Is it healthy for us to eat meat?

  • 2010-08-25

“One can grow old because of eating meat”, “meat is a poison”- whether we like it or not, the debates around meat-eating and the myths surrounding it (mixed with real facts) are imprinted in our minds.
Followers of vegetarianism convince us that meat is a sinful food, which is incompatible with spiritual growth, and that the energy of dead animals is harmful not only to spiritual but also to physical health.
This idea is not new, it has archaic roots: the primitive tribes believed that when a man eats the meat of an animal, he acquires its qualities - courage, cunning, quick reactions, visual acuity, etc. A modern version of these beliefs is as follows: those who eat meat become aggressive or stupid, their animal instincts increase, and they degrade. It is a matter of faith rather than scientific evidence.

Are people really born carnivorous?
The structure of our body and digestive system differs both from predators and from herbivores. Humans are omnivorous, in some sense - universal. This pantophagy once gave us a definite evolutionary advantage.

Can a vegetarian diet replace meat?
Partly. The protein content in meat is 20-40%, whereas in boiled vegetables and beans it ranges from 3% to 10%. The amounts of protein in nuts and soy are comparable to meat, but, unfortunately, this protein is less digestible. The energy and vital building materials received from meat quickly take part in the metabolic processes. And the digestion and assimilation of plant foods often takes more effort (enzymes, digestive juices) per each unit of the extracted useful substance. It is also a fact that plant foods contain substances that bind healthy nutrients, such as fitin, tannins and dietary fiber.

Is it true that “you grow old because of eating meat”?
This is a myth. Optimal consumption of animal protein is one of the main prerequisites for good immunity. The lack of building components (proteins, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, silicon, etc., which we mostly get from meat) in the tissues of the musculoskeletal system reduces the density of bones, leading to weakness of muscles and joints. For example, selenium deficiency causes muscular dystrophy, including the cardiac muscle, and dystrophy of the connective tissue - ligaments, joints. In short, rapid aging is rather caused by a deficiency of animal protein in the diet. Although an excess of it is also bad.
Very high content of protein in the diet leads to loss of calcium and overload of the urinary system, increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, strokes and tumors.

How much meat should we eat and how often?
Of course, this is a purely individual matter. But we can answer it based on the recommendations of the World Health Organization: for adults they recommend about 0.6-0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. And only half of this amount should consist of animal protein, the rest - from vegetables. This makes about 50 grams of meat a day. On the other hand, according to WHO statistics, the risk of developing cancer of the stomach is much higher among those people who eat more than 100 grams of red meat every day. Therefore, it is recommended to eat it no more often than three times a week, and at other times to replace it with white meat of poultry, fish, and liver.

Is it true that meat is the main supplier of toxins that enter our body?
Yes, it is true. But this is more related to the quality of the meat and in what conditions it was produced: during the growth of animals antibiotics, hormones, and a rich variety of chemical foods are used. The meat is then treated with preservatives in the process of storing and selling.

Are there ways to somehow reduce the damage, to minimize it?
Buy fresh meat instead of meat products and convenience foods. You should rinse, or even better - soak the meat in cold water. It would be best not to use the first broth (i.e., wait till the water in which the meat is cooked starts to boil, drain it, fill with cold water again and boil the broth). However, in the “organic” meat or meat of wild animals, these chemicals are virtually absent.

Ethics, economics, ecology
These three challenging aspects should be reasonably taken into account by people who eat meat.
Tens of billions of animals are killed every year in order to be used as food. The artificial cultivation system leads to an increasingly massive use of hormones, antibiotics, etc., which ultimately affects our health. In addition, livestock is one of the most polluting industries. It accounts for 28% of the total methane emitted to the atmosphere.
Finally, the economics: David Pimentel, professor at Cornell University (USA) estimated that the animals that are reared for their meat in the U.S. consume five times more grain than the entire population of the country. This grain could feed about 800 million people, he says. So-called organic meat is a real luxury on a global scale. What is the solution? In 2006 a group of scientists from the Netherlands patented a special technology for the production of meat, which can be grown from single cells into a steak with given structure and fat. While this is a very expensive procedure, we can hope that with time it will be much cheaper than raising animals.