Meat is one of the oldest sources of food that we still use today. Until more staple food and the whole agricultural industry was introduced about 10,000 years ago, our main source of food was through hunting and fishing.
Even though meat is some of the oldest diets available, the question still arises on whether eating meat is good or bad for your body. We will delve deeper into the arguments behind the risks and benefits of eating meat, and the difference between red and white meats.
What is meat mainly made of?
A quick look at meat suggests that meat is mostly the muscle tissue of an animal. From what we know, this means that meat is 60-70% water, 5% fat, carbs and mixed proteins, and 20% pure protein. Meat is especially popular among bodybuilders and athletes who are looking to grow or strengthen their muscles because of their high protein density.
Is eating meat bad for your body?
Hopping back to the original question, the short answer to the question is “no”. Eating meat is not bad for your body.
The bigger and more informed answer is that it entirely depends on how much meat you are eating, what kind of meat you are consuming, and the time of the day.
The Department of Health in the United Kingdom advises eating no more than 70g of red or processed meat per day. There are concerns that you should not eat meat during the night because it can leave you with a heavy stomach. This can lead to a loss of sleep or even acid reflux.
In general, many health specialists suggest eating lean meat to ensure that one maintains a healthy level of cholesterol.
Red Meat vs White Meat
There have been many discussions when choosing what kind of meat is better for intake: red or white. Here are some simple facts to know about both:
Red Meat is divided into all heavy livestock like beef, pork, and lamb. In culinary terms, only mammal meat is considered red meat.
White meat on the other hand is used to refer to duck, goose, chicken, turkey, and different kinds of birds’ meat. Do note that some animals like chicken and turkey have a high concentration of protein myoglobin in their thighs, so these body parts are considered dark meat, and not white meat in general.
Difference between the two
The main difference between red meat and white meat is the amount of protein myoglobin that is produced. Another big difference is the fat content. Red meat generally has a fat concentration of around 20%, while white meat has a much lower concentration. This is one of the reasons why chicken burgers are far more common and cheaper as compared to beef burgers.
Concerns between the two
Red meat is criticized by some specialists for reasons like it can have negative impacts on long-term health. We will discuss this in detail later. The World Health Organization rates red meat as “likely carcinogen” – meaning that it might lead to cancer.
White meat, on the other hand, is much more preferred but there are still concerns. Where red meat contains protein, vitamin B12, and minerals such as iron and zinc, white meat lacks many of these important compounds.
Dietary value differences
A study found out that although white meat has less level of fat per pound of weight as compared to red meat, it is almost three to five times as rich in Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids.
Except for vitamin B12, white meat contains generally higher levels of other vitamins such as Vitamin A, E, K, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, and so on. White meat contains way fewer minerals as compared to red meat, but generally contains higher levels of Selenium.
In many other compounds such as CLA, Creatine, Glutathione, Taurine, etc – almost all of the beneficial compounds’ concentration studies show that red meat has slightly higher concentrations.
Long story short, there is not much of a difference between white meat and red meat when comparing nutrition. Both contain almost an equal amount of protein per pound of weight. It all comes down to personal preferences. Some people prefer the textured flavor of chicken and turkey, while many others prefer darker, tougher meat that comes from beef and pork.
Benefits of Meat
Meats have a wide variety of benefits. Some of the general benefits in all types of meat -whether they be red, processed, or white – are the following:
- Improves muscle growth
- Is linked to increased bone density
- Important for fetal life
- Important for brain development and functioning
- Can boost the immune system
Improves muscle growth
Meat contains a healthy amount of protein, which is the building block of muscle. Meat is one of the highest sources of protein naturally. Meat also contains zinc, which helps repair muscle mass. It also contains magnesium which is necessary to maintain muscle function.
Studies show that people suffering from muscular dystrophy and muscle weakness were able to be treated through meat because of its high levels of creatine and amino acids.
Is linked to increased bone density
As mentioned earlier, meat contains high levels of amino acids – which are important to maintain and improve bone mineral density. Meat also contains healthy levels of lysine, collagen, and methionine – all of which are linked to promoting bone healing and improving bone density and strength.
Important for fetal life
Science claims that it is especially important for the child in the womb to have a varied and balanced diet, which contains proteins of high biological value and necessary fatty acids. Luckily, meat is high in both. Protein helps in the construction of unborn tissues and helps in the development of the placenta of the baby. The fatty acids such as omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids are important for the development of DHA.
Other than that, some vitamins such as Vitamin A, B, and C are essential for tissue growth as well as energy and protein metabolism transformation. We studied earlier that meat contains high levels of all three vitamins.
Important for brain development & functioning
Because meat is rich in iron, it plays an essential part in keeping the brain healthy – especially for children and unborn fetuses. Vitamins A, D, and B12 play an essential role in promoting good vision, stronger bones and teeth, and overall brain health. Similarly, fatty acids are important for the development of the brain and the suppression of tumor growth.
Can boost the immune system
Meat has excellent levels of vitamin B1 and B12 which are important to maintain the immune system. Chromium, when present in small amounts, helps stimulate the body to protect against diseases. Meat also contains a healthy level of this micro-nutrient.
Meat, when used in soup, is used to help protect our fight against the common cold and flu. There are many other cases where meat has not only helped protect against inflammation and damage of the body but also helped cope with diseases and illnesses.
Risks of eating meat
There are some risks of using red meat, though many of them are being debunked in recent studies. Some of these risks are as followed:
Can cause cancer
Studies show that people who eat more than 90 grams of meat a day have been linked to a higher risk of developing cancer, especially in the liver. Some other cancers that might be caused by eating meat include bowel cancer, lung cancer, stomach cancer, and other cardiovascular diseases.
There have been inconsistent studies on meat being the cause of cancers of the bladder, pancreas, prostate, glioma, renal cells, and breast.
A very thorough study in 2007 suggested that consuming high amounts of red meat a day increased colorectal cancer chance by 24% while using an average amount still had a 20% risk. Red meat is also associated with 20% to 60% risks of liver and lung.
Maybe the cause of many cardiovascular diseases
Meat contains a high amount of cholesterol, which is the biggest culprit behind issues related to the heart. A study found that though meat was the biggest reason for high cholesterol levels, processed foods also played a vital role. Studies suggest that consuming processed meat increased heart disease risk in over a million people by up-to 42%.
Can trigger type-2 diabetes
Type-2 diabetes is a condition that is triggered when the human body is resistant to insulin, or when the body’s pancreas is unable to produce adequate insulin. Moreover, obesity is the biggest cause of diabetes. Eating meat is linked to obesity – which triggers type-2 diabetes.
Not only that but low-carb diets that are full of only meat also play a vital part in developing diabetes.
Because of the very nature of how meat is procured, it will always remain a controversial topic. Many argue that because our ancestors have been eating meat their entire lives, there is nothing wrong with eating meat right now. A lot of other people argue that eating meat is not only risky for our lives, but the process of killing innocent animals is also wrong. When it boils down to it – no pun intended, it is up to you to eat meat or not.