November 05, 2015
There’s been a lot going on in the media of late regarding red meat, and how good (or bad) for you it is.
Those of you who follow the Eve Organics blog will know that I’ve never eaten very much red meat, since I was little – and now, I eat none of it (I became a pescetarian around a year ago – you can read more about my journey towards vegetarianism here.) However, red meat definitely has nutritional benefits; not least of all its protein and iron content when compared to other meats. And, my family and friends still include red meat in their diets, so the fact that it’s in the news at the moment is still of interest to me.
It’s easy to get swept up in the bad publicity, but with so much health information (a lot of it contradictory) hitting our eyes and ears on a daily basis, I think it’s important to look at these things objectively and keep an open mind.
First: let’s look at the current situation.
In October 2015 after a lengthy inquiry, the World Health Organisation (WHO) classified processed meat as a Group 1 food, labelling it as being carcinogenic (cancer-causing) to humans. WHO defines ‘processed meat’ as any meat that ‘has been transformed through salting, curing, fermentation, smoking, or other processes’. Sausages and sandwich meats are two examples.
At the same time, unprocessed red meat (beef, lamb, veal, pork, goat) was classified as a Group 2 food, or ‘probably carcinogenic’. What this essentially means, is that a positive association between cancer (specifically colorectal cancer) and red meat has been found - that is, as red meat consumption goes up in a population, so do the rates of colorectal cancer. However, it is not yet clear whether one is directly causing the other or whether some other related factor is to blame (e.g, people who consume more red meat also do something else more often, and it’s the latter factor that contributes to cancer risk).
So, what can you do to stay healthy?
Always choose organic where possible
One of the health issues associated with meat in today’s world (as opposed to, say, the cavemen days) is that, from the raising of the livestock, chemicals are involved in one way or another. This could be in the form of pesticides in the plants the animals are eating, hormones or antibiotics given to the animals (which help to prevent disease), or chemical processing after the animals have been slaughtered, such as preservation using nitrates. One way to cut down on your consumption of unwanted chemicals in meat is to always choose organic, where you can. This goes for poultry also.
Limit your intake
The World Health Organisation recommends that we limit our intake of red meat and processed meat – but processed meat in particular. Red meat has health benefits as well as costs, like many foods – so the recommendation is not to stop eating it altogether; but it should be consumed in moderation to reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease.
Choose healthy methods of cooking
High-temperature cooking methods where the food is in direct contact with the heat source, such as pan frying or barbequing, result in the production of more cancer-causing chemicals than other methods such as boiling or baking.
I can’t stress enough that, as in all areas of health (natural skin care included), you have to look beneath the headlines. Make sure your health information is coming from a trusted source, and do the research to make sure you’re getting accurate advice. The World Health Organisation has a great FAQ on their website – you can find it here.