Red meat (beef, pork, lamb, etc.) has been an important part of human diet for thousands of years. Yet, it became a “bad” food in the last few decades because of questionable studies that have linked it to heart disease and cancer.
Red meat has red color because it contains a protein called myoglobin, which is similar to hemoglobin in the red blood cells. Both hemoglobin and myoglobin contain iron, an important trace mineral. The more active a muscle is, the more myoglobin it contains, and the more red color it has.
Red meat also contains large quantities of coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), which also has red color. CoQ10 is important for energy production. It is present in every cell of the body, but especially in those parts that need a lot of energy, such as muscles and the heart.
Meat is a very good source of protein, iron, zinc, phosphorus, magnesium, selenium, and B vitamins, especially B1, B3, B6, and B12.
Iron deficiency is pretty common, especially in women who lose iron every month during the menstrual period. Lack of iron can lead to anemia, which reduces the amount of oxygen delivered to the tissues and decreases the removal of carbon dioxide, a waste product. Iron is particularly important during pregnancy. Unfortunately, most pregnant women are deficient in iron.
Zinc is an important mineral, it regulates about 80 different biological processes in the body, such as immune function, protein production, muscle building, digestion and metabolism, growth, and healing of wounds. Zinc deficiency is also pretty common.
Meat and meat products, especially beef, are the primary sources of selenium in human diet. Selenium is essential to good health. It is used to make selenoproteins, which are important antioxidant enzymes that fight free radicals and prevent cellular damage. They even reduce the risk of cancer. Selenium is also important for normal thyroid hormone activity and for better immune function.
Vitamins and minerals in meat are very bio-available. This means that they are easily absorbed and utilized by your body.
But why do the “experts” recommend avoiding red meat? Why do they say that it increases the risk of heart disease and cancer?
Because of ignorance, political correctness, and very questionable studies. Let me explain.
Red meat is supposed to be bad for you because it contains a lot of cholesterol and saturated fat.
Here are the facts. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Composition Handbook, 3 oz of beef contains 189 calories, 25.9 grams of protein (about one half to one third of daily requirement), 76 mg of cholesterol (we need about 1,500 to 2,000 mg every day), and 8.7 grams of fat. Only about a third of this fat is saturated. Almost half is mono-unsaturated (like in olive oil) and the rest are polyunsaturated, the kind of fats that are supposed to be good for cardiovascular health.
Lastly, beef is a good source of CLA or conjugated linoleic acid, which has anti-cancer properties. According to medical studies, natural CLA reduces the risk of most cancers.
As I explain in details in my book Nutrition and Your Health, beef and red meat are excellent sources of important nutrients, many of which cannot be easily obtained from other food sources. Meat is not a poison. It is a nutritious food that can and should be used as part of a balanced diet.