The Truth About Meat!

 

Processed meat could be bad for asthma

Meat is as bad as sugar

Red meat and burnt meat cause bowel cancer

Horse meat scandal, say no more

Rats in KFC

You get the picture. Talk about bad press on the meat front, whilst the angelic vegetable is singing from the roof tops. And of course all meat has been bagged up together so there seems to be an all or nothing ruling when it comes to what goes with your two veg. And it seems to be working. We are eating 13% less meat than we were 10 years ago and veganism is now one of Britain’s “fastest growing lifestyle movements”.  The reason for this shift certainly appears to be because of the perceived health benefits of a vegan diet, and no wonder really when we hear such scary reports about meat and such positive reports about pant based diets.

However, an average UK resident still eats >84Kg of meat each year. Poultry now accounts for nearly half of all the meat bought in the UK but we are eating more processed meat than 10 years ago and that’s the worry. The sausage roll and meat pie is the affordable and tasty (debatable) way to eat meat  but not necessarily the best choice for our health.

I am always a wearer of rosy coloured spectacles so lets give meat a break and look at the positives! As far as I’m concerned (and in my professional opinion), there is no reason why we should exclude meat from our diet – UNPROCESSED meat does not contribute to cardiovascular disease or diabetes, as part of a healthy, balanced diet. It is the processed, played with meat that is often loaded with salt and saturated fat, the way it is cooked (crispy coated chicken or a sausage rolled in buttery, flaky pastry mmm!) and of course what you eat it with….any guesses?!

To give a balanced view, a vegetarian or vegan diet is not necessarily healthy either. I needn’t tell you that living on cheese and spaghetti on toast is not the best approach! On the plus side, we know that vegetarians have 10% lower rates of cancer, 32% lower rates of high blood pressure and heart disease as well as lower rates of diabetes.

So lets hear it for the benefits from eating what I call ‘real’ meat

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1. A Better Quality Protein

There are 9 ‘essential‘ amino acids (used to build protein) that our body simply cannot make. Therefore we must get them from our diet. In this regard, animal protein (including eggs) is an excellent source of all the amino acid building blocks that we need. Most plant proteins have a sub optimal amino acid profile as they are often missing in 1 or 2 of the building blocks. My analogy for this is in trying to build a house.

To build a house fit for purpose, you need bricks, cement, tiles, pipes, wires, windows, wood, glass and doors. If you miss just one of these components, you end up with a draught house that leaks or a cold house with not water – you need all 9 components to make the house work.

There is a greater need for vegetarians compared to meat eaters to ensure their diet is sufficiently varied with good plant based protein sources such as:

  • lentils
  • quinoa
  • beans
  • hemp seed
  • buckwheat
  • chia seeds
  • other seeds & nutsImage result for animal protein

2. Loaded with Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is only found naturally in animal products and more so in red vs white meat. Vitamin B-12 deficiency is a potential problem for vegetarians & vegans, making it almost an essential requirement that vitamin B-12–fortified foods are included in your diet. If you only eat a small amount or avoid all animal products, it’s important to have a reliable source of vitamin B12 in your diet in the form of a recommended supplement. Other good sources of vitamin B12 include:

  • Milk, cheese & dairy
  • Eggs
  • Yeast extracts like Marmite
  • Fortified breakfast cereals and fortified soya products

And not only that, meat also contains plenty of other B vitamins including B1, B2, B3, B5, B6 and B9 as well as Vit D; vital for energy releasing processes, your immune system, heart health and mood!

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3. Excellent source of healthy polyunsaturated fats

Dont just think of bad fats when you think of meat. Yes red meat may have more of this saturated fat but did you know it also contains healthy fats too? Unprocessed meat is rich with healthy fats; monounsaturated fats that we get from olive oil  and fish (if a pescatarian) or meat from grass-fed animals are fantastic sources of Omega-3 fats – these are particularly beneficial in helping to maintain a healthy heart and reduce the risk of heart disease when eaten as part of a healthy diet. Good sources of omega-3 fatty acids suitable for vegetarians include:

  • flaxseed (linseed) oil
  • rapeseed oil
  • soya-based foods, such as tofu
  • hemp and chia seeds
  • mung beans and kidney beans
  • walnuts
  • egg enriched with omega-3

Some evidence suggests however that vegetarian sources of omega-3 fatty acids may not have the same benefits for reducing the risk of heart disease as those in oily fish.

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4. Packed full of Iron

Red meat is probably one of the best sources of iron but turkey is also up there with these leaders! Vegetarians are more likely to have lower iron stores than meat eaters as the iron from plants is much less absorbable.  If you’re a vegetarian, keep in mind that the absorption rate of the iron from animal-based sources ranges from 15-35 %, compared to just 2-20 % from plants. Vegetarians may need to consume twice as much dietary iron as meat-eaters but that certainly didn’t stop the likes of Carl Lewis, Venus Williams or Mike Tyson!

Sources of iron for vegetarians include:

  • eggs (lacto-ovo vegetarians)
  • pulses (all beans, lentils and chickpeas etc)
  • dried fruit (apricots, raisins and prunes are particularly good)
  • dark-green leafy vegetables
  • wholemeal bread
  • fortified cereals (with added iron)

So my advice is go knock yourself out on a tasty steak if you fancy it BUT the recommended amount is only 70g for red meat and only once per week. Opt for a couple of meat free days each week if you can, or even one as a minimum is a good step if you think you might fade away!

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Loosing the will and battle to live?

What on Earth is going on with our diet? I’m aware I’m beginning to sound like a stuck record but really, when are things really going to change?

I am actually fed up to my back teeth with cheap offers for junk food. Literally every where I go, fast food, take-aways and chocolate are shoved under my nose.

I drive 1.5 miles from my house and I see this:

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I popped into Iceland this morning to pick up some milk and I am presented with an offer of 600g of chocolate for 3 quid (see the headline photo) as soon as I walk in.

I have previously ranted and campaigned about junk food at the checkouts but actually the entrance way is equally challenging. Having to wade past the towers of cakes, biscuits, chocolate eggs and grab bags sets off your shopping trip on completely the wrong foot.

Every weekday morning I see Spiderman with an advertising board (most often in the freezing cold) standing on a round-a-bout promoting a devilish Domino’s pizza deal and it’s not even 10 am. What’s that about?!

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At least 5 days a week I get a flier through my letterbox; Subway, Domino’s, Pizza Hut and a selection from my local Chinese and Indian restaurants land on my mat. And to be honest I don’t even look at 99% of them. They go straight in the bin, what a waste.

The British takeaway market is worth over £5.5bn and has grown massively over the last 4 years. Just Eat and Hungry House have certainly taken the market share but due to consumer demand and the growth of the app market, other companies are starting to muscle in.

I get that convenience food has its place. We can all benefit from a helping hand at times but this hand is starting to linger like a bad smell. In the states, around 6% of the population will be eating takeout at anyone time. The principle of it is great. The problems are that we rely on it way too much and of course the majority of foods are sky high in salt, fat and sugar.

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So the icing on the cake this week has been hearing McDonalds might be bringing a home delivery service to Birmingham. The city where there are more McDonald’s restaurants than any other UK city outside of London. Just fantastic.

Where Dudley already has the award for the most unhealthy place to live. Closely followed by Walsall, Wolverhampton and Birmingham. Dudley boasts a staggering 10 McDonald’s restaurants per 100,000 people, with just 3 gyms.

Compare that to Bristol, the healthiest town that has 234 cycle routes 45 sports clubs and just 2 McDonalds per 100,000 people. No wonder we have one of the highest rates of diabetes, heart disease and obesity in the West Midlands.

So my issue is this. How is the general public ever supposed to win? Most food producers and food outlets monopolise our communities. Every week a new gimmicky eatery opens on our high street, like this cereal cafe.

The Government is weak and in my opinion has done too little too late. The financial incentives to  stand up to the food industry are simply not there. How long did it take for the sugar tax to come about? And with it only applicable to soft drinks, surely the impact will be limited. The responsibility deal seems no more, not that is really made much difference because there was always the option to opt out.

Reports show we want healthier food these days. We are learning the importance of the nutritional value of food and links to disease but finding and purchasing the healthier product is often too hard.  Our good intentions and efforts to eat healthily are constantly undermined everywhere we turn.

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So our healthcare service has to carry the burden, there is no comeback whatsoever on the big food giants and they have us hooked. I genuinely feel scared for the future unless somehow we can weaken their stronghold and for that to happen, big decisions and huge action must be taken. We have to limit their influence (the offers at least!!) and control over our food environment. I know it’s complicated and needs an incredible amount of joined up thinking but come on Jeremy Hunt, what’s next?