Meat is one of our most controversial foods to eat because of warring nutritional theories, the rise of obesity, diabetes, and other chronic diseases, the environmental impact of raising meat, and the unethical treatment of livestock. Does eating meat really clog your arteries, cause cancer and type 2 diabetes, and take years off our your life? The answer is absolutely not.
There are personal, religious, ethical, and environmental reasons to not eat meat. These guidelines are the scientific and health reasons to eat good-quality, organic, grass-fed, sustainably raised meat with plenty of plants and vegetables.
Humans started domesticating sheep, cows, and pigs as far back as 10,000 BC. We’ve been eating meat since our species existed. Scientists studying modern-day hunter-gatherers, people who live very similar to our ancestors from this time and also eat a meat-heavy, low-sugar diet, typically have no signs of heart disease, diabetes, or other chronic diseases. Animals have held a central place in the human diet. From an evolutionary perspective, it’s hard to believe that a food that has been part of human existence has been slowing killing us and the cause of the terrible state of our nation’s health.
Meat is the single best source of protein and other vitamins and minerals. The average person needs 60 to 90 grams of protein each day, an even more if you are active. Protein is required to maintain and build muscle. Protein helps us prevent disease and death and when we lose it, our bodies start age-related hormonal changes including pre-diabetes, higher levels of stress hormones like cortisol, and lower levels of anti-aging hormones. A piece of beef that is the size of the palm of your hand and the thickness of a deck of cards has 36 grams of protein. You might think beans and legumes have a lot of protein, but there are only 9 grams of protein in a half of cup (100 grams). You would need to eat 3.5 cups of beans to fulfill your daily protein requirement. That is a lot of beans and would require a lot of thought to prepare and consume this amount. Animal protein also contains all nine essential amino acids our bodies cannot make.
We have demonized meat and thought it was the cause of cancer and heart disease because of misinformation about saturated fat. In 1955 Ancel Keys, a scientist, introduced the “diet-heart” concept to the World Health Organization, a super important group that is the authority of international health to all the countries in the United Nations. His theory claimed when you raise cholesterol, you increase heart disease, and when you lower it, you reduce heart disease. Since saturated fat is a primary cause of high cholesterol and it is found primarily in animal foods, eating it would raise your cholesterol and increase heart disease. The American Heart Association supported his theory and named all saturated fat was “bad”, even fatty plant foods such as coconut, nuts, and avocados. Today, we know that thinking was completely oversimplified and wrong. Recent large research studies in the medical journals, BMJ in 2016 and Annals of Internal Medicine have found no link between saturated fat and heart disease. World-renowned and well-respected cardiologists, Steven Nissen and Salim Yusuf, have come out and said the current recommendations to reduce saturated fat have no scientific basis. Outdated ideas often take a long time to die which is why many medical and nutrition institutions refuse to change their thinking on saturated fat. In short, smart people don’t like to admit they are wrong. Even though saturated fat does not cause heart disease, it is not necessarily a health food and should be eaten in moderation until more information is available on the healthy amount to eat. Try to avoid the deadly combination of saturated fat and sugar or refined carbs.
Eat good-quality, organic, grass-fed or pasture-raised, sustainably raised meat. Grass-fed and pasture-raised meat is nutritionally superior to factory-farmed or conventional meat. Grass-fed and pasture-raised meat has better types of fat, more omega-3s, less inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids, more CLA or conjucated linoleic acid. Cows, sheep, and goats are ruminarts, meaning they have a four chambered stomach to extract nutrients from grass, hay, and forage, and these animals are is the richest source of CLA. CLA is an unusually healthy, naturally occurring trans fat that’s great for you because it is a power antioxidant that slows down the growth of cancerous tumors, prevents plaque from forming in your arteries, reduces the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, helps to maintain weight and metabolism. Factory farming requires huge amounts of fuel, water, antibiotics to raise bigger and fatter animals in over-crowded pens and results in less nutritious meat. If you can’t find grass-fed meat, second best is organic meat. Organic beef can be raised on grain and corn, but the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) organic certification requires the animals be raised in living conditions that are similar to their natural behaviors so some of their lives must be spent grazing on grass. Local farms are great place to purchase meat because their farming practices are sustainable and humane to animals. They understand good grazing practices and the importance of soil farming.
Next time you are at the grocery store or restaurant, look for grass-fed or pasture-raised meat and know you are getting great nutrition in each mouthful.