Saturday, 29 August 2015

"Should I Eat Red Meat? - The Big Health Dilemma" with 5 Top Tips for Healthier Ways to Eat Red Meat

Should I Eat Red Meat? - The Big Health Dilemma

Can you eat meat, and in particular, red and processed meat as part of a healthy diet? There is quite a bit of debate on what are the health impacts of regularly consuming red meat and processed red meat products. Generally, "red" meat refers to cut of:
  • beef
  • veal
  • pork
  • ham/gammon
  • lamb
  • mutton
  • venison 
  • goat
and processed red meat products include foods largely made from those meats such as sausages, burgers, bacon and ham.

What Does The Science Say About Red Meat? 

The research into red meat has centred around two major health concerns, heart health and cancer. There have been numerous studies published but four of the most respected include:
  1. Red Meat Consumption and Mortality (Archive of Internal Medicine, April 2012) concluded that red meat consumption is associated with an increased risk of total Cardiovascular Diseases and Cancer mortality. Substitution of other healthy protein sources for red meat is associated with a lower mortality risk.
  2. Meat consumption and mortality - results from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (BMC, March 2013) concluded there was a moderate positive association between processed meat consumption and mortality, in particular due to Cardiovascular Diseases, but also to Cancer.
  3. One of two pieces of breakthrough research published in 2005 concluded that high consumption of red and processed meat was linked to bowl cancer risk, whereas a diet rich in fish actually reduced the risk - Meat, Fish, and Colorectal Cancer Risk (J Natl Cancer Inst. June 2005).
  4. The other study published in 2005 looked at the risks associated with long-term consumption of red meat and red meat products. Meat Consumption and Risk of Colorectal Cancer (JAMA Jan 2005) concluded that long-term high red meat consumption was linked to an increase in bowel cancer.

So does this mean that red meat should be avoided at all costs? 

Not necessarily so! Red meat can be a rich source of certain vitamins, minerals and nutrients essential to health such as:

  • essential fatty acids
  • vitamins B12 and B3
  • zinc
  • selenium 
  • iron
  • protein.
However, the counter-balance to this is that red meat and especially processed red meat products, can be high in fat, and in particular, saturated fat (you can find out more about good vs bad fat in my blogpost here).  It comes down to how often you eat red meat and how you eat it, and as is often the case, the key is in balance and moderation. In the UK, it's recommended that you eat an average of 70g (2½ oz) or less of red meat per day.

Lean Lamb Mince - Cooked & Drained
Lean Lamb Mince - Cooked & Drained
Take a look at the picture on the right. This is how I recommend you prepare lamb mince in my recipe for low fat Shepherd’s Pie (Easy Low Fat & Low Cholesterol Mediterranean Diet Recipe Cookbook) – the lean mince has been sautéd and then drained in a strainer to remove excess fat. In my picture, you can see 200g of raw, lean lamb mince, sautéd in a non-stick pan and then drained, yielded 40g of drained juices.  I estimate that approximately half of this was fat.  
low fat Shepherds Pie
My low fat Shepherds Pie recipe (left) also mixes the drained, cooked lean lamb mince with the green lentils as a source of low-fat protein.  By making these adjustments, and following my vegetable-packed recipe, a generous portion of my home-cooked low fat Shepherd’s Pie contains only 50g (1¾ oz) red meat and comes in at 437 cals, 14g Total Fat and just 6g of Saturated Fat

5 Top Tips for Healthier Ways to Eat Red Meat

  1. Choose lean cuts of red meat and trim away all visible fat before cooking.
  2. Cook in ways that drains away more fat during cooking such as grill streaks or dry frying then removing the fat that's accumulated.
  3. Reduce the red meat per serving in a recipe by substituting low-fat lentils, beans or mushrooms in place of some of the meat. These ingredients absorb the flavour of the meat used, have a "meaty" texture but result in much lower levels of saturated fat in the final dish.
  4. Use meat as a "garnish" rather than the main ingredient - think a vibrant vegetable-packed stir-fry or a fresh, colourful salad.
  5. Make red meat an occassional treat to be savoured and enjoyed, but not a daily event.

Further Cooking Inspiration

You can find lots of low fat, healthy recipe make-overs, including how you can eat some red meat as part of healthy, balanced diet in my Easy Low Fat & Low Cholesterol Mediterranean Diet Recipe Cookbook, available:

As a Paperback & eBook from Amazon:

As an eBook from:

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