I’ve never been shy about my love for meat. I’m not a dietitian or a doctor by any means. But I read a lot and I pay attention to those more educated than I. What I’ve come to learn over the years is that not only is red meat good for you, it’s an important dietary staple which should be consumed daily.
One of the primary nutrients derived from meat is protein. As the building blocks for our bodies, making up such important bodily parts as skin, bone and muscle (among others), and providing energy in the form of calories, protein is essential to the human diet.
Yes, protein can be derived from other sources. There are also excellent options for those who choose not to eat meat. That said, meat is certainly the most efficient way to consume your Daily Recommended Intake of protein. That is, 46 grams per day for the average, sedentary woman.
Black beans and spinach are both regularly advised as excellent sources of protein. In 100 grams of black beans, you’ll get 14 grams of protein. 100 grams of spinach however, will only provide 2.9 grams of protein. Meanwhile, 100 grams of steak will pack a punch of 25 grams of protein!
All that protein in one meal is enough to tell me red meat is good for you.
Iron is an essential mineral to the human diet, and is found in every cell of your body. There are two types of iron, heme and non-heme. Heme is optimal for consumption, as our bodies absorb more heme iron than non-heme iron. Heme iron is only derived from animal sources.
Let’s use the black beans and spinach comparison again. Both were recommended to me as a great way to add iron into my diet when I dealt with anemia.
The Daily Recommended Intake of iron for pre-menopausal women who aren’t pregnant is 18 milligrams.
In 100 grams of black beans, you will find 2 milligrams of non-heme iron, and in 100 grams of spinach you will find 2.7 milligrams of non-heme iron. Remember, non-heme is the iron that does not absorb as well.
100 grams of steak will provide 2.4 milligrams of heme iron.
There isn’t a lot of guidance for women on how much of iron intake should be heme vs. non-heme. In my research, I did find a lot of information about excess iron being found in “humans.” That was attributed to the efficiency of absorption of heme iron. However, these articles did not state whether these were men, women, or a combination being studied, nor anything about the ages of these people.
Since women of reproductive age need 18 milligrams of iron per day (vs. adult men and post-menopausal women who only need 8 milligrams) and pregnant women need 27 milligrams, many women (myself included) find themselves battling anemia at some point in their lives.
It seems to me, that we ladies are most likely to maintain healthy levels of iron in our systems if we consume better-absorbed heme iron as a large percentage of our daily iron intake. (FYI, oysters are very high in iron, with 8 milligrams in a 3-ounce serving).
At any point that you wonder “Is red meat good for you,” remind yourself of the importance of vitamin B12. This is a vitamin that is only found in animal sources, not in plants. B12 is an important helper to building our DNA and genetic materials, while also working to keep our nerve and blood cells healthy. A deficiency in vitamin B12 can cause issues from tiredness, to constipation, to dementia.
The Recommended Daily Intake of vitamin B12 for adults is 2.4 micrograms. 100 grams of steak contains 2.2 micrograms of vitamin B12, while plant and vegetable sources do not contain any B12.
In the end, people are omnivores. Our bodies were built to consume both meat and plants. And our bodies need nutrients, vitamins and minerals that are found in both sources. Meat gets a bad reputation. My belief is that everyone should be able to make their own food choices, but we all need to be smart about it. Consuming enough protein, iron (particularly for pre-menopausal women), and consuming vitamin B12 at all in a plant-based diet is going to be difficult to impossible. If you have made a decision to go plant-based, you should at the very least have a blood draw. Then, meet with your doctor to go over the results. Your doctor can help you put together a supplementation plan to meet the dietary needs you are missing.
For those who are going or considering going plant-based for moral reasons, I get it. I also encourage you to check out your local farmers market. Here, you can meet some of the people who are in your neighborhood raising happy animals. Learn more about small farms and support them when buying meat. Go to restaurants that serve their meat instead of meat from industrialized processes.
High-quality, grass-fed beef is healthier for you, healthier for the environment, and better tasting.
As an added benefit, supporting your local farmer supports your local economy. Spend some time chatting with a farmer and find out why high-quality meat is so much better than no meat.
So . . . Is Red Meat Good for You?
Meat is full of vitamins and nutrients that our bodies need, and should never cause health issues if it’s high-quality. In fact, the most high-quality meats you are going to find come from farms who raise their animals ethically and sustainably. So, you can feel good about supporting them, too. In my opinion, based on what I have read from those more qualified, red meat is good for you . . . and that is good enough for me.
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