Some people consider meat a staple of the diet – they are convinced that without this product mankind cannot survive. Others, on the contrary, believe that meat products are a disaster: in their opinion, such food provokes diseases and is poorly digested. Such discussions are as common as those that are about if it’s okay to bet via a 20Bet login on a regular basis. Here are common beliefs about meat food.
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The Healthiest Meat Is Chicken
Theoretically, white meat from chicken or, for example, turkey may indeed be healthier than red meat, such as pork, beef, or lamb.
According to one hypothesis, eating large amounts of red meat can lead to stomach and intestinal cancer because mammalian muscles are high in the red respiratory protein myoglobin. When people eat meat, myoglobin digestion produces nitrogenous compounds that are considered potential carcinogens. It was first discovered that these chemicals can cause cancer in animals, and then there is evidence that they can also contribute to cancer in humans.
Poultry meat has less myoglobin than mammalian meat, which is why it is not as red. It turns out that people who eat it produce fewer harmful nitrogenous compounds. This suggests that chicken meat contributes less to cancer than, for example, pork.
However, figuring out what causes meat lovers to actually get cancer is very difficult. Many scientists believe that it’s not so much the myoglobin content, but rather how the meat was prepared. There are strong arguments in favor of this.
For example, the World Cancer Research Foundation found that grilling and barbecuing red meat and fish equally increases the risk of stomach cancer. And since fish meat is also low in myoglobin, it turns out that the concentration of respiratory protein in meat is not the main factor that causes cancer in people after all.
When it comes to cooked or stewed meat, chicken may indeed be healthier than red meat. But not because of the lower myoglobin content, but simply because poultry is usually less fatty than pork or lamb. But if you choose only lean red meat, such as beef or pork loin, then such meat is no less healthy than chicken or turkey.
Red Meat Causes Cancer, Diabetes, and Heart Disease
The evidence suggests that it isn’t so much the red muscle protein-rich myoglobin in mammalian meats like pork, beef, and lamb that increases the risk of chronic disease, but rather the way they are prepared.
This means that fried meat and processed meat products, i.e. processed meat and ready-to-eat bacon, sausages and smoked meats, are more harmful than cooked and stewed meat in the same quantities.
In fact, no one yet fully understands why, but scientists have quite a few hypotheses on this subject.
When heated, a lot of harmful compounds are formed in the meat. Most likely to be harmful to health:
- Heterocyclic amines. These substances are formed when the amino acids that make up proteins are heated to high temperatures along with creatine, an acid that forms in muscle tissue. Some evidence suggests that these potential carcinogens increase the risk of colorectal cancer, increase blood pressure, contribute to cardiovascular disease, and can damage pancreatic cells – which could lead to diabetes in the future.
- Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. These are the soot and smoke produced by burning meat. They can cause cancer in laboratory animals at least – so they can be dangerous to humans as well.
Much salt is added to deep-processed foods, so they store better and customers like salty foods better.
But salt retains water in the body, increasing the pressure in the blood vessels. People who regularly eat any highly salty food wear down their blood vessels faster, increasing their risk of heart attack or stroke.
Meat Is Bad for Digestion
That’s not true. Many scientists believe that humans evolved into the smartest species precisely because they once learned to eat meat. If meat was poorly digested, we would never have had enough building material and energy to first build, and then successfully use, a powerful and complex brain.
From the perspective of the human body, meat is protein, and protein is a good source of energy and a convenient material from which the body builds itself. But in order for the building material to be used, it must first be turned into bricks – amino acids – from which the body will create its own proteins.
The production of amino acids is very well organized in our body. First, we chew and saliva wet meat food – this is needed to make the proteins more available for breakdown. Then the chewed meat enters the stomach, where hydrochloric acid and pepsin cut the proteins into smaller pieces. Then it all moves to the small intestine, where pancreatic enzymes shred the pieces of protein into amino acids, which then enter the bloodstream. After that, the leftovers from the meat meal, which are not needed by the body, end up in the large intestine and leave the body.
The time that meat food spends in the gastrointestinal tract depends on both the health of a person’s gut and the amount, density, and chemical composition of the food.
Carbs are the fastest to digest and assimilate. Protein comes second, and fat comes third. Therefore, amino acids from fatty steak will take longer to digest than from lean chicken. But on average, it takes about two days for a healthy person to fully digest meat.
Typically, problems with digestion of meat occur in the following cases.
A healthy person has eaten too much meat, especially fatty meat. It is believed that most people can digest about 200 grams of red meat at a time. If you eat more than this, you may not have enough gastric juice and enzymes to break down all the protein in the portion. Some of the undigested protein will go into the colon and be eaten by intestinal bacteria for lunch. The bacteria, which are “full” of protein, produce a lot of intestinal gas, so you end up with a sick stomach.
The person suffers from digestive problems. For example, patients with gastritis have an inflammation of the mucosa of their stomach. Because of this, their gastric juice production is impaired – so there may not be enough to break down the protein even from a small portion of meat.
And patients with celiac disease, due to inflammation of the small intestine, cannot properly absorb not only protein from meat but also most other nutrients and vitamins.
Humans Cannot Do Without Meat, so Vegetarians Are Doomed to Be Sick
Although humans have evolved to eat meat, and this may well have been the reason our species thrived, this does not mean that humans today cannot do without it in principle.
The most valuable things in meat are protein, which is needed to build new cells, iron, which is needed to form respiratory cells – red blood cells, and vitamin B12, which helps provide the body with energy. Although meat allows us to get all of this at one time, there are other foods that can meet our daily needs for these substances.
Adult men need 75-114 and adult women need 60-90 grams of protein per day. 100 grams of pork provides just over 26 grams of protein, which is about half of our daily allowance. But 100 g of cheese has even more protein – 27 g. Besides dairy products, vegetarians can get protein from legumes, grains, vegetables, and mushrooms.
An adult man needs 10 mg of iron and an adult woman 18 mg per day. Red meat is rich in iron: for example, 100 g of pork contains 1.15 mg of iron. But it is also present in other foods: for example, 100 g of baked beans contains even more – 1.4 mg.
Besides, there is iron in other legumes, in dried fruits, and, for example, in whole-grain cereals and bread. Although iron is less absorbed from plants than from meat, vegetarians who eat a varied diet can get enough iron.