Apr 18, 2014 fbook icon twitter icon rss icon

Fact: Meat is Good For You

It's true.  Ask any decently credentialed dietitian or nutritionist, and you're bound to come up with the same answer: In moderation and as a part of a balanced diet and active lifestyle, lean meat is quite beneficial for a human body.  "Meat is absolutely good for you," says Kathleen Zelman, a nutritionist and dietitian who for twelve years was the national spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association (try and argue with those creds).

Meat -- a cut of lean beef, let's say -- is not just a complete protein (unlike soy products, for example, which need to be combined with supplemental proteins to be considered "complete").  It's loaded with other healthful goodies, including high levels of: iron; B vitamins like niacin and riboflavin that provide healthy skin and nerves as well as help digestion and maintain good vision; selenium, which works as an antioxidant with vitamin E to protect from heart disease and other health problems; phosphorus, which helps regulate metabolism, among other things; and its the most abundant food source of zinc, an essential mineral that helps build muscle and heal wounds. 

Now, we all know that you can get these vitamins in minerals in other, non-carnivorous places, by studiously and rigorously combining one's proteins and taking nutritional supplements.  But eating a nice cut of beef, or a turkey breast, or a lean piece of ham, is indubitably easier, and of course tastier.  Not to mention that most health professionals advocate a "food first" approach, which entails getting most if not all of your essential nutrients from your diet rather than popping pills.  Feel free to to rigorously chart your dietary intake on a spreadsheet, if you want...me, I'd rather just have a roast beef sandwich and call it a day.  Still, vegetarians might be warned of some of their risks:

It's worth noting that, in nature, vitamin B12 is only found in

animal products.  B12 deficiency can lead to pernicious anemia and

event permanent nerve damage.  Pregnant women should be particularly

concerned.  According to a Journal of Nutrition study, pregnant women

who followed a vegetarian diet that included eggs and dairy products, but no meat, had an increased risk of vitamin B12 deficiency, which is a risk factor for neural tube defects.  In adition, breast-fed infants of vitamin B12-deficient mothers are at greater risk for developmental abnormalities, impaired growth, anemia, even heart defects.

So, saying that simply having meat in your diet is an unhealthy practice is obviously a fallacy.  As long as you make sure to limit your portion size (between four and six ounces of meat in a single meal is all it takes), combine that with plenty of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, you can meet all of your dietary goals and still eat very, very well.  And without charts and graphs and spreadsheets and pills!