For as long as you can remember, experts have been telling you to avoid beef. Well, meat lovers rejoice—red meat is making a healthy comeback!
Red meat has often been criticized and put down as an unhealthy food option because its consumption has frequently been linked to heart disease and cancer. But if you’re among those who love red meat too much to let it go, there’s some good news.
A recent study in the Journal of Nutrition found that eating animal proteins could actually lower your blood pressure. Researchers from the United Kingdom’s University of East Anglia attempted to learn which type of amino acids produced the best results for heart health. Their focus was on plant and animal sources of amino acids. As part of their study, they tested arterial stiffness and blood pressure readings of participants.
What Did The Recent Research Discover?
They found that the more protein the better as it relates to blood pressure and arterial stiffness. So a balance of plant proteins and animal proteins is what you need for healthier arteries and lower blood pressure.
This is because your body needs amino acids, but it can’t make them on its own.
The way that your body gets those amino acids it so desires is through food, namely proteins. The researchers in this study noticed that only the amino acids from the animal proteins lowered arterial stiffness, which could lower the odds of developing heart disease.
What This Means To Your Diet
While you need a combination of proteins from both plants and animals, this means that red meat could effectively make its way back into your diet. It’s a protein powerhouse, yes, but red meat also contains a high amount of iron, which the body absorbs quite easily. Red meat is loaded with vitamins as well that help keep red blood cells healthy and your immune system running smoothly.
It is also a great source of vitamin B12. You need this vitamin for pretty much everything that your body does. Without it, you could be susceptible to mental illnesses, cancer, cardiovascular diseases and not-so-graceful aging. Chris Kresser, M.S., L.Ac, and New York Times best-selling author, notes that red meat is a rich source of many other vitamins including thiamin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, folic acid, niacin and vitamin B6. He does caution that you should do everything possible to stay away from processed and indicates that red meat is a good food source to get these all-important vitamins from.
Red Meat Is A Vitamin D Powerhouse
Red meat can also provide a good source of vitamin D. There are better ways to get vitamin D, like going out in the sun or eating oily fish, but red meat is a good substitute. It can help protect against degenerative bone diseases that are caused by vitamin D deficiencies. And, the vitamin D you get from red meat can be absorbed much more quickly into the body than the vitamin D you find in many other sources.
On that note, Kresser points out that the vitamin D you get from drinking milk that’s supposed to come with similar amounts of the vitamin doesn’t give you the same level of bone disease protection.
It isn’t as easy to absorb by our body. Another win for red meat lovers!
What Do You Do If You Are Already Getting Too Much Iron and Zinc?
If your diet is already too high in iron, then you may want to avoid red meat. But, chances are that you could likely use a little more, and that’s where red meat can come in to save the day.
Why is the iron found in red meat so special?
According to Kresser, the type of iron found in red meat is called heme iron. It’s important because it is easier for your body to absorb this form of iron than any other form in the various plant foods. And, iron absorption matters more than you might think. Iron intake is especially important for pregnant women as iron helps in the growth and development of the child.
Red meat has also got a lot of zinc, which is necessary for the structure of certain proteins and enzymes in your body. The zinc from red meat is also easily absorbed by the body and is an important source of the nutrient because it is the most common zinc source that is consumed. Red meat contains significant amounts of several other essential nutrients and minerals like magnesium, chromium, and phosphorus.
Fatty Acid Profile Of Red Meat Is A Difference Maker
You may be thinking that white meat also contains some of these nutrients, and you’d be right. But, red meat’s dominance lies in its fatty acid profile. Kresser writes on his page that, “The fat of ruminants comprises approximately equal parts of saturated and monounsaturated fat, with only a small amount of polyunsaturated fat. The unique ruminant digestive system ensures that these proportions stay relatively constant, regardless of what the animal eats. This makes red meat a better choice than pork or poultry for those that cannot afford pasture-raised meat because you will still be getting mostly saturated and monounsaturated fats.”
Beef is the richest in essential nutrients, but it is important to control the portion sizes of the meat components of your meals. Just because red meat has some health benefits, it does not mean that you should eat large steaks for every meal. Red meat is best consumed in lean and small portions.
What Type Of Meat Should You Be Eating?
You should stay away from processed meats as they often have different nutritional values than the fresh cuts. WebMD recommends looking for cuts with the word loin in the name, as those are usually the best cuts of red meat for your health. These include such cuts as sirloin, tenderloin, loin chops, etc.
Labels like prime, choice and select also have different meanings. Prime generally refers to the best quality cut of meat. Sounds great, right? Unfortunately, prime meats are usually high in fat. The healthiest option is to go for cuts that are labeled select.
When looking for the best beef choices, you should also opt for roasts and steaks. Try to get such things as flank steak, filet mignon, eye round and chuck shoulder steaks. Lean cuts for pork are roasts, loin chops and bone-in rib chops.
Beware of frozen hamburgers. Check all of the nutrition facts carefully.
Frozen hamburgers contain particularly high amounts of fat. If you’re craving a hamburger, then you should get lean or extra lean branded ground beef and make your own patties. These options will slash your fat intake when compared to pre-made frozen burgers.
A cut of meat is considered lean if a three ounce serving of it contains less than 10 grams of total fat and less than 95 milligrams of cholesterol. Grass fed beef is also much leaner that grain fed beef, so pay attention to those parts of the label as well. Leaner meat means it is lower in total fat and saturated fat, but it still has the proteins that you need for a healthy lifestyle.
It is important to note that past analyzes of red meat and its link to heart disease are not completely unfounded. Too much red meat can definitely be unhealthy and lead to such things as heart attacks or strokes.
A focus on red meat proteins with little or no plant proteins will result in an unbalanced protein intake. This could be dangerous as it may overload your arteries.
The way that you cook your meat could also make it unhealthy for you. Cancer causing agents have been found in overcooked and charred meats. This can obviously be terrible for your health and increase your risk of cancer.
Here Are The Dos And Don’ts Of Grilling Red Meat
Just as with virtually anything, there are the right and wrong ways to prepare red meat. And, these are particularly noteworthy if you are one of those people who like eating their meats well done. Below is a listing of tips from WebMD’s website for grilling meat.
Choose lean red meat cuts when grilling to reduce your odds of flare-ups or heavy smoke. These can leave carcinogens on your meat.
If you’re grilling, cook over a medium heat or an indirect heat, instead of over a high heat. A high heat can cause flare-ups and overcook or char your meat. Limit frying and broiling, as both can also subject meat to higher temperatures.
Don’t overcook your meat. Well-done meat contains more cancer-causing compounds. Make sure that your meat is cooked to an internal temperature that will kill bacteria that could cause food-borne illnesses. You should cook steaks at 145 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Cook your burgers at about 160 degrees.
Marinating could reduce the formation of HCAs. Pick a marinade that has no sugar because it can cause flare-ups that can burn the meat.
Turn your meat often. You can use tongs or spatulas instead of a fork. This will prevent letting the juice drip out of the meat. Don’t press down on your burgers. It will also release juices.
Trim as much fat as possible from the meat you’re cooking before you put it on the grill. Also, don’t forget to remove all burnt or charred sections before you eat.
You can also consider partly cooking fish and meat in your microwave or oven. Then, you can throw it on the grill to complete. You’ll get the great grilling flavor this way.
How Important Is It To Evaluate The Red Meat Packages Sold In Grocery Stores?
All you really need to do is focus on the labels of the meat. If your usual store doesn’t specify the types of cuts of their meat, or they simply do not have the appropriate ones, you may want to consider switching to a different grocery store. This may be the most effective way you will have to creating a healthier lifestyle.
The freshest meat will always be bright red because of its lack of oxidization. A brown color or bad smell indicates that the meat has probably been sitting out in the open too long and is no longer good. Avoid these as much as possible. If the meat has been vacuum-sealed, however, it may take on a sort of purplish hue, which is perfectly acceptable because all of the air has been sucked out of it.
Vacuum-sealed – whether you purchase it that way from the store or seal the fresh meat at home – is the best option for storing meat. Just make sure that there are no air pockets around the meat. Be especially careful with anything that is pre-ground. Pre-ground meat that is already brown is something to definitely avoid.
Keep in mind: No matter how much you love red meat, it is not good to have it on a daily basis. Eating red meat about three or four times a week is acceptable. Check the serving sizes and fat contents to ensure that you’re getting the right portions. And, remember, always pair meat components with a side of veggies and fruits.
Adding chicken and other white meats to your diet will also give you those proteins and amino acids that your body needs without as high a risk to your arteries or your heart. And, chicken and white meats can taste just as great red meat!
But, if you’ve stayed away from red meat because of fears about what it can do to your heart, this latest study should help put you at ease. Start up the grill and put on some steaks, in moderation, of course!
By Sara Campanelli
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