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Is meat good or bad for you?

Posted Aug 04 2009 7:28pm


As a child I never liked meat. In fact I hated meat because I hated the taste and smell of meat.

It’s only when I started dating my ex-Parisian husband that I realized that the reasons I hated meat so much was because I hated the way it was cooked at home.

Growing up, meat was cooked in three ways:

1) cooked to the point it was harder than a rock

2) fried to death (tasted good, but I always had a feeling that I was eating a heart attack on a plate)

3) boiled (I cannot tell you how much I detest the smell and sight of boiled meat)

The French have a way of cooking a steak that makes me cry and it was only in my twenties that I started eating meat again and started actually enjoying the taste.

For the longest time I declared that I was a vegetarian because I could not stand the way meats where cooked in my home (ok, I wasn’t truly a vegetarian since I ate chicken but my family didn’t seem to force me to eat meat when I declared myself vegetarian so I used that as a shield. That said, I do remember that for a year I cut out all chicken from my diet and only ate fish, but that didn’t last long because I quite like chicken).

It took me years to learn how to properly cook meat on my own because it wasn’t part of my diet. The lack of meat would certainly explain why I was anemic most of my teenage years.

Today, I train way too much not to eat protein. I need the protein to help build my muscle. I do know many vegetarians and vegans train more than I do and still maintain a meat-free diet, but for me, I also need my red meat to help with low iron reserves and it’s the easiest for me to integrate meat in my diet. I eat red meats and chicken in small portions and I also add loads of veggies and whole grains with eat meal. But, let’s face it, I eat meat and chicken because I love both.

Dr. John Berardi explored the question to understand if meat was bad for us and I thought I’d share his findings with you.

>>> Here’s what Dr. John Berardi has to say about eating meat:

There’s no question that eating the right kind of meat in the right amounts definitely fits in to an overall healthy diet.  And more than health, it’s a solid part of a muscle-building or muscle-preserving diet.  The high protein content, high B-vitamin content, and high iron content is important.  Indeed, both health and muscle building are severely compromised if any of these nutrients are missing.

However, there also seems to be good evidence that eating too much of the wrong types of meat can be problematic for some.  For example, there’s no question that there’s a relationship between eating meat and cancer risk.  And that’s not just speculation.  Over 100 epidemiological studies have shown it.

Now, for meat eaters here’s the big question - what’s the link?  Well, a large part of it may be that most typical high meat eaters also tend to eat less of the other healthy stuff.  Like veggies.  Like whole, unprocessed grains.  Like healthy fats.  So their diets tend to be high in calories, high in saturated fat, and low in fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, etc.  This is a pretty good recipe for disease risk for most people.

>>> Meat, Cancer, and Hormones

Beyond dietary displacement, as discussed above, there are two other concerns with diets high in meat.  First, carcinogens.  Second, hormones and antibiotics.

There’s some pretty compelling evidence nowadays that a host of potentially carcinogenic compounds are introduced into our bodies when we eat cooked meat - including: N-nitroso compounds, heterocyclic amines, or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.  These compounds are most linked to colon cancer and stomach cancer.  There are other links reported but they’re not as strong.

In the end, though, the meats that seem to be most problematic are processed meats (lunch meats, canned meats, jerkey, etc.) as well as heavily grilled meats - blackened or charred.

But, again, these risks can also be managed.  So, as discussed above, the strategy isn’t to avoid meat.  It’s to avoid processed meats.  To be careful in overcooking grilled meat.  And finally, to boost your intake of fiber and fruits and veggies.  Fiber has a protective effect against GI cancers.  And fruits and veggies boost antioxidant defense.  This is the perfect antidote to the problems associated with processed and/or heavily grilled meats.

Finally, beyond the cancer risk, in farmed meats nowadays we tend to see a lot more hormones, environmental pollutants, and antibiotics.  Not good since we probably do absorb a small amount of these chemicals.  But let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water.  Rather than avoiding meat, how about sticking with hormone-free, naturally raised meat.  Note: grass-fed is probably the best.

>>> Eat meat, wear your seat belt

Now, before we move beyond this topic, it’s important to be really clear about something.  Almost everything we eat or do in life has its risks.  In fact, I’m much more likely to get into a car accident and die than I am to die of colon cancer.  But that doesn’t mean I take either lightly.  I try to understand my risks.  And then buffer them.

For example, because of the car crash risks, I wear a seat belt.  Likewise, because of the meat risks, I make sure that I avoid processed meats, I eat lots of antioxidant-rich fruits and veggies as well as fiber rich nuts, seeds, and legumes, and I eat primarily naturally raised, hormone-free meat.

This way I get all the benefits of meat while buffering the risks. No vegetarianism required.

>>> What about meat building up in the colon

Over the course my vegetarian experiment, many folks have asked me whether or not meat builds up in the colon.  The answer, yes and no.  Meals high in meat do take between 24-48h to digest and work their way through the GI tract.  However, this is a pretty normal transit time.  Most meals take this long to get through the GI tract.  So there’s nothing all that unusual about meat in this regard.

However, 60-80 lbs of undigested, impacted fecal matter building up in our body over years?  Impossible.  Have you heard the John Wayne story?  This is what’s being used to support that absurd claim.

Apparently when he died, they found 60-80 lbs of undigested material causing a massive intestinal blockage.  And apparently this was found during his autopsy.  All according to many vegetarian and colon cleansing web sites.

Well, for starters, John Wayne never even had an autopsy.    Now, he did have surgery for a cancer-related intestinal blockage about a month before his death.  But that had nothing to do with impacted feces or his diet.

Of course, this doesn’t prove that no one gets a build up of undigested fecal matter.  Indeed, it’s possible to get some fecal build up in the colon. Definitely not in multiple pound quantities, accumulation above a small amount would be quite painful. Also, only those in unique circumstances in which genetically susceptible people eat no fiber and take drugs that decrease digestion and GI motility.

So it’s not the meat that’s responsible for any small build ups that might occur.  It’s what’s missing from the diet.  And what drugs folks are taking.

>>> The debate rages on

As I said above, it’s quite possible for intelligent people to see the same information and come to different conclusions.  So I anticipate that there will be some disagreement even with the general recommendations I make in this article.  And that’s ok with me.

I’m not here to convince anyone of anything.  Nor am I here to push my way of life onto your dinner table.  Rather, I’m simply here to present the information as I see it.  And as I’ve experienced it as both an omnivore and a plant-based eater.

In the end, it’s up to you to decide how you’ll use this info.  I just hope you use it wisely.

>>>> So what do you think? Will you give up meat after reading this or will you try to buy hormone-free meats?

Drop us a line, we’d love to hear from you!!!

Photo by FLOODkOFF

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