Next time you order a juicy steak and someone lectures you about how meat causes heart disease, share this "news" that we have known for years: There is no link between red meat and coronary heart disease. Period.
In a new study, published in the journal "Circulation," Harvard researchers analyzed 20 studies that compared health outcomes of people who eat red meat and processed meat. The combined studies included well over one million subjects.
And, not surprisingly to many of us, red meat intake was not associated with either heart disease or type 2 diabetes.
But this isn’t a green light to go meat crazy, because the Harvard study also confirmed something else we already knew: Processed meat is junk.
Hot dogs. Bacon. Sausage. Lunch meats. For the most part– all junk. And it’s all potentially dangerous.
The Harvard team reports a 42 percent higher risk of heart disease linked to consistent eating of processed meat, and nearly 20 percent higher risk of type 2 diabetes.
So the meat naysayers will tell you the processed meats are so bad because of the saturated fats and the cholesterol…but they’ll be wrong again.
Saturated fat and cholesterol content were the same in unprocessed red meat and processed meat. The dangers in the processed meat are mostly due to chemical preservatives and high sodium levels.
Of course, that detail will be a hard sell to your vegetarian friends who swear that animal fats are equivalent to arsenic. Fact is, these fats are necessary for your body to absorb critical fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.
Grazing in the grass
If you never eat a single bacon-wrapped hot dog, and you regularly enjoy a t-bone or a New York strip, you’re on the right track. But to make that steak real health food, there’s one more thing to look out for.
When California State University researchers reviewed research that compared grass-fed beef with grain-fed beef, they found higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins A and E, and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) in grass-fed. In fact, CLA levels were twice as high–no small thing, given the evidence that CLA helps manage blood sugar and insulin levels, while also reducing risks of cancer, osteoporosis, and atherosclerosis.
Grass-fed beef is also far less likely to contain the antibiotics and hormones typically found in commercial meat.
As I’ve mentioned before, genuine grass-fed beef is more expensive and often hard to find. But the Whole Foods Market chain now carries grass-fed/grass-finished beef– which means the animals have eaten grass their entire lives and haven’t been fed corn to fatten them up just before they’re sold for slaughter.
So enjoy quality meat and get the superior nutrition it offers–without worrying about the fat or cholesterol intake. And if your pocketbook allows, grass-finished is the only way to go.
Jenny Thompson is the Director of the Health Sciences Institute and editor of the HSI e-Alert. Through HSI, she and her team uncover important health information and expose ridiculous health misinformation, most notably through the HSI e-Alert.
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