It’s time to put the red light on the misperceptions on red meat. Red meat has tons of nutrition benefits and can be part of a healthful and balanced diet. Here are 3 science-based facts about why red meat can actually benefit your health:
1. Red meat is an excellent source of high- quality protein
Lean red meat is one of the best protein sources that we can eat, containing roughly 23-28g per 4 ounce serving. The protein found in red meat, as with all other animal products, is considered a complete protein source. This means that it provides our bodies with all the essential amino acids in the right amounts.You might just associate protein with building bigger muscles, and although that’s true, protein serves an immeasurable number of other functions within our bodies. It is responsible for the growth and repair of all our tissues, organs, and bones. Proteins facilitate oxygen and nutrient transport through our bloodstream and across cell membranes. Proteins are essential for DNA replication, which is important for cellular turnover, and are key components of your immune system, which is critical for fighting disease! Protein also plays an important role in weight loss and weight maintenance as it contributes to the feeling of being full. Of course, you can also meet your protein needs with vegetarian sources like soy if you choose to not eat meat. Just remember, there are a variety of delicious protein sources to fit any taste, budget, or preference.
2. Red meat is full of vitamins and minerals
Red meat also contains a variety of highly bioavailable nutrients, including heme iron, zinc, and B-vitamins. Studies have shown that heme iron (iron that is attached to a heme protein) and zinc from animal sources are more easily transported across the membranes in our gut, aiding in the absorption of these minerals. This means that we get more bang for our buck in terms of iron and zinc from red meat. Iron is necessary for red blood cell health, oxygen transport, enzyme production, and mental development. Zinc, on the other hand, plays an important role in boosting immune function, regulating hormones, and healing wounds. The high riboflavin content of red meat further facilitates proper iron storage and utilization in our bodies. Additionally, red meat is a source of a variety of antioxidants, such as carnosine, anserine, and lipoic acid among others. These antioxidants protect against cellular damage and dampen excessive inflammation.
3. Red meat as part of a heart healthy diet
Although most of us associate red meat with high saturated fat, it turns out that less than half of the fat content in lean red meat is actually saturated. Still, choosing lean meats (those that are lower in total fat) over those that are higher in fat is a good way to reduce our intake of saturated fatty acids. Lean meats are defined if they have no more than 4.5 g saturated fatty acids, no more than 10 g of total fat, and less than 95 mg cholesterol. There are 29 cuts of beef that meet government guidelines for lean. For pork or beef, choose cuts with the names round or loin in the name, or 95% lean ground beef. Additionally, a large portion of these saturated fats is stearic acid, which is known to have no effect on cholesterol levels. The other 50% of the fat content in red meat is composed mostly of monounsaturated fats (MUFAa) with small amounts of polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs), omega-3, and omega-6 fatty acids. Studies have shown that diets including lean beef every day can be effective in lowering cholesterol as part of a standard heart-healthy diet. In the end, if you are choosing your red meat sources wisely and trimming excessive fat, there may be great health benefits such as lower cholesterol as a result.
The misperceptions about red meat are misguided and these three facts based in science should help put an end to any confusion. As with any food, portion control is important to make sure you are staying within your daily calorie budget. A 3 oz serving of meat is equal to a deck of cards so that imagery might be helpful to limiting your portions. However, feel free to enjoy red meat as part of a balanced diet knowing that you are getting important nutrients and vitamins.