Are You Addicted to Red Meat?

Are You Addicted to Red Meat?

I’m sure you’ve heard by now that red meat is terrible for you.  If you haven’t, perhaps it’s time to wake up.  Research conducted over the past 20 years has made some considerable findings about the detriment that red meat has done to our overall health, turning even the most warrior-like meat-and-potato eating carnivores into vegetarians and even vegans.

Protein, Protein, Protein

One of the main problems is that as a society we feel the need to overconsume protein.  The Standard American Diet contains between 20-30% protein, and many of the health problems that we have are directly attributable to it’s overconsumption.  High consumption of animal protein are associated with increased production of the hormone IGF-1, a potent growth factor that increases cell proliferation and therefore the risk for developing many types of cancers.  High protein load also places a large demand on the liver to produce urea, which results in an increased load on the kidney to filter urea into the urine.

A large study that examined the eating habits of 32,000 adults for 6 years found that those who avoided red meat but ate white meat regularly had more than a 300% increase in colon cancer incidence than those who ate neither red nor white meat.  Eating beans, peas, and lentils twice a week lowered cancer risk by 50% altogether.

To say that red meat causes cancer is a fallacy.  However, the frequent consumption of red meat is certainly not good for long term health.  In other words, the risks of eating red meat outweigh the benefits.  The problem is, I’m not even sure what the benefits are.

Men are particularly attracted to red meat because of the masculinity that it exudes.  I call red meat MAN FOOD.  Over the past 30-50 years, MAN FOOD has generally been things like steak, hamburgers, pork chops, turkey legs, meatloaf, and other meat-heavy dishes.  The reason for that is most likely because it brings out the warrior in us, and reminds everyone around that we are kings.  Kings of the food we choose to eat.  And what better way to show that then by stuffing a leg of something into your mouth.

Chicken is the New Beef

Unbeknownst to many, animal protein also has a significant effect on raising cholesterol levels, while plant protein can significantly reduce it.  Chicken has nearly the same amount of cholesterol as beef per unit calorie, and the production of nasty cancer-causing chemicals called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) are even more concentrated in chicken than in beef.  Many studies have shown that chicken is almost as dangerous as red meat for the heart.

Therefore, there is no advantage to eating lean white meat over red meat as far as cholesterol is concerned.

So if you really want to make a difference to your health, what are your options?  Well, you may not want to hear this, but switching from a meat-heavy diet to a vegetable-and-fruit-heavy diet does the trick.  We  now know from countless examples (myself included) that cholesterol levels can be significantly reduced by cutting out both saturated fat and animal protein, and substituting it with plants.

Plants.  It’s what’s for dinner.

Plant Protein Reigns King

Did you know that in populations that consume a lifelong vegetarian or near-vegetarian diet have virtually no heart attacks?  In turn, populations with superior heart health also have low cholesterol  levels and low cancer rates as well.  So in effect, it’s a triple whammy.

For the longest time plant protein has been given a bad rap.  Allow me to present and dispel the confusion in one graceful list, shown below:

  1. Plant proteins are not always complete.  This means that sometimes they are missing essential amino acids.  If you were eating one food for the day, this might be a problem.  When we eat fruits and vegetables, we generally combine them together in various combinations.  By doing so, the amino acids not present in one food are supplemented by the amino acids in another.  By eating a diet varied in plant sources, amino acid deficiencies are extremely hard to develop.  I’m not even sure it’s possible.

  2. Plant proteins are not absorbed as well as animal proteins.  This is a true statement, but it doesn’t mean anything.  Since when do we judge our food by it’s nutrient conversion efficiency in our intestine?  Being less absorbable is actually a good thing in this case, again because as adults our objective is not to continue to grow.  The more protein we absorb, the faster we promote tissue growth.  The faster tissues are signaled to grow, the higher the incidence of inflammation.  Increaed inflammation results in increased tumor incidence.

  3. Plant proteins may be harder to digest than animal proteins.  Plant proteins are not necessarily hard to digest, it’s the fiber in the plant that results in digestive discomfort.  Especially if you eat a large proportion of your diet in meat, switching to a high fiber diet is bound to cause some internal scrape-age.  Think of fiber as the chimney sweeper in your small and large intestine.  It takes time to remove undigested food matter from the inside of your digestive system, however the results are magical.  So if you find that the transition to plant-based foods is causing discomfort, make the transition slower, and be aware of high fiber foods which may be causing the pain.  Over time, eat as much fiber as you can stomach, but make the transition gradual.

I will be writing a longer article about high quality sources of plant protein in the near future.  In the meantime, read the article below to find out which cities in the US have the worst health…

 

Heart Disease Alert! RealAge Test Reveals Top 10 Cities That Love Red Meat — Too Much! (via MarketWired)

SOURCE: Sharecare July 02, 2013 11:31 ET 1 out of 5 Men Chow Down on 8 Pounds of Red Meat a Week; 1 out of 5 Women, More Than 5 Pounds ATLANTA, GA–(Marketwired – July 02, 2013) – Who doesn’t love a juicy steak or a burger hot off the grill? It’s practically…

Photo credit: ratterrell / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Photo credit: Another Pint Please… / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Photo credit: ccdoh1 / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

 

About The Author

Cyrus Khambatta

Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 22, I have spent over a decade learning the fundamentals of nutrition at the doctorate level. My goal is to share my knowledge of practical nutrition and fitness with people with prediabetes, type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is an OPPORTUNITY to attain excellent health. Reversing the effects of insulin resistance can be a fun and enjoyable process if the right system is in place. That's why I've spent over 10 years developing a rock solid system that can minimize blood glucose variability and insulin resistance.

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