The Truth About Red Meat

By: Bel Marra Health | Functional Foods | Tuesday, March 06, 2012 - 02:51 AM

Red MeatRed meat has long been the more favored portion in meat dishes, based on its appearance, taste, tenderness, and juiciness.  Red meat is also a good source of protein, but is it an effective resource for good health? There has been a sustained hype about eating red meat and its association with higher risks for various diseases and thus, destroying good health.  According to a recent Harvard School of Public Health report published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the consumption of red meat increases the chances of developing type 2 diabetes.  Monitoring over 116,000 study participants over a span of 10 years showed that eating at least one serving (10 grams) of red meat is associated with a higher propensity for this endocrine disorder.  As substitute, the investigators suggested that a high protein diet consisting of nuts and legumes, coupled with fruits and vegetables, promotes good health.

In another study conducted at the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), red meat consumption in a high protein diet was associated with the an increased risk for developing prostate cancer.  Interestingly, cooking red meat at higher temperatures was associated with an even stronger association with prostate cancer.  Another research group at the NIH established a positive correlation between red meat consumption and colorectal cancer.  Based on these alarming reports, it is thus imperative to adapt healthy eating habits that include fruits and vegetables, in order to achieve good health.

Red meat has historically been used as a source for protein for good health, yet through decades of research, other food items have been considered to contain equivalent amounts of protein for maintenance of good health.  For example, the nuts and legumes, which are often included in Mediterranean food preparations or salads from fruits and vegetables, are now major components of a high protein diet.  Comparative chemical analyses of red meat and nut- and legume-based high protein diet show that the amino acid content of both food items is the same.  In addition, nuts and legumes are also rich in fiber, thus these are now regarded as functional foods.  Fruits and vegetables are also rich in fiber, as well as other flavonoids that promote good health.

The preparation of meals from red meat also involves various steps in washing, slicing, and cooking, thus allowing the incorporation of different spices and chemicals into the food item.  Processing red meat can thus serve as an arena for introducing mutagens that can destroy good health.  For example, adding salt to red meat not only enhances meat flavor, but also prevents the onset of bacterial contamination.  However, high amounts of salt in the body can increase the risk for hypertension, stroke, and heart attack, and thus would not be a beneficial for good health.  The excessive use of salt has also been associated with kidney cancer.

On the other hand, a high protein diet requires minimal salting of nuts and legumes, and when mixed with fruits and vegetables, will not even require any cooking.  Fruits and vegetables as part of a high protein diet are also the suggested food items for individuals diagnosed with diabetes, hypertension, and other cardiovascular disorders.  Aside from providing essential vitamins and fibers for good health, fruits and vegetables also contain polyphenols, or plant compounds that impart a protective filter against fatty compounds that may block blood vessels.

Despite the current controversy on the effectiveness of nuts and legumes in a high protein diet on the prevention of colorectal cancer, medical research reports have shown that a high protein diet increases the movement of bowel, thus serving as a contributor for good health.  Fiber from fruits and vegetables also imparts the same effect on bowel movement, preventing complications in the gastrointestinal tract.  Colorectal cancer generally occurs in the elderly, thus fruits and vegetables and a high protein diet are commonly recommended for this specific age group.  And in terms of red meat, substitution with white meat or a high protein diet can be beneficial for good health, together with fruits and vegetables as sources for fiber, flavonoids, and vitamins.

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