There’s an unrelenting wave of fear sweeping the nation regarding red meat. Everywhere we turn we’re being told red meat is unhealthy and it should be avoided. Of all the hand-wringing concerns about red meat, only two are blamed for causing chronic diseases. One is red meat has saturated fat and cholesterol. The other is that when red meat is cooked at high temperatures it causes cancer.
Charred meat is definitely carcinogenic. Cooking until well-done, deep-fat frying, and high temperatures that char beef, pork, fish, and poultry produces two cancer-causing substances: heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Both are mutagenic, which means they cause changes in DNA that increase cancer risks with frequent consumption. Reduced cooking times and temperatures lower HCA levels. PAHs result from charring meat, so either not charring the meat or scraping off the burnt bits helps to reduce PAHs.
There are some additional steps that reduce HCA risks. Rosemary lowers HCA formation by up to 90 percent. Basil, thyme, sage, and oregano also help. When used in marinades, fresh garlic can decrease HCA formation by up to 70 percent. Acid-based marinades containing vinegar, lemon or lime juice, wine, yogurt, and even dark beer also reduce HCA formation by as much as 99 percent.
But what the alarmists don’t say, when explaining that burnt meat is carcinogenic, is that all burnt foods can be carcinogenic including roasted nuts, toast, french fries, whole grains, s’mores, and more. A chemical, “acrylamide,” forms when foods rich in carbohydrates and starch are burnt. Acrylamide is not only a carcinogen, but also a neurotoxin and can cause nerve damage. Plus, burning vegetables can form carcinogens like benzopyrene, which is found in cigarette smoke. So just don’t worry about red meat being a cancer risk because all foods are cancer risks when not cooked properly.
As for the alarm over saturated fat and cholesterol, that claim has never been substantiated! In a paper based on 39 studies, James J DiNicolantonio Pharm.D. summarizes the findings of modern nutritional research by stating:
“There is no conclusive proof that a low-fat diet has any positive effects on health. Indeed, the literature indicates a general lack of any effect (good or bad) from a reduction in fat intake. The public fear that saturated fat raises cholesterol is completely unfounded as the low-density lipoprotein particle size distribution is worsened when fat is replaced with carbohydrate. A public health campaign is drastically needed to educate on the harms of a diet high in carbohydrate/sugar.”
The fats people must be concerned about are the essential fatty acids (EFAs) because animal bodies cannot regulate these fats. Thousands of studies indicate a 1:1 ratio by weight of Omega-6 EFAs to Omega-3 EFAs in cell membranes is optimal for health. When ratios exceed 4:1 chronic diseases are more prevalent. The studies also prove the EFA ratio in the membranes of cells is a far better marker for heart disease than saturated fat in meats and high cholesterol readings. The foods that cause the high EFA ratios are whole grains, seeds, grain-fed meats, nuts, and vegetable oils–today’s most popular foods. This is why the EFA ratio for most Americans is 15:1 or higher and they have never been sicker.
It’s true that most Americans eat grain-fed meats and don’t even try to eat a healthy diet. They eat fried food cooked in vegetable oils, potatoes, pasta, bread, buns, deserts, sauces, nuts, and salads smothered with Omega-6 salad dressings. So it’s not the red meat component of the diet that’s at fault. It’s the so-called “balanced” diet.
The tipping point in the health of the average American occurred immediately following World War II. The mechanized mass production of grain lowered its price, making grain-based foods a staple, and changed the livestock industry from grass-fed to grain-fed. It’s the changeover to foods with high EFA ratios that drives the growth of chronic diseases, not the saturated fat and cholesterol in red meats.
The alarmists who rely on common knowledge instead of science are needlessly demonizing the finest food you can eat. Bottom line, eating grass-fed and Omega-3 meats with EFA ratios of 2:1 or less is good for you as long as you avoid over cooking, deep fat frying, and high temperatures that char the meats.
To your health.
Ted Slanker has been reporting on the fundamentals of nutritional research in publications, television and radio appearances, and at conferences since 1999. He condenses complex studies into the basics required for health and well-being. His eBook, The Real Diet of Man, is available online.
For additional reading:
Why Is Red Meat Bad for You? by Sandi Busch
Saturated Fat: Good or Bad? by Kris Gunnars
The Triglyceride/HDL Cholesterol Ratio by Axel F. Sigurdsson MD
11 Reasons to Eat Beef Every Day by Amanda Radke
Can Burnt Toast and Roasted Potatoes Cause Cancer? by Meera Senthilingam, CNN
All About Cooking & Carcinogens by Ryan Andrews
Historic US and UK Dietary Advice on Fats “Should Not Have Been Introduced” from Science Daily
CardioBuzz: How Bad Is Saturated Fat? by Senior Staff Writer, MedPage Today
Decades Later, Evidence for Diet Guidelines Attacked by Crystal Phend, Senior Staff Writer, MedPage Today
Saturated Fat Is Not the Major Issue by Aseem Malhotra, interventional cardiology specialist registrar, Croydon University Hospital, London
The Importance of the Ratio of Omega 6 Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids by Dr. Artemis Simopoulos
Balancing Proportions of Competing Omega-3 and Omega-6 Highly Unsaturated Fatty Acids (HUFA) in Tissue Lipids by Doug Bibus and Bill Lands
Low Fat Risks by Ted Slanker
The Paris Climate Accord and Beef by Ted Slanker
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