A recent study by Harvard university found that eating red meat more than twice a week put a serious increase on the risk of bowel cancer. The government has now issued a warning for us all to limit our intake to no more than two portions a week. Should we keep red meat in our diet at all? ELLE finds out the real pros and cons of eating red meat.
Red meat is one of the richest natural sources of zinc, albeit unprocessed, lean forms of red meat (think lean steaks with little fat). Zinc is essential for a healthy immune system, to build muscle and even considered essential for healthy fertility. A 200g lean steaks once a week provides a natural source of zinc, a mineral for a healthy system. If you decide to use a supplement, ELLE loves Zinc Citrate, £6, by Lamberts.
High level sources of protein have a huge impact on serotonin levels (the happy hormone) some studies have even found that increasing the intake of protein, particularly lean red meat has a positive effect against depression. Switching to a high protein diet instantly increases the levels of amino acid, tryptophan production in the brain. Lean red meat is one of the highest sources of tryptophan and has a direct effect on serotonin levels. One portion of red meat a week is enough to have a significant effect.
A hormone called IGF-1 (an Insulin-like growth factor) is stimulated in our bodies by the saturated fat found in red meat and has been linked to an increase in the risk of prostrate and breast cancer. The current research doesn't tell us how this happens, but lean meat such as fish and chicken doesn't have the same effect.
You knew I was going to say it, iron. This is such an essential mineral for the body, integral for red blood cells , the immune system and a healthy metabolism. Red meat can comfortably provide 17% of the recommended portion dose of iron for a healthy diet, and it is one of the easiest sources from which to absorb the mineral. There are alternatives like spinach and legumes but red meat is really the best source.
Don't barbecue your red meat. While lean sources of red meat are a rich source of nutrients like selenium, zinc, vitamins b and d, chargrilling the meat releases compounds that are difficult for the body to process and harmful. heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarboxy (PAHs) are formed and have been linked to the increased risk of bowel cancer.
So what to do? With high quality supplements readily available and as they are, minerals needed for a healthy functioning immune and metabolic system can be found easily on your local health store shelf, or at ELLE favourite, victoriahealth.com. But that's not to say we should dismiss our steak so readily, though it may be a case of moderation and giving up the weekly visit to Byron burger. Getting your meat from sustainable organic sources also means that you can ensure it's not packed with additives and saturated fats can be kept to the minimum. While government guidelines might suggest twice a week, considering exactly where your meat has come from is equally important. why not use this opportunity to find alternative sources for iron,protein, vitamin d and b? after all a varied diet is the best of all.