Red meat refers to meat from the muscles of mammals such as beef, mutton, lamb, goat and so on.
They are called red meat because they are normally red when raw.
Meat such as chicken, turkey, rabbit, game birds, duck, goose, etc, are considered “white meat.”
Processed meat, on the other hand, refers to any meat that has been transformed from its fresh form by curing, salting, fermentation, smoking or other ways of improving meat preservation or enhancing its flavors.
They are mainly from beef or pork but can also be from other mammalian meats and/or poultry or meat byproducts (like fats, blood, etc.).
Examples are hot dogs, sausages, canned meat, corned beef, meat-based preparations and sauces, etc.
Red meat is actually nutritious since it provides fat, protein, and many micronutrients.
It is a good source of protein, minerals, and vitamins and is often included as part of a balanced diet.
It contains complete protein since it has all the essential amino acids needed by a man from food. It has enough amounts of proteins needed for muscle growth.
Red meat is also a great source of vitamin B12, which is essential for nervous system functioning.
It also contains zinc, which is indispensable for use of the immune system and also in producing testosterone and a powerful antioxidant called selenium.
It is also rich in iron. Albeit all these are not exclusive to red meat since they are also in abundance in poultry, eggs, fish, nuts and plant-based diets.
However, some scientific studies have shown a link between high consumption of red and processed meats and an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer; particularly bowel cancer and premature death.
This pointedly shows that it is not necessarily the consumption of red or processed meat that is deleterious but the high consumption of it.
It, therefore, means that there is a safe level at which red or processed meat can be consumed. But there is still no consensus as to what level this is.
Nevertheless, many suggestions have been made as to the amount of red or processed meat that may be safe to consume in a daily diet.
For example, it has been advised that daily consumption of red or processed meat should not be more than 70 grams a day. This can be done by eating smaller portions, eating them less often, or swapping them for alternatives.
A practical example is when an adult consumes more than 90 grams of red or processed meat on a certain day, but to escape the associated harm of large consumption, eat less the following days or have meat-free days so that in the end, the average consumption is not more than 70 grams a day.
Children do not need as much food as adults, though the amount they need depends on their age and size.
For children over five years, their meals should include meat or other sources of proteins; and for children less than five years, nutrition advice may be needed on introducing them to white and red meat and other solid foods.
A much healthier nutrition suggestion is a dietary pattern involving a high consumption of fresh, seasonal and local plant-based food with a small intake of meat and dairy products. Such diets are believed to be protective against cancer, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cognitive and cardiovascular diseases.
Some nutritionists have, however, argued that partially or totally jettisoning red meat from our diets is a surreptitious way of welcoming more carbohydrates into our diets, and going by the inculpation of carbohydrates in the obesity epidemic and the myriads of problems associated with obesity, it means we may end up biting more than we can chew by trying to find alternatives to red meat in our diets.
Therefore, these aforementioned schools of nutritionists argued that the World Health Organisation was too hasty in classifying red meat as carcinogenic by relying on an assumption based on observational studies. This is because observational studies are never designed to show causation.
While also trying to discredit a study that found that there was low evidence to conclude that red or processed meat is harmful, the other school of nutritionists argued that the study used a flawed methodology and the nutritional evidence from the study was misinterpreted.
In conclusion, to be on the safer side, moderation in the consumption of red or processed meat is advised.
And since there are veritable alternatives that contain all the nutritional elements that red or processed meat possessed, it won’t do any harm if we partially extirpate red and processed meat from our diets.
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