Red meat is a favourite in Australia, all of our classic Aussie dishes have red meat: the sausage sanga, the meat pie and lamb chops on the barbecue. But red meat is more than just our classics, it includes the likes of kangaroo, goat, rabbit and other game meats. Red meat is a very common inclusion to any lunch or dinner spread (and the occasional rasher bacon or fat sausage for breakfast!) and is high in many of the important nutrients you get from animal products: protein, B12 vitamin, iron and zinc. In this, red meat is a very nutritional addition to your balanced diet. But then you read headlines like this:
RED MEAT CAUSES CANCER, DIABETES, DEATH.
It’s a bit daunting, right? But don’t fear, we’re not selling you a cyanide pill wrapped in a salty, flavourful packaging. The truth is, you can eat red meat and be happy and healthy: when you’re aware of what and how you’re putting it into your body.
The first obvious thing to consider when eating red meat is the quality of the meat you’re having. Unprocessed, organic meat with an absence of growth hormones is the cleanest and, thus, healthiest meat you can eat. Many studies have been done throughout the decades, which found that processed meat was associated with an increased risk of heart disease and diabetes. There was no similar correlation for unprocessed meat. In fact, many of the studies hadn’t taken into account the difference between unprocessed meat and processed meat when performing their studies 1.
Processed meat is considered any meat that has been altered to change its form. Processed meat reportedly has nitrate compounds like N-nitroso which is a chemical used to preserve the colour and improve flavour, and studies indicated it can increase the risk of bowel and stomach cancer 2.
Other similar chemicals like Heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) can be found in processed meat and can be dangerous if eaten in huge amounts. Aside from chemical intervention, processed red meat reportedly has slightly more sodium, fat and calories than unprocessed meat (per serving) 3, which makes unprocessed meats a better choice simply in terms of health.
Aside from unprocessed vs processed red meat is the standard of meat. Grass-fed meat, like beef and lamb, contain more of the health-boosting nutrients like omega-3 which is naturally occurring in their food. We receive those nutrients when we eat grass-fed meat. This is a very important part of our diet which fights heart and brain diseases, reduces inflammation and improve mental disorders like ADHD, depression and anxiety 4.
Compared to grain-fed or standardised meat, organic grass-fed meat is free from harmful synthesised chemicals which can interfere with the natural balance of our own chemicals and antibodies. Just like feeding an animal as clean a product as possible (grass for cows, rather than grain), we owe it to our bodies to give it the highest nutrients and care it deserves. Not to mention, grass-fed unprocessed meat just tastes better.
Let us look a little deeper. Organic vs inorganic, grass-fed vs grain-fed, processed vs unprocessed, what else?
Meat the Fats
Lean meat or high-fat meat?
Health is in the palm of your hand
So, what's the bottom line?
No, red meat is not likely to kill you or give you a horrible disease. As with all kinds of foods, including dairy, lollies and alcohol, moderation is best.