Published On: Wed, Oct 7th, 2020

Is Meat Healthy? Know the Benefits of Eating Meat

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Is meat healthy? Meat is a very contentious food. On the one hand, it is a staple in several diets; also, it is a great source of protein and important nutrients. And on the other hand, many people believe that eating meat is unhealthy, unnecessary, and unethical.

Well, meat is a good source of vitamins, minerals, and protein in the diet. But, if you are eating more than 90g of processed and red meat a day, then the Department of Health advises that you cut down the consumption of red meat to 70g. It is the average per day consumption in the US.

Making a healthier selection can help you to eat meat as a part of a healthy balanced diet. However, many are high in saturated fat, and it can increase blood cholesterol levels. If you eat plenty of processed meat and red meat, then it is advised that you cut down. There is a likely connection between processed and red meat and bowel cancer.

So in this article, we will share a detailed look at the potential risks and health benefits of eating meat.

What is Meat?

Meat is the flesh of the chicken, goat, beef, pork, etc. that humans cook and eat as foods. In many countries, the term mainly relates to the muscle tissue of birds and mammals. It is generally intaken as chops, steak, roast, or ribs.

Although in the past, people consumed internal organs like the kidney, liver, intestine, and brains, it is commonly enjoyed in many cultures. But, many western diets now exclude it.

At present, meat worldwide comes from domesticated raised animals, mainly big industrial complexes that often house for thousands of animals. 

Different Types of Meat

Types of meat are categorized by animal sources and how the animals are prepared. 

Red Meat

This red meat comes from mammals, and it contains more iron-rich protein myoglobin in the tissue than white meat. Like:-

  • Pork
  • Beef
  • Lamb
  • Veal
  • Goat

White Meat

It is typically lighter in color than red meat, and it comes from birds and wild birds. Like:

  • Chicken
  • Duck
  • Turkey
  • Wild birds, like pheasant and quail
  • Goose

Processed Meat

This meat has been modified through curing, salting, drying, smoking, and other methods to enhance the flavor or preserve it. Like:

  • Sausage 
  • Hot Dogs
  • Bacon
  • Jerky
  • Luncheon meats like salami, bologna, and pastrami

Nutrients in Meat

Lean meat is rated as the best source of protein. It contains about 20-30% protein by weight after it is prepared.

A 100-gram of cooked chicken breast that contains about 31 grams of protein. The same amount of serving of lean beef that contains about 27 grams.

Animal protein is a complete protein, which means it gives all nine essential amino acids. A 100-grams of a portion of lean beef provides:

  • Calories: 205
  • Protein: 27 grams
  • Riboflavin: 15% (DV)
  • Niacin: 24% (DV)
  • Vitamin B6: 19% DV
  • Phosphorus: 19% (DV)
  • Selenium: 36% (DV)

The nutrients profiles of muscle meats are similar, though they include less zinc. But, pork is basically high in vitamin thiamine. And, pork chops give 78% of the daily value of thiamine of 157-grams serving.

Organs like the liver are also high in vitamin B12, vitamin A, selenium, and iron. They are also the best source of choline; it is an important nutrient for muscle, brain, and liver health.

Summary 

Meat is the best source of vitamins, minerals, and protein, also including niacin, vitamin B12, and selenium.

Cooking Methods and Effects on Carcinogens

Preparing and cooking meat in certain ways might negatively affect health. When they are barbecued, smoked, or grilled at high temperatures, then the fat is released and drips on the hot surfaces. It then produces a toxic compound called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons that can seep and rise into the meat.

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are carcinogenic; it means that it can cause cancer. But, minimizing the smoke and quickly wiping out the drippings can lower the PAH formation by 89%.

Heterocyclic aromatic amines have been shown to be carcinogenic in long-term animal research, and it is formed when the meat is heated to high temperatures, ending in the dark crust.

HAA levels have been seen to increase during extended cooking times and when the meat is stored chill or developed in the fridge for many days. Moreover, nitrates are the type of additives in processed meats, which is formerly regarded as carcinogenic, but at this time, it is now viewed as harmless or even beneficial. Although, researchers disagree that similar additives like nitrites increase the cancer risk.

Cancer and Meat

Most people claim that consuming meat increases cancer risk. But, it depends on the type of meat you eat and how it is cooked. 

Is Red Meat Bad?

There are some researchers that say that a high intake of red meat consumption is connected with many types of cancer. It includes prostate, tract, breast, and kidney cancers.

However, every expert says that the connection between well-done meat and cancer, HAAs, or PAHs, instead of reading meat itself. They also indicate that high-heat cooking meat had a strong effect.

Of all the cancers, colon cancer has a strong connection with red meat consumption, with plenty of studies reporting the connection.

Aside from studies, it did not distinguish between processed and unprocessed meat and cooking methods. The high risk seems to occur mostly with the higher consumption of well-done and processed meat.

Other Factors that Might Affect Cancer Risk

The red meat is cooked at a high temperature that might increase the cancer risk; white meat does not seem to have this effect. As a matter of fact, one study says the poultry intake was connected to a lower risk of colon cancer, even when it is cooked to the point of charring.

Observational and animal studies advise that the toxic compounds made at the time of high-heat food, heme iron are seen in red meat might play a part in colon cancer development.

Also, many researchers believe that processed meat might possibly lead to inflammation in the colon that can increase cancer risk.

Also, adding vitamin E or calcium to cured meat lowers the levels of toxic end-products in the excretions of rats and humans. Moreover, these nutrients were found to enhance precancerous colon lesions in the rats.

It is important to realize that these studies only show the relationship and cannot prove that processed or red meat causes cancer.

Though it is wise to limit the consumption of processed meat. Well, if you pick to consume red meat, then use gentler cooking techniques and also avoid burning it.

Heart and Meat Disease

Many large observational studies explored that meat consumption and heart disease have found a higher risk with processed products. Though, only one study has found the weak link for red meat alone.

 In 2010, experts did a huge review of 20 studies including over 1.2 million people. They have also found that eating processed meat but not red meat has shown to raise heart disease by 42%. 

Although, these studies did not prove that the high consumption of processed meat can cause heart disease. Other studies have found that frequent meat intaking, including high-fat types, has a positive or neutral effect on heart disease.

Meat and Type 2 Diabetes

There are many huge studies that have also shown the connection between red or processed meat and type 2 diabetes.

A study has found that eating more than half a portion of red meat every day higher the risk of growing diabetes within four years by 30%.

Though, it is likely that those who developed diabetes had been involved in unhealthy diet habits, like eating too many carbs or eating a few vegetables.

Experts show that low-carb diets, which manage to be high in meat, can lower blood sugar levels, and other diabetes markers. 

Meat, obesity, and Wight Control

Many studies suggest that the high consumption of processed and red meat leads to obesity. It includes the review of some studies, including data from over a million people. Though, the results from particular studies varied greatly.

Experts have found that there was a relationship between obesity and red meat consumption, people who ate the huge amount also took in about 700 more calories daily than those who eat smaller amounts.

Though red meat is often associated with weight gain and obesity while white meat is not, and some experts also found no difference in weight changes in some people with excess weight who were assigned to consume pork, beef, or chicken for three months.

Consuming fresh whole foods seems to benefit weight loss, despite whether meat is consumed or not. Moreover, some experts say that ten postmenopausal women with obesity, followed by the unlimited paleo diet comprising 30% of calories from meat. After five weeks, the weight has reduced by ten pounds, and belly fat is reduced by 8% on average.

Benefits of Eating Meat

Eating meat has many health benefits:

  • Increased metabolism and reduced appetite: Several studies have shown that a high protein diet that contains lower hunger, improves metabolic rate, and promotes fullness.
  • Stronger Bones: Animal protein might improve bone strength and density. Some studies say that older women with high consumption of animal protein had a 70% lower risk of hip fractures.
  • Retention of muscle mass: Animal protein consumption is consistently connected to improved muscle mass. Also, some studies show that consuming beef improves muscle mass and also lower markers of inflammation.
  • Better iron absorption: Meat carries heme iron, which the body absorbs better than non than non-heme iron from plants.

Ethical and Environmental Perspectives

Well, there are many people who choose not to eat meat because they do not believe in killing animals when there are alternate ways to meet nutritional needs.

Another object is that animals are being raised in huge, industrial complexes, which are also known as factory farms. These farms are congested and usually do not allow animals to get enough exercise, sunlight, or room to move. To prevent the infection or illness, the animals are frequently given antibiotics, which can lead them to antibiotic resistance.

Some animals are given steroid hormones such as progesterone, testosterone, and estrogen to speed growth. Because of these steroids, it raises additional ethical and health concerns.

The environmental effects of industrial farming have also been studied, especially the waste produced during the time of slaughtering and raising, as well as the huge cost of grain-based meat production.

Fortunately, there are other ways that you can support the small farms that raise animals humanely, and they do not use hormones and antibiotics, they also give animals with natural diets.

How to Maximize the Benefits and Minimize the Negative Effects

Here is how to assure that you are consuming meat in a way that is healthiest for you and for the world:

  • Choose non-processed products: The non-processed meat is always healthier for you than the processed meat.
  • Minimize high-heat cooking: If you barbecue, grill, or use any other kind of high-heat method, clean away drippings right away and also avoid charring and overcooking.
  • Give organ meats a try: Add organ meats to the diet to take the benefits of their high nutrient content.
  • Consume unprocessed, plant-based foods: These are high in fiber, including valuable antioxidants, and it also helps to make your diet well balanced.
  • Select grass-fed beef: Animals that eat a natural diet of grass—instead of grains—then it produces meat, which is higher in healthy antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Choose organic meat from small farms: They are more environmentally friendly and also better from the ethical perspective.

Final Words

A lot of people think about unprocessed meat, and the first question to come to mind is whether meat is healthy? Well, unprocessed or properly cooked meat has many health benefits because it contains many healthy nutrients. 

If you love to consume meat, then there is no compelling nutritional or health reason to stop. But, if you do not feel right about eating the animals, then you can stay healthy by following a well-balanced vegetarian diet. If you find this information useful, drop a comment below this section.  

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