Today's Post: Friday, 8-20-2010
It seems that many studies show that people who eat a lot of meat have worse health than people who don’t.
In today’s world that’s mostly true. Often they tend to be fatter, get more cancers, and are more likely to get heart attacks.
But, there are other considerations and things that influence why and how much that’s true. So, if you LIKE meat, here’s how to eat meat and be and stay healthy anyway.
Dr Sears has made the point that there was a time when meat was thought to be good for you and even suggests that people who ate meat before about 100 years ago tended to be HEALTHIER than people who did not.
Meat is a superb source of protein. And protein has some strong health supporting effects.
For example, Dr Sears also notes that if you eat enough protein, it tends to cause your body to turn off it’s famine response and allow you to stay trim or to lose excess fat. He says that when you get more than ample protein, your body thinks something like, “Times are good. Even if the calories are a bit low, we don’t need extra fat since that’s so.”
And, the experience of Dr Atkins and other high protein, low carb advocates tends to support this view. So does the research reviewed by Tim Ferris who wrote the “Four Hour Work Week.” That research and his experience also showed that when people have had enough protein, they stay energetic and healthy and mostly feel good even if they aren’t eating much calories. They tend not to feel starved as people do who eat that many calories but very little protein.
In addition, when your body has enough protein, your growth hormone levels are higher and your body repairs itself better and builds new muscle better. And, gradually building more muscle is an effective way to trim off excess fat because the calories you take in food the new muscle instead of the old fat. So, it leaves!
Plus, meat is an excellent, if not the best, source of many nutrients including vitamin B12, bioavailable iron, zinc, and l-Carnitine.
HOW can meat both support your health and harm it?!
The key to eating meat and staying healthy is knowing the answers to that question.
Here are the components of that answer since it has multiple parts.
1. The meat of animals fed grain that has been raised using herbicides, pesticides, and GMO grain contains fats that are:
high in residues of herbicides and pesticides that the animal has bioconcentrated in its fat;
very high in omega 6 oils from the grains they ate – mostly corn and soy;
and very little or no omega 3 oils.
So, people who eat that fat tend to have health problems. The extremely bad ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 has been found in such meat (over 10 to one) tends to produce high chronic inflammation which definitely causes or helps to cause heart disease, heart attacks, and possibly many cancers.
2. The meat of animals penned up and not allowed to roam around has more fat and more saturated fat than the animals who never are penned up. And, a high percentage of that fat is saturated fat. That means that such meat totals a lot more saturated fat. Eating saturated fat does increase your LDL. (And, a recent study of LDL in young people many years later I think definitively proved that having a high level of LDL DOES cause heart disease. Many natural health advocates say that other things are more important which is true. But some of them say high LDL has never been shown to be harmful. This study shows that in that, they are incorrect.)
So, eating a lot of meat from animals penned up all or most of their lives tends to cause heart disease.
Today, the cheap meat and poultry you buy at the store is raised under BOTH these conditions!
So, here are the three solutions.:
A. Get healthy OK protein from sources OTHER than meat. Wild caught fish, eggs, nuts and beans and lentils – even some whole grains. But that one removes meat from what you eat. The DASH II and Mediterranean diets that do just this get excellent health results though.
The other two solutions though, do allow you to eat meat and stay healthy.
B. The meat protein of these animals that are horribly raised from a health standpoint eating grain and penned up is mostly OK. It’s all the problems with their fats that you most need to avoid. So the second solution is to eat the meat, poultry, and dairy products; but ingest as little of their fats as you can manage.
Eat lean cuts of meat, eat skinless poultry; eat these foods but eat them much less often; remove all visible fat before cooking; do things in cooking that allow you to extract the fat that still remains and discard it before eating such as heating it in water then refrigerating it overnight and skimming all the congealed fat off the top of the water &/or discard all or most of the water before cooking further and eating it or cooking it in such a way that the fat that liquefies – the drippings-- falls away from the meat or is blotted off its surface or both. This also means you should mostly eat and drink nonfat and very lowfat dairy foods from animals raised this way.
Both the DASH II and Mediterranean diets that get excellent health results use this second solution also, particularly the DASH II diet. (The Mediterranean diet adds olive oil and extra virgin olive oil instead of the fats from grain fed and penned up animals. You can do the same.)
In fact, that’s an excellent idea. Since the fat you get from animals fed grain, even if you minimize it, has massively too much omega 6 oils in it, the very LAST thing you want to do is to add oils high in omega 6 to your diet or refined grain or even large amounts of whole grains that are also high in omega 6 to your diet if you eat meat from grain fed animals.
So, choose extra virgin olive oil, in part for other reasons eat no foods containing refined grains and eat not very many whole grain foods if you eat meat or protein foods from grain fed and penned up animals.
The Atkins and South Bay diets fit this style by not including refined grain foods.
C. Eat meat from animals fed their natural diet and allowed to roam around and which lived in an area where their natural diet is free from pollutants.
Beef and lamb and buffalo meat from animals fed only grass is so much less problematic both the meat AND the fat to some extent are OK for your health to eat. This is Dr Sears point. The good news is that this kind of meat has become available at Whole Foods Markets and online. (Such meat has almost no omega 6 oils, actually has some omega 3 oils, and has more of l-carnitine and a kind of fat called CLA, and the version of that from such meats may help you lose excess fat and even prevent cancer!)
Eggs and poultry from chickens which have been pasture fed on unpolluted ground and not excessively penned up likely exists. But so little of it is commercially available that you mostly have to go with the fat trimming method with eggs and poultry. (Cage free and “free range” chickens are mostly penned up and despite having an open door to the outside, they rarely use it and are still grain fed.) The good news about eggs is that they have so little fat in their yolks and such high nutrition and high biological quality of the protein, they are a good source of protein anyway.
(For dairy fat, if you want to eat some butter and full fat cheese, I was told that Irish butter and Irish cheddar, which are sometimes available at Whole Foods, are from grass fed cattle. So if you want to add some butter for flavor or eat cheese for taste, calcium or protein, it may be somewhat doable this way.)
For meat from grass fed animals, it costs more to raise so it also costs more to buy. That likely means that you’ll eat it once or twice a week instead of the 5 to 14 times a week many people eat grain fed meat. The good news is that if you eat this meat that infrequently and from grass fed, unpenned animals, you get the health benefits without the problems and can enjoy it guilt free!
So eat meat and enjoy it. But eat it as one of many protein sources on some days in a month instead of once a day or more. And, either eat extremely lean meat from grain fed animals, perhaps with some extra virgin olive oil OR eat only meat from animals fed only grass.
But there is more you can do to eat meat and enjoy it and still be healthy.
We already covered to stop eating foods made of refined grains and oils such as corn and soy and canola that are all high in omega 6.
But you can also remove any excess saturated fat in your body that you get from the meat you eat and make it safer to eat as well!
Eating abundant amounts of nonstarchy vegetables contains fiber that carries saturated fat out of your body. (Such vegetables have very high nutrition , very few calories, and if you eat quite a bit, they also total as having a good bit of soluble fiber and sterols.)
Similarly, eating organic apples, apple sauce with no sugar added, beans and lentils – and some whole grain oatmeal all remove LDL with their high amount of soluble fiber.
Regular and vigorous exercise that you keep doing both lowers LDL and increases HDL that both helps to remove LDL and prevents heart disease.
Without the risks and costs of statin drugs you can also take sterol supplements that lower LDL and taking modest but not super high amounts of niacin are like exercise, they both lower LDL and increase HDL. (Also, if you are not allergic, nuts contain sterols, protein, fiber, many nutrients, and heart OK oils. So they both can give you protein without meat and help make any meat you do eat safer to eat.)
Lastly, when you do eat meat, there are several foods that are direct antidotes to its negative effects. A good cook can make meat taste dramatically better with raw or cooked onions and or minced, raw garlic. These foods boost your HDL and lower triglycerides and act like an antifreeze to keep saturated fat in your blood from sticking to the surface of your blood vessels.
Conversely, adding chemicals to preserve meat such as nitrites and nitrates and the like, has been shown to make meat dramatically more harmful to your health.
So, even though people who eat a lot of meat from grain fed animals and meat preserved with nitrites and nitrates and who virtually never exercise may well die of the effects, if you know how, you CAN eat meat, enjoy it, benefit from it, and avoid those negative health effects.