A few years back, we were bummed at the outrageous announcement that red meat is dangerous for our health. Some health experts went as far as announcing that consuming it has been linked to cancer. It took us a few years to adjust to this scientific-backed evidence until our conviction was shaken once again toward the end of 2019. Another scientific-based study turned the world upside down with its claim that red meat is, in fact, not at all dangerous like previously believed. So what should a simple consumer do in face of these conflicting scientific claims? Here’s what the beef with red meat is all about.
RED MEAT 101
First of all, let’s define what red meat is. According to the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, red meat includes more than just beef. Lamb, pork, goat, veal, venison, elk, bison, and any other non-bird game all fall under the category of red meat. This gives us an idea about how red meat can vary greatly in its content of fats, protein, minerals, and other nutrients. According to healthcare experts, the best-recommended type is lean meat that has less than 10gm of fat, less than 95 mg/100 gm of cholesterol, and 4.5 gm or less of saturated fats.
IS RED MEAT NUTRITIOUS?
Whether it’s served as the main course or as a side dish, you’re definitely wondering if red meat is nutritious at all. Honestly speaking, red meat is packed with nutritional value. It’s packed with protein, iron, zinc, and vitamin B12. Even a side dish or a snack like beef jerky can supply your body with a lot of nutrients. Among the list of what you need to know about beef jerky is that it’s a great snack option for different low-carb diets, like keto and paleo diets. The fact that it’s free from additives and rich in protein and minerals and has a long shelf-life means that it’s a convenient snack for multiple situations.
To give you an idea of how nutritious red meat is, let’s look at its constituents. The protein found in red meat is great for promoting muscle growth and recovery. Vitamin B12, along with iron, helps your body create more red blood cells and vitamin b12 protects the spinal cord. Zinc helps the body create testosterone, and selenium is a powerful antioxidant. In short, one 3-ounce serving of red meat can supply your body with a lot of the daily required value of nutritious needs.
IS RED MEAT HARMFUL?
If it’s that nutritious, then what on earth is wrong with consuming red meat? According to scientific evidence, consuming red meat has been linked to increased risk for heart diseases, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers – especially colorectal cancer. Specifically speaking, this evidence discussed the relation between red meat high in saturated fats or processed meats and these health conditions. On a different note, there are various negative environmental impacts associated with supplying and consuming red meat. To summarize, there has been consistent evidence pointing toward the harmful health and environmental effects of consuming red meat.
WHY THE CONTROVERSY?
So far, we can understand that, although it’s packed with nutrients, red meat poses an increased risk for diseases. Now, the latest controversy arose when a study was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine on 1 October 2019, claiming that the previous evidence is wrong. The study explained its findings, based on systemic reviews, and came up with the conclusion that the link between consuming red meat and these diseases is “low”. They proceeded with their advice about how you don’t have to reduce your red meat intake, whether regular or processed. Needless to mention, this caused an uproar in the medical and scientific society.
Now comes the final verdict. In face of all these conflicting expert opinions, what you need to know is that it all comes down to your consumption. Countless medical experts rebuffed the latest study, pointing out that their research methods were inadequate for the purpose of the study. Generally speaking, you’ll be safer by sticking to lean red meat, going for no more than 3 servings per week. It’s also safer to steer away from processed and smoked red meat. If you’re still worried, you can find healthier red meat alternatives that provide the same nutritious value, like poultry and plant-based protein.
Settling on the final verdict in the red meat controversy can be tricky. With all of the scientific-based evidence, you, as a normal consumer, can be hard-pressed to understand what you should to stay healthy. What we do know is that the facts remain the same: red meat is nutritious, high-fat content is not, and chemically treating or altering the properties of the meat are probably harmful.