by Tony Isaacs
A number of studies in recent years about red meat consumption have led to widely publicized conclusions and advice that eating red meat is unhealthy. However, such studies have often been plagued by serious flaws and generalizations – and as a result, many people have been mislead into believing that a all one has to do to avoid illness is avoid red meat consumption.
Thus far, there have been virtually no studies which compared people who ate little or no red meat and lived healthily overall with those who ate moderate amounts of healthy forms of red meat and otherwise lived equally as healthily. If such studies were conducted, they might well lead to conclusions that eating at least some healthy red meat is most often beneficial.
Not all meat or vegetable eaters are the same
Too often, red meat studies group people into “red meat eaters” and “vegetable eaters” without fully looking at the differences in dietary and health habits between the two groups other than just red meat consumption. Specifically, the studies have failed to consider the healthier overall habits of many of those who consume more vegetables or the bad health habits of many of the people who consume more red meat.
People who are mostly or fully vegetarians tend to be more active and health conscious. In addition to eating plenty of healthy vegetables and fruits, they also tend to eat fewer unhealthy items such as junk and fast foods. They also tend to be more physically active and have fewer bad health habits such as smoking.
On the other hand, those who eat lots of red meat include the people who eat the very worst forms of red meat. Such people also have a greater tendency to eat other unhealthy foods – such as junk foods, fast foods, sugar-laden foods and processed foods. The group also includes more people with overall unhealthy and sedentary lifestyles.
Not all red meat products are the same
In studies where only overall red meat consumption is considered, six ounces of beef franks or beef salami or processed beef product are considered to be equal to a lean six ounce cut of organic free range beef – and there is a world of difference between them. Processed meat products contain a number of unhealthy items, which may include such items as carcinogenic nitrite, fillers and artificial additives for color, taste, texture and shelf life and less healthy forms of beef from feedlots.
Typical feedlot beef contains unhealthy growth hormones and antibiotics and the cattle may have fed on pastures where herbicides and pesticides were applied. By contrast, organic free range beef contains no growth hormones or antibiotics and has been raised entirely in open range. Such free range beef also usually has a higher mineral content due to feeding on natural grasses and other plants.
Red meat contains essential nutrients
Beef is a wonderful source of protein and contains over 80 nutrients including abundant vitamin B-12 – which is found only in animal products and is essential for cells found in muscles, the brain and the nervous system. Other essential nutrients found in beef include zinc, phosphorous, iron, pantothenate, vitamin B6, thiamin, selenium, niacin, riboflavin and magnesium.
Instead of warning about all red meat consumption, the message that should be spread from the studies is that the key to avoiding illness and living longer and healthier is to eat and live more healthily in many ways.