From a nutritional perspective meat consumption can be a controversial subject. There are those that believe from a health stand point that meat is a complete no-no, and others that see as an essential part of balanced healthy diet.
It is true that meat has high density of available protein and some key nutrients such as iron and B12. However farming methods have changed over the last 100 years, not only making it less humane for the animals, but also creating meats with more negative effects on health due to higher levels of the unhealthy fats, antibiotics and artificial hormones. These are linked to a range of imbalances including chronic inflammation, female hormone imbalance and gut dysfunction. Organic farming methods do eliminate some of these issues but not all.
Factory farmed animals are fed on grains which make them high in an inflammatory omega 6 fatty acid, arachdonic acid. However, grass fed animals will have relatively higher levels of omega 3 which is anti-inflammatory and overall very beneficial. However, they will still be quite high in omega 6, so you still need good sources of omega 3 from else where in your diet to create an overall anti-inflammatory state. Imbalance in omega 6:omega 3 ratios are associated with poor mood health and inflammatory conditions including everything from allergies to eczema to arthritis to autoimmunity.
In particular this inflammation caused by high meat diet is associated strongly with the development of bowel cancer. Cured meats containing preservatives using nitrites or nitrates are of particular concern. Nitrites and nitrates are not cancer-causing by themselves, but in certain conditions in the body they can be changed into by-products called N-nitroso compounds, such as nitrosamines and nitrosamides. Smoking – another meat curing process, exposes the meat to the smoke of a wood or charcoal fire. The foods absorb large amounts of the tar that comes off the smoke. These tars may contain cancer-causing compounds.
From an alkaline diet perspective meat is broken down by the body forming an acid ash. If this is not adequately neutralised by alkaline foods to maintain blood alkaline homeostasis, it can become a drain on the body’s resources shifting it away from optimal balance.
As with all things nutrition it isn’t about extremes, but creating a mindful balance in terms of how you are fuelling your body. The simple truth is that we don’t need meat everyday. Plant proteins are an abundant, cheap, nutritious, generally more environmentally friendly and healthy.
There are so many delicious vegetarian recipes to hand now, that provide a seriously nutritious and balanced alternative to meat. I am by no means pressurising anyone to cut meat out of their diets completely, but I would like to suggest that people dramatically cut down their intake so that they are consuming meat to maybe once to twice a week. But, if you think you would struggle with that to begin with, why not opt to have a Meat Free Monday so as to make a start – the difference you can make is huge.
Your guide to living whole and well. Emma Olliff is a Registered Nutritional Therapist, wellness expert, food lover, and advocate for healthy living!