The rising incidence of cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, stroke, and kidney failure, especially in developing countries like Nigeria, has been linked to growing patronage of processed red meat products and sugary drinks.
Why? Red meat, especially processed meat, contains ingredients that have been linked to increased risk of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. These include heme iron, saturated fat, sodium, nitrites, and certain carcinogens that are formed during cooking.
Meat is mainly composed of water and protein, and is usually eaten together with other food. It is edible raw, but is normally eaten after it has been cooked and seasoned or processed in a variety of ways. Unprocessed meat will spoil within hours or days. Spoilage is caused by the practically unavoidable infection and subsequent decomposition of meat by bacteria and fungi, which are borne by the animal itself, by the people handling the meat, and by their implements.
Meat consumption varies worldwide, depending on cultural or religious preferences, as well as economic conditions. Vegetarians choose not to eat meat because of ethical, economic, environmental, and religious or health concerns that are associated with meat production and consumption.
You’re an individual. That means, no matter what the latest study says, it may or may not apply to you since your body chemistry is unique and may react differently than what is reported. Most of us have or known some uncle who smokes, drinks, and eats hamburgers daily and he just turned 95 and still there’s no sign of dementia, heart disease, cancer. However, Nutritionist and dietetics have advised that people should watch what they eat and try as much to control their intake this Christmas season.
But, if you are trying to decide whether red meat is safe to eat, you should know that the following red flags have been raised. So, it is up to you to decide. Is it worth it? How much is too much?
Cardiovascular disease: Animal-based dietary fats, such as the ones found in red meat, can contribute to risk factors associated with heart disease and stroke. They add cholesterol and saturated fats to your diet, which can increase the accumulation of a fatty substance called plaque to the walls lining your arteries. In this condition, known as atherosclerosis, your heart works harder to pump blood through the narrowed blood vessels, increasing your chance of heart attack. The fats in red meat can also cause you to put on extra weight, a risk factor for developing high blood pressure, which is also a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
Cancer: Red meat can increase your likelihood of developing cancer in several ways. For example, the iron in red meat is contained in a protein called heme, and this protein can easily undergo a chemical change in your gut to form carcinogenic N-nitroso compounds associated with, for instance, colorectal cancer. The fat content of red meat might be a contributing factor in the incidence of estrogen- and progesterone-sensitive breast cancer, and, in addition, hormones used in the production of red meat can exhibit estrogenic activity and might also boost your breast cancer risk.
Diabetes: The greater the amount of red meat you consume, and of processed red meat in particular, the greater your risk can be of developing type 2 diabetes. Processed red meats can contain preservatives such as nitrosoamines that are toxic to the pancreatic cells that produce insulin. In addition, chemical changes to red meat during cooking or processing can lead to insulin resistance in your cells and tissues. Although the relationship between the saturated fats in red meat and type 2 diabetes onsets is unclear, the cholesterol content of these foods is associated with an increased risk of developing the disease.
Considerations: Cooking methods for red meat and for poultry and fish as well can affect the health risks associated with consuming animal proteins. Pan-frying at high heat or grilling over an open flame can cause the amino acids, creatine and sugar in red meat to form heterocyclic amines, compounds that can cause gene mutations. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons can form when fats and liquid from red meat drip onto open flames and then adhere to the meat as the flames return to the food surface. Both these chemicals might alter the structure of your DNA and potentially increase your cancer risk. Cooking red meat over low heat and avoiding grilled red meat can help limit your intake of heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.
Red meat may increase Alzheimer’s disease risk: Scientists believe when proteins called Tau (an unstable subatomic particle of the lepton class) and beta-amyloid (a starchlike protein that is deposited in the liver, kidneys, spleen, or other tissues in certain diseases) accumulate in the brain they either disrupt nerve cells or kill them – and this may be the cause of Alzheimer’s disease. How does this connect to red meat? Well, it’s full of iron, and a high-red meat diet can lead to iron build up.
Lots of beef – type 2 diabetes: According to recent research, red meat consumption is associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and three extra servings of red meat every week increases the risk of developing diabetes by 50 per cent. That’s a pretty disheartening statistic. And you thought it was the cake and ice cream that would get you.
Meat just is not what it used to be. Unlike the steak our parents used to cook up on weekends, the meat you eat today has probably been pumped full of hormones to make it grow faster and antibiotics to prevent disease. Although such drugs have all been individually tested and approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), what has never been tested is whether these drugs may be harmful in combination. Meaning, in combination with all other chemicals and drugs you unknowingly absorb, breathe, and drink every day, including those in the air and those in the water. So whether or not an individual chemical, hormone or antibiotic has been proven to have a harmful affect or not, no one really knows what a combination of several chemicals, hormones and antibiotics will do to you.
Red meat includes fresh beef, pork, lamb, mutton and veal, as well as processed meats that come from these animal sources. These foods can add value to your diet, as they are rich in protein, iron, B vitamins and zinc. However, their saturated fat and cholesterol content can adversely affect your health, and the manner in which red meat is produced, processed and cooked can also impact your well-being. For these reasons, limiting your intake of this type of meat can improve your overall health and lower your risk of developing disease.
High intake of red meat or processed meat is associated with increased risk of colon cancer. In contrast, consumption of white meat (chicken or turkey) is not associated with risk and might even reduce the occurrence of colorectal cancer. White meat or light meat refers to the lighter-coloured meat of poultry as contrasted with dark meat.
While organically and ethically raised animals are always a better option than not, there’s still some reasons chicken is not a health food. Here are few.
•A serving of chicken contains just as much cholesterol as red meat. And eggs contain three times that. Cholesterol is linked to clogged arteries and heart disease.
• Grilled chicken – a popular alternative to fried – commonly contains PhIP (2-Amino-1-methyl-6-phenylimidazo (4,5-b pyridine), which may contribute to the development of certain types of cancers including breast and prostate.
• A common industry practice involves feeding chicken arsenic in order to make them grow faster. It’s highly toxic to humans and can cause cancer, dementia, neurological problems, and other ailments.
• HCAs (heterocyclic amines) are found in meats cooked at high temperature, including chicken, and have been linked to an increased risk of cancer.
• Avian flu may have dropped out of the mainstream media’s attention, but it’s still a very serious illness that is transmitted through poultry. The mutating nature of the disease means more cases of pneumonia, multiple organ failure and death are likely as a result of too many chickens living in crowded and unsanitary conditions where the disease spreads.
However, white meat such as chicken and turkey are better than red meat. In general, red meats (beef, pork and lamb) have more cholesterol and saturated (bad) fat than chicken, fish and vegetable proteins such as beans. Cholesterol and saturated fat can raise your blood cholesterol and make heart disease worse. Chicken and fish have less saturated fat than most red meat.
Benefits of eating chicken
•High in protein: If you’re looking for a great source of lean, low fat protein, this bird is the word. The protein in chicken lends itself to muscle growth and development, and help support a healthy body weight and aid weight loss.
• Natural anti-depressant: Chicken, like its brother fowl the turkey, is high in an amino acid called tryptophan, which gives you that comforting feeling after consuming a big bowl of mom’s chicken soup. In fact, if you’re feeling depressed, eating some poultry will increase the serotonin levels in your brain, enhance your mood, blasting stress, and lulling you to sleep.
• Prevents bone loss: If you’re entering your senior years and you’re concerned about Osteoporosis or arthritis, eating chicken will aid in your fight against bone loss thanks to the protein punch it packs!
Also you may consider the possible health benefits of consuming turkey
Eating foods like turkey that are high in protein help to increase the feeling of satiety and make you feel fuller for a longer period. Getting enough protein ensures maintenance of lean muscle mass and can keep insulin levels stable after meals. That being said, protein is the one nutrient that most meat-eaters are already getting plenty of.
Keep in mind that the amount of protein at each meal matters; you can only absorb so much at one time.
Make sure to have a lean protein source at each meal and spread your intake out throughout the day. Other good choices for protein include nuts, fish, eggs, dairy, soy and legumes.
The breast of the turkey has less fat and calories than most other cuts of meat, but do not assume that just because a product is made from turkey that it is healthier. For example, a burger made from ground turkey can contain just as much saturated fat as a beef burger, depending on how much dark meat is included in the ground turkey.
Make sure to check the package for fat content or % leanness and compare. Turkey contains the mineral selenium, which studies have suggested higher intakes may decrease the risk of colorectal, prostate, lung, bladder, skin, esophageal, and gastric cancers.