Written by: LIERIN EHMKE
Edited by: ERINN BOON
Red meat hasn’t had the best reputation in the world of the food pyramid. A study by the Harvard School of Public Health showed that high red meat consumption has been linked to death, due to its saturated fat and cholesterol playing a part in coronary heart disease. It has also been found that the sodium in processed meats has been known to raise blood pressure, and the heme iron in red meat is thought to be linked to heart attacks. It has been said that the preservatives found in processed meat may play a role since preservatives are broken down into carcinogenic compounds in the body. Not to mention the current uproar about the ethics of grain-feeding cattle, questioning the nutrition of grain-fed beef versus grass-fed beef.
It is no wonder why so many people have given up on red meat altogether. But this so-called bad boy of food may just be misunderstood. According to Livestrong.com, a three ounce portion of red meat provides half the amount of protein adults need in a day. Red meat also has a hearty dose of zinc, which helps build muscle mass, strengthen the immune system and brain. It also has the B-vitamins to support a strong immune, nervous and digestive system, as well as contributing to healthy skin and eyes. And finally, red meat contains iron, which helps red blood cells transport enough oxygen to the other parts of your body. Iron deficiencies contribute to learning problems, low energy and behavioral issues.
Those unaware of these benefits when swearing off red meat are at risk of not properly supplying their body with the nutrients needed to function properly. Livestrong.com reports that vegetarian and vegan diets potentially pose a risk of protein deficiency, which causes fatigue, brittle hair and nails and poor wound healing. There is also a risk of osteoporosis and anemia from the lack of calcium, iron and vitamins that meat provides.
So knowing these facts, how should one approach a lifestyle without the nutritional benefits of meat? In nomeatathlete.com’s article “The Vegetarian Athlete,” author Matt Frazier states that he became a “much stronger runner almost immediately after switching to a vegetarian diet.” Frazier says that the trick is fitting in protein; there are foods other than meat that provide the muscle-rebuilding component, but just in much smaller quantities.
Another aspect of vegetarian diets that Frazier points out is that many think that just eating meatless junk food is a healthier substitute to meat. This is not the case. If you make a wide variety of whole foods and some protein at every meal, he says, you’ll “feel better than ever.”
A great way to start a meatless diet is beginning with staple foods that are easy to find at the grocer as well as very satisfying. Foods include eggs, soy products, whole-wheat bread, brown rice, all kinds of fruits and vegetables, hummus, protein powder made from hemp protein, beans and legumes and oils. Balance is the best way to achieve a fulfilling diet, no matter if you’re an omnivore or herbivore. Be sure to incorporate this ideology; excluding a whole food group from a diet does not necessarily a healthy lifestyle make.