"Red Meat: Harmful..or Healthful?"
A Holistic Health Perspective...
Studies differ. Experts disagree.
So...what are we supposed to believe?
Can a holistic health lifestyle include red meat?
My answer is, yes, BUT…
…It’s a complex issue. So complex, in fact, that this article ended up being about twice as long as I had planned. So I decided to post this in two parts. Today, In Part One, I’ll present my line of reasoning as to why red meat is a healthy and important part of a holistic health diet. In my next post, I’ll share my thoughts on the healthiest ways include red meat in your diet.
As I discussed in
last week's post
, the March 12, 2012 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine contained a highly publicized Harvard study entitled, “Red Meat Consumption and Mortality.” The study concluded that red meat consumption is associated with a shorter life span and increased mortality due to cancer and heart disease, and an overall increase in mortality.
Sounds pretty bad, doesn’t it?
But guess what...?
The Harvard study IS NOT valid!
“Gasp!!!” (I can hear it from here.) “Dr. Mark, how can you say that a study done at the esteemed Harvard University is not valid?”
Here’s how: The study did not differentiate between grass fed beef, and grain fed beef that is produced in Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs).
(NOTE: You may also run across the term, “pasture fed” which is actually a more accurate term than “grass fed.” Cattle eat a variety of plants in the pasture—as Nature designed them to—not just grass. I use the term, “grass fed beef,” simply because more people are familiar with it.)
Lumping grass fed beef and CAFO beef into the same category is about as valid as saying that as organic juice fresh from your juicer is the same as kool-aid.
The vast majority of the beef consumed in the United States is CAFO beef. Since the study didn’t differentiate, one can only presume that most of the beef consumed by the people in the study was CAFO beef.
I will agree that CAFO beef is an unhealthy product. Hence the scary conclusions of the Harvard study. I do my best to avoid it. CAFO beef is as far from Nature’s design as you can get. Cattle are designed to graze in open fields on the foods that Nature has to offer – grasses, other plants, leaves, twigs and even tree bark. Although CAFO beef begins life in the pasture, that’s not where the animals end up. Months before they are slaughtered, they are placed in CAFOs so that they can fatten up on grain-based feed. Grain is not the natural diet for cattle.
CAFO feed is actually a slurry of corn and soy (often GMO), to which antibiotics have been added. This is not a nutritious diet for them; consequently, the meat from CAFO cattle is not nutritious.
Why the antibiotics? CAFOs are filthy. The animals live out the last months of their lives standing in their own manure. They are sick and stressed. The continuous stream of antibiotics in their feed is necessary to prevent rampant disease. Even with the antibiotics, CAFO beef is known to harbor much higher levels of e. coli than pasture raised beef.
Why would you want to eat that stuff?
On the other hand, meat from animals that graze on pasture for their whole lives is a nutritious food for humans to eat. Grass fed beef is higher in omega 3 fatty acids, and has healthier levels of cholesterol and saturated fats. Another important benefit is that grass fed beef has significantly higher levels of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a very healthy fat. CLA is known, among other benefits, to promote fat loss and muscle growth, reduce cancer risk and enhance immune functioning.
Bottom line: Humans are omnivores. Omnivores are supposed to eat meat. But you gotta do it right!
Next week: How best to include red meat in your holistic health diet.
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