The Reality of Red Meat

How many times have you heard that red meat is bad for you? Has hearing this ever deterred you from eating it? The list of foods we are told to be wary of only grows longer and longer each year. But how much caution do we really need to take? With Father’s Day here and summer near, many of us are undoubtedly looking forward to patio grilling and backyard BBQing. Let’s assess some of the warnings regarding red meat and see if they are worthy of your worry.

1. Will eating red meat give me cancer?

Red meat and its correlation to cancer is unclear and has not been scientifically proven, however, the World Health Organization warns of the link between colorectal cancer and high consumption of processed meats such as bacon, ham, and hot dogs. The 1.1 – 1.2 times increased risk is low and has not been linked to all types of meat. The way the meat is prepared and cooked will change its nutritional value and health quality. A good rule of thumb is to avoid meat if it’s smoked, cooked at high heat or has added flavouring, colour and/or preservatives. Think of it this way: the fewer steps it took to get to your plate, the better it is for you.

2. What about cardiovascular disease?

Here’s another myth debunked. We have heard for decades that saturated fat consumption causes high cholesterol, clogged arteries and cardiovascular disease. Since the 1960s, people have been told to cut back on meat, butter and other sources of saturated fat and all the while waistlines and heart attack rates continue to increase. It turns out that saturated fats and consumption of cholesterol have very little effect on LDL cholesterol (the “bad” kind of cholesterol) while eating refined carbohydrates may have more negative consequences such as higher rates of Type 2 Diabetes.

3. But it must cause diabetes, right?

Some sources say that meat is unhealthy because it is linked to diabetes. This is untrue. There is, however, a likelihood that consuming an excess amount of meat, and particularly processed meat, can be linked to the consumption of other unhealthy foods such as trans-fat rich fried foods and fructose laden sodas. Both have been shown to trigger Type 2 diabetes. However, meat consumption does not directly cause diabetes. In general, refrain from eating trans fats, refined sugar and over-processed foods.

4. Will eating red meat affect the aging process?

With red meat’s bad rep, it’s natural to think it negatively affects your appearance and how you visibly age, but this is another unnecessary worry. As long as you’re choosing lean red meat, this will have no adverse effects on your skin such as promoting inflammation or worsening acne. Meat is also an excellent source of protein for collagen renewal—it is high in glycine and proline, the amino acids that produce collagen. It’s also a fantastic source of zinc, which is a natural anti-inflammatory and another ingredient in collagen production. Eating sufficient protein also helps keep you lean!

5. Will my hormones be affected by eating red meat?

The saying “you are what you eat” holds a lot of truth. High-quality protein found in meat may improve metabolism, and lower insulin levels. It is also important to note that the diet and “lifestyle” of what you eat are important. Animals that are roaming and eating pesticide-free and herbicide-free grass will be healthier, too, and won’t pass on harmful toxins and hormone disruptors. 

There’s plenty to take into account when evaluating health claims and concerns over eating meat; reading and researching in depth often reveals more to the story. At Live Young, we recommend your diet include a daily intake of about 1/3 protein from animal sources (meat, fish and poultry) and non-animal sources (quinoa and soy) and about 2/3 fruits and vegetables with a topping of healthy fats (nuts, seeds, hemp or olive/coconut oil). With that in mind, ensure that you’re buying unprocessed meat (and local or organic where possible), cutting back on preservatives, and cooking smart.


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