If you’re a regular reader, you know I’m a big fan of the fact that we’re all eating more plants, with benefits ranging from gut health to better skin to hormonal health.
But does that mean that we have to give up meat completely and go vegetarian – or vegan?
It’s a question that might make anyone who’s been indulging in a love of sausages, burgers, and steaks on the grill a little nervous lately.
The simple and happy answer is no (and I eat meat, but more on that below).
While there’s compelling evidence that most of us should eat far less of it in order to live longer and feel and look our best, some animal-based meats are actually linked to some pretty impressive health benefits — and most of us don’t get enough from that.
If you’re a regular reader, you know I’m a big fan of the fact that we’re all eating more plants, with benefits ranging from gut health to better skin to hormonal health
I’m talking animal meats like fatty fish, like salmon and sardines.
Many of their health benefits stem from their high omega-3 content, which not only reduces the production of inflammatory chemicals, but also helps reduce blood fats (especially triglycerides), keeps your arteries clear by preventing plaque build-up , and a key component of your health is brain.
A study involving more than 400,000 people found that replacing 100 calories a day of red and processed meat with oily fish was associated with a roughly 20 percent reduced risk of heart disease.
Next on the “health hierarchy” for meat is white meat like chicken. Cooked pure – i.e. not fried or processed – it has a neutral effect on health. I usually eat chicken from a local farm once a week because I like the taste and it’s a good source of protein.
Did you know?
The iron in plants (non-heme iron) is better absorbed when consumed with vitamin C. So the next time you enjoy lentils, grains, and nuts (all good sources of non-heme iron), add some rich sources of vitamin C, like tomatoes or peppers.
It’s more expensive, but I’d rather reduce the portion size and fill up my meal with cheap plant-based protein sources like canned beans (I always opt for the ones in water).
Then comes your red meat (based on its raw color): beef, pork, or lamb.
Red meat has something of a yellow warning sign in relation to risk of cardiovascular disease and colon cancer, although origin (grass-fed vs. conventional), cut (lean vs. high-fat), and cooking methods (low-heat vs. charred) seem one To make a difference.
And on the bright side, meat provides essential nutrients not as available from other sources, like iron, zinc, and vitamin B12 (needed for our nervous system).
Finally, at the bottom of the meat health hierarchy is processed meat.
Study after study has convincingly linked frequent consumption of processed meats like bacon, sausage, hot dogs, corned beef and salami to cancer, particularly colon cancer.
While we still don’t know exactly what this compound is, there is strong evidence that at least part of the problem is the chemicals (nitrates and nitrites) used to process or preserve this meat. These additives prevent the growth of bacteria in the meat, so it stays edible and pink looking much longer than normal.
But the combination of additives, protein, iron, and high cooking temperatures facilitates the conversion of nitrites into carcinogenic nitrosamines (also one of the many toxic chemicals found in cigarette smoke).
Cooking red meat at high temperatures (resulting in charring) can also lead to the development of other cancer-causing compounds known as heterocyclic amines.
One theory is that the risk is due to the heme iron in red meat.
Heme iron is much better absorbed by our bodies and is therefore a better source of iron than plants (when known as non-heme iron). However, if too much isn’t absorbed in the gut, it changes the bacterial balance there, potentially leading to more “bad” bacteria promoting the formation of carcinogens.
The good news, however, is that the key term here is “too much.” A little red meat and an even smaller amount of processed meat are not associated with significant health risks, and red meat may be helpful for those with iron deficiency.
Considering the risks and benefits, the World Cancer Research Fund recommends limiting red meat to three servings per week, totaling no more than 500g. Personally I would reduce that further, aiming for less than 200g and spread it out over more servings per week. This is due to the way we digest protein.
In an ideal world, all of the protein we eat would be completely absorbed in the small intestine, where food ends up after being partially digested in the stomach.
It’s best digested there, as it feeds our muscles (instead of gut bacteria, which happens further down). However, if we eat more than maybe 70g of meat in one sitting (equivalent to a thin slice of steak the size of the palm of a small hand), it is more likely to be malabsorbed, meaning some of it ends up in the big ones Gut, where gut bacteria ferment it and a more “aggressive” inflammatory gut microbiota (our colony of gut microbes) develops.
The reactions that occur in this environment, in turn, result in the formation of substances like trimethylamine N-oxide, chemicals implicated in metabolic and heart disease.
But we can get around this by eating small portions of meat more often, rather than a lot of meat at once. I mostly buy venison (a lean meat now available in some supermarkets) and freeze it in 50g portions to have in a bean stew once a week or so.
Another health hack when eating meat is choosing what to eat it with.
My own research (published in the journal Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Disease) found that essentially, the more plants you eat with your meat, the less likely it is that your gut microbiome will release these chemicals associated with negative health outcomes. If we give the gut bacteria plenty of fiber to “eat,” they will digest that fiber and leave the protein behind, avoiding these potentially toxic by-products produced by the bacteria that digest meat.
So instead of the traditional meat and two vegetables, think about preparing meat and four plants.
If you love meat, no need to go cold turkey, but trim it down to make room for more plants.
It would be remiss of me not to acknowledge the environmental arguments about meat consumption.
The EAT Lancet report, written by independent experts from 16 countries including the UK, Sweden, India and the US, has affirmed that we eat animal foods to balance the health of planet and people in order to The meat to feed the nearly 10 billion people by 2050 must be drastically reduced, with daily target estimates of 14g red meat, 29g white meat and 28g fish.
Try this: Satay Tofu Skewers
These are high in plant-based protein, calcium (check the label it’s “calcium set”, meaning extra calcium has been added) and anti-inflammatory compounds called isoflavones – and you can grill them in the kitchen (avoid grilling in this tinder). -dry conditions).
- 1 tbsp sriracha or chili sauce
- 2 tablespoons tamari
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- Half a Medjool date, soaked
- 5g peanut butter
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- 280 g firm tofu, cut into 4 cm cubes
Stir the ingredients (except the tofu) in a large bowl.
Add the tofu and let it marinate while you do a 30 minute power walk. Skewer the tofu and set aside the leftover marinade.
Place on a grill pan over moderate heat. Lightly brown (do not char) on each side, then reduce the heat and cook about three minutes on each side. Drizzle with the reserved marinade and serve.
Easy meat swaps
Replace half of the ground beef in Bolognese with canned lentils.
In a skillet, replace half the meat with canned jackfruit (marinate in olive oil, soy sauce, and garlic).
Swap bacon bits for mushrooms (marinate in miso, Worcestershire sauce and honey).
Replace half of the steak on the grill with satay tofu skewers (see recipe above).
About nine years ago I was diagnosed with celiac disease after a blood test. I wasn’t aware of any symptoms. I’m not 100 percent gluten-free and I do eat cake or a scone occasionally, but the only reaction might be to pee extra a few times. Should I be retested?
You can’t “grow out” of celiac disease, but there may be a question mark behind your diagnosis.
The gold standard for diagnosing celiac disease (where the body reacts to gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley) is a colon biopsy. If your diagnosis was based solely on a blood test, I would speak to your GP about a biopsy to confirm that you really do have celiac disease. This would mean reintroducing a significant amount of gluten six weeks before your test.
When it comes to celiac disease, it’s important that you avoid all sources of gluten, even if you don’t have gut symptoms. Because people with “silent” celiac disease can suffer considerable damage to the intestinal mucosa even with small amounts of gluten. There are more than 200 known celiac symptoms, including fatigue, foggy brain and joint pain, so you may also experience unexpected health benefits from having celiac disease and following a strict gluten-free diet.
Contact dr. Megan Rossi
Email [email protected] or write to Good Health, Chron, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT – please include your contact details. dr Megan Rossi cannot maintain personal correspondence. The answers should be viewed in a general context; Always consult your GP if you have any health concerns.