularly rich sources of all six of these nutrients, and relatively small amounts of these foods, added to a vegetarian diet, can substantially increase nutrient adequacy
- Meat, especially red meat is the best source of heme iron. When we eat meat we consume the blood proteins, the hemoglobin and myoglobin contained in the flesh of the animal.
- Heme iron is easily absorbed by the body and the best source of iron for people who are iron deficient.
- Iron is important for healthy brain development and growth in children, and for the normal production and function of various cells and hormones.
- infants and children have high iron needs due to their rapid growth.
- Choline is very important for brain development
8. Red Meat Combats Fatigue and Prevents Anemia
- A lack of iron is called iron-deficiency anemia, which affects about 4-5 million Americans yearly.
- It is the most common nutritional deficiency worldwide, causing extreme fatigue and lightheadedness
- Without enough iron, there aren’t enough red blood cells to transport oxygen, which leads to fatigue.
- Meats, poultry, and seafood are richest in heme iron. Heme iron is better absorbed by the body than non-heme iron.
- An iron deficiency is seen most commonly in children, women who are menstruating or pregnant, and those eating a diet lacking in iron.
- Vitamin B12 deficiency can result from a diet lacking in vitamin B-12, which is found mainly in meat, eggs and milk.
- Vegetarians who don’t eat dairy products and vegans, who don’t eat any foods from animals, may suffer from B vitamin and iron anemia
- Vitamin B12 is important for the production of red blood cells, it’s also important for a healthy nervous system.
9. Red Meat Helps Maintain Reproductive Health
- Choline is an essential nutrient with critical roles in reproductive outcomes and women’s health
- While some women can synthesize choline in the body in an estrogen-dependent reaction, 44% have a genetic disorder that prohibits choline synthesis and need choline from diet
- Most post-menopausal women do not synthesize choline and 80% need choline sources
- More than 90 percent of the U.S. population currently does not meet the Adequate Intake (AI) recommendation for choline
- The consumption of choline-rich foods like eggs and liver has decreased, so it is almost always necessary to supplement the diet with choline
- Zinc is essential in male fertility. Zinc contains many unique properties in human, especially males.
- Zinc as a hormone balancer helps hormones such as testosterone, prostate and sexual healthand functions as an antibacterial agent in men’s urea system.
- Zinc deficiency decreases the chances of producing healthy sperm and is a reason for sperm abnormalities
- Zinc deficiency also has a negative effect on serum testosterone concentration
10. Red Meat is Imperative for Fetal Development
- choline intake may lower the risk of having a baby with brain or spinal cord birth defects
- Extra choline enhances the development and function of the placenta, and eases a baby’s response to stress
- choline may be a nutritional strategy for lowering an infant’s vulnerability to stress-related illnesses —including mental health disturbances, hypertension and type 2 diabetes—in later life
- New and emerging evidence suggests that maternal choline intake during pregnancy, and possibly lactation, has lasting beneficial neurocognitive effects on the offspring
Most Importantly, Enjoy Your Food and Stop Stressing!
Besides all of the nutritional science, do not over look the importance of taking the stress out of eating.
There are so many health warnings, diet recommendations, labels, and false alarms now adays it’s hard to know what is really true about how we should eat.
Stressing out over your diet is a common mental health concern. Being overly cautious with food choices can lead to disordered eating, restricting food groups, nutrient deficiencies, and binge eating when you become fed up.
There really is a lot of merit to relaxing around food. Just do the best you can, using every meal to reach a goal.
Sometimes that goal will be to enjoy delicious flavours and textures. Other times it will be to satisfy a craving. Other times (hopefully, most of the time), it will be to feel good. Energized, strong, and focused.
If we let our guards down surrounding food drama, we will learn to listen to our bodies, end harmful binge and restrict cycles, and simply enjoy our meals.
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