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

Image result for muscles

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!

Image result for grass fed cows

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!


Gaining Weight Healthily

Last week I wrote about the pressures to lose weight. This may be for health reasons or simply to conform to society’s expectations when it comes to our physical attributes. But whilst most people are trying to lose weight, some are struggling to gain or even maintain a stable weight. The temptation may be to go for Calorie dense biscuits, chocolate or crisps but this is not going to do anything positive for your  blood sugar or cholesterol levels.

Like losing weight, the best approach is to do it gradually; allow your body time to adjust and learn to appreciate real food. Just as I would not advise starving yourself to lose weight, forcing yourself to eat more than you want to can make weight gain a difficult and unpleasant battle.

The key is to eat little and often whilst choosing calorie and nutrient dense foods (avoid diet, low fat or ‘light’ foods). This way you don’t have to go for huge portions that fill you up, making your plan backfire. I would recommend 3 meals and 3 snacks a day; regularity is vital.

Here are tips to help you along the way:

Whole milk

I am a huge fan of dairy because it provides so much more than Calcium. Milk for example is also a great source of protein, Vitamin B12 and Iodine, all of which we need to stay healthy. Swapping your usual semi-skimmed (2% fat) or skimmed milk (0.1% fat)  for whole milk (4% fat) in your breakfast cereal, porridge or daytime drinks is a very easy way to boost your Calorie intake. Adding a warm milky drink at bed time can also help relax you before bed and enable better sleep.


Like milk, cheese is also a great way to boost your Calcium and protein intake. It’s energy dense too so adding some to pasta, having with crackers or fruit or going back to good old fashioned cheese on toast is a tasty way to top up your energy intake.


It’s really important we include heart-friendly, healthy fats in our diet and watch the levels of saturated fats. Avocados are rich in ‘good’ polyunsaturated fats (the same type we find in olive oil) as well as Potassium (even more than bananas!), fibre and loads of antioxidants. Avocados provide around 160 Calories per 100g and are hugely versatile; you can do so much more with them than turn them into guacamole! Make smoothies, spread them on toast, add to pasta and salads – here are some new fabulous recipes from BBC Good Food.

Olive oil

One of the reasons the Mediterranean diet is considered so healthy is the use of olive oil. Associated with a longer life expectancy and lower risks of high blood pressure and stroke, it just goes to show not all fats are ‘bad’. 1 tablespoon provides around 12o Calories and including 2-3 tablespoons in our daily diet has been associated with a lower risk of heart disease.


Nuts are amazing little power houses; full of protein, fibre, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals. Here’s a previous blog that will fill you in on all their nutty goodness! So why not make your own trail mix by adding your favourite nuts seeds and dried fruits together in a Tupperware container – try a mix of cashew nuts, walnuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries, golden raisins and dried pineapple. And we can’t forget peanut butter! In fact there are loads of nut butters (almond, cashew and walnut for example) that you can add to smoothies and all sorts of savoury dishes as well as spread it on toast or as I do, eat it straight out of the jar 😉

So I will leave you with a delicious nutritious energy bar recipe, made with oats nuts and dried fruit by Emily Angle. These are so much more nutritious than many of the commercial bars available.



  • 120g/4oz rolled jumbo oats
  • 30g/1oz unsweetened puffed rice (not crisped rice cereal)
  • 75g/2½oz toasted flaked almonds
  • 25g/1oz mixed seeds
  • 130g/4½oz stoned dates, chopped
  • 50g/1¾oz dark chocolate chips (optional)
  • 40g/1½oz raisins or dried berries of your choice
  • 100g/3½oz crunchy peanut butter
  • 90g/3¼oz honey


  1. Line a 23cm/9in square tin with baking paper.

  2. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/Gas 4.

  3. Spread the oats out onto a baking tray and bake them for about 10 minutes until they smell nice and toasty. Set aside to cool. (You can skip this step, but it makes the bars crispier.)

  4. Mix together the toasted oats, puffed rice, almonds, seeds, chopped dates, chocolate chips, and raisins in a large bowl.

  5. Melt the peanut butter and honey together in a small saucepan over a gentle heat. Stir until the mixture is smooth and thoroughly combined. While still warm, stir the peanut butter and honey into the oat mixture (you may need to get your hands in there) to completely coat all the oats, nuts and fruit.

  6. Tip the mixture into the lined tin and press firmly to make an even layer. Damp hands make this less sticky work. Place the tin into the freezer for 20 minutes to firm up before cutting into 15 bars. Wrap each bar in cling film to keep them fresh, and they’re ready to pop into a your bag.

Recipe Tips

You can customise these with your own blend of nut butters, dried fruits or seeds. Toasting the seeds, nuts and oats will add a stronger nuttier flavour.

If you have a nutritious and energy boosting recipe you’d like to share below, please do!