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.

Related image

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!


Top Tip No.3 for a healthy gut: cut down fat and processed food

Cut down on fat and processed meat

The problem with high fat, processed foods is that they cause havoc with our digestion and are very harmful towards our health in terms of cardiovascular disease and cancers.  Lean meat can certainly form part of a healthy meal / diet but too much red meat, fatty foods and processed meats particularly can increase our risk of developing bowel cancer.


We have all over eaten at some point; I am a sucker for that piece of cheesecake that is calling to me ‘eat me!….eat me!..’ even though I know I will struggle to find room for it;  you must know that ‘ready to burst’ feeling when we need to lie down (or you are desperately trying to release the belt on your trousers without anyone noticing) and those unpleasant sensations are probably worse when you have had a particularly large, rich and fatty meal.   High-fat foods take longer to digest so will stay in our stomach for a longer; a nice oily take-away curry will probably remain in your stomach for up to 6hrs!  During this time, your stomach continues to release hydrochloric acid (needed for digestion of protein) which can bubble up into the oesophagus and cause heartburn or contribute to stomach (and duodenal) ulcers.


Fatty or greasy foods like processed meats (pies, sausages, and pasties), crisps, cakes, biscuits and rich desserts can all make symptoms worse.

Cakes,_1963 (2)

Overconsumption of processed meats has been linked to various cancers of the digestive system (particularly stomach cancer and bowel cancer) and high fat foods also exacerbate IBS symptoms.

It is recommended in the UK that we eat no more than 70g/day of red or processed meat; unfortunately 4 in 10 men and 1 in 10 women eat more than 90g/day.

What does 70g look like?

Its pretty much what you get in a Big Mac  (my claim to fame being that I have never actually eaten one of these!)

Typical servings we might get when eating out often contain more than the recommended amount: I pinched this from the NHS Choices site (

  • A portion of Sunday roast (three thin-cut slices of roast lamb, beef or pork, each about the size of half a slice of sliced bread): 90g
  • A grilled 8oz beef steak: 163g
  • A cooked breakfast (two standard British sausages – often sold in packs of eight that weigh 1lb or 454g and two thin-cut rashers of bacon): 130g
  • A large doner kebab: 130g
  • A 5oz rump steak: 102g
  • A quarter pounder beefburger: 78g
  • A Peperami: 25g

What is the connection between red meat, processed meat and bowel cancer?

It is the iron content of these foods that has been linked to bowel cancer risk . This is because most dietary iron is not absorbed very well and so remains in the gut, to which the gut wall is exposed.  The iron damages the cells of the gut wall that could lead to cancerous changes taking place.  Meat, especially red and processed meat, is almost exclusively the source of this iron.

According to a report by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (in 2010) It is not yet possible to discern a clear  threshold level of intakes of red or processed meat associated with increased bowel cancer risk because it is actually very hard to consistently categorise and quantify red and processed meat intake.  I am now following the Gut Health and Food Safety Blog talks about their interesting work on bowel cancer; they are also looking at other nutrition factors such as folic acid, vitamin D and selenium and bowel cancer, so watch that space.

I should add however that poultry and other white meats are perfectly fine (if we go for the lower fat, lean options still) and that reducing red meat intake to 70g should not increase your risk of becoming iron deficient or anaemic; it will improve your overall health though!

Tip No. 4 on its way tomorrow! 🙂