Meat. The very mention of the word sparks many thoughts in the minds of many. “Is it safe?” “Does it have any health benefits?”, are some of the questions that are sure to spring up in any discussion on meat. Being an omnivore, you rest assured that your digestive system is well equipped to carry out the full digestion of meat. But still you may wonder, why is there huge reservation among many on the consumption of meat? Since the early 70’s, a lot of research has been carried out to demystify the alleged health concerns of meat. Continue reading and I’m sure you’ll be shocked by all the details you didn’t know about meat.
The first important detail you need to know is that there are two main types of meat; Red meat and White meat. From their names, you can tell that their main difference is color. Red meat, the more common one, is mostly found in mammals while the white meat is common in birds and fish, with the ostrich being an exception. Knowing this, the next step will be to make you understand what type of meat you serve at your table.
Red meat is further subdivided into two categories; Processed and Unprocessed meat. This is where the confusion lies. Processed meat is obtained from factory-bred animals that are fed on artificial feeds and injected with hormones to facilitate fast growth. After their slaughter, the meat is cured then treated further with nitrites and preservatives.
Processed meat bears its fair share of advantages. The processing eliminates both bacteria and other micro-organisms that would otherwise cause you diseases. Additionally, the smoking, curing and packaging of the meat gives it a longer shelf-life, making it safe to consume days after purchase, provided it is stored correctly. This all goes without mentioning that processed meat is available for all seasons, making it very convenient.
However, some continuing studies are claiming processed red meat is the cause of a host of diseases, ranging from Cancer to Diabetes type 2. A study by the American Institute for Cancer Research carried out in 2007 showed compelling evidence that processed meat could be a cause of colorectal cancer. It stated that every 50grams of processed meat consumed increases your chances of contracting colorectal cancer by up to 22%.
A further study published in the 2010 May edition of Circulation claimed that individuals who regularly consume processed meat had a 19% chance of getting type 2 Diabetes and a 42% increased risk of contracting Heart disease. However, it is important to mention that most studies that have been carried out are mostly observational and majorly inconclusive. The Sodium nitrite in the processed meat was once claimed to be a health concern, although studies from the University of Toronto showed it was not a direct health risk. It has to combine with amines in your body to form tiny compositions of nitrosamines, which are known carcinogens. Interestingly, there are large Sodium nitrite quantities in most vegetables you eat including spinach and radishes.
Unprocessed meat, on the other hand, is obtained from naturally fed animals and does not undergo any form of processing. Although it doesn’t last as long as its processed counterpart, its health benefits are unimaginable.
Firstly, it contains a very high amount of animal proteins. Yes, the main word is animal proteins. Unlike the proteins obtained from other sources, animal proteins contain all the 9 amino acids that are required in your diet. Regular introduction of these proteins into your body not only increases your muscle, it also boosts your bone density. This additionally reduces your chances of suffering from a bone fracture, even in your later years.
Meat is also a very rich source of nutrients, including; Vitamins B12, B2, B6, Iron, Zinc, Creatine, Carnosine, DHA and Selenium. B12, in particular, is very rare in plants and hence a healthy serving of meat is sure to boost its levels in your body. All these nutrients are very essential in facilitating normal healthy growth. Additionally, unprocessed meat has regular concentrations of healthy fats that are crucial in different body processes.
Essentially, unprocessed meat is much more healthier than processed meat. Not only does it contain more nutrients, it also cannot be correlated to chronic diseases. More studies are ongoing to determine the health importance of processed meat and red meat in general although nothing has been conclusive yet. It is however important for you to note that properly cooking meat is important to prevent it from forming harmful compounds. Some healthy cooking steps you should know include;
a.) It is healthier to stew/steam meat rather than grill it.
b.) Avoid exposing your meat to naked flames and high cooking temperatures.
c.) Avoid at all costs consuming smoked/ charred food.
d.) Soaking your meat in additives such as olive oil and red wine reduces its chances of forming unhealthy compounds.
All in all, it is of much importance to keep healthy. If cooked properly, unprocessed red meat is a very nutritious option and it should be a great addition to your diet. Although studies are ongoing, there is no reason, scientific or otherwise, for you to deprive yourself of this great gift.