Meat is healthy, new evidence from science

Meat is one of the most efficient foods due to its very high nutritional density, providing a high concentration of nutrients with meager calories.

Meat is one of the most significant sources of complete proteins. Studies show that animal protein intake is a reliable indicator of the mass muscle index, which is the quantity of skeletal muscle, linked to general health and reliable predictor of longevity. The more muscle mass is preserved with age, the longer the life expectancy. The study shows that people on a vegetarian diet have a lower muscle mass index than meat-eaters, resulting in a lower quantity of muscles, worse health, and shorter life expectancy.

In addition to proteins, meat also contains other nutrients that contribute to constructing a healthy and strong muscle mass, such as creatine, completely missing in plants and considered by scientists as “the most effective nutritional supplement currently available to athletes.” Creatine plays a vital role in the energy metabolism of muscle, improving endurance, strength, and muscle performance, and meat, especially red meat, is the most reliable source, revealing once again a lower level of muscle performance in people on a strictly plant-based diet.

Meat contributes to the coverage of all essential nutrients, being more bioavailable than in alternative food sources, such as iron, zinc, selenium, and vitamin B12, of which population is more susceptible to deficiency. Meat also provides unsaturated fats, omega three and CLA – Conjugated Linoleic acid, with cardiovascular health benefits. In particular, these compounds, together with other bioactive substances with antioxidant activities such as vitamin A, glutathione, and vitamin E, increase protection against cancer, found mostly in the fat of grass-fed cattle, but also in that one of cereals-fed animals, in the cuts with a more significant presence of fat.

According to new research, fats present naturally in foods, especially saturated fats, are no longer to be considered “the bad fats”, but it is artificial and industrial fats such as margarine and trans fats that should be avoided. Recent studies show that the too high intake of total fats, equal to 73% of energy and saturated fats, does not increase cardiovascular risk. The same is the case for dietary cholesterol, which today is no longer a cause for concern so that foods very dense of cholesterol, such as eggs, are entirely absolved. Therefore, meat is a healthy source of fats that perform essential functions for the body, improving cardiovascular health markers and body composition.

Meat is also the most effective and healthy choice for people who want to lose weight. Due to its proportionate protein and fat content and absence of carbohydrates, meat has high satiating power. According to recent analyses, meat-eaters, especially people who eat red meat more often, show a lower body mass index, a smaller waist circumference, and significant weight loss, more than 5 kg per month, without contraindications cardiovascular health, improving endurance, well-being, and vitality.

Despite these new findings, recommendations on limiting meat consumption, especially red meat, are unnecessarily too restrictive and may have negative health consequences. On the contrary, given the recent increase in the consumption of highly processed foods, even as substitutes of high-quality protein and nutrient-dense foods such as meat, nutritional priorities should be reconsidered. Research suggests that these food trends are associated with the increase in overweight and obesity.

It is improbable that reasonable intake of red meat increases the risk of cardiovascular disease or colon cancer. On the contrary, it improves nutrient intake, offering many positives for health. So, it is time for dietary advice that recognizes the real value of meat as healthy food, which effectively contributes to satisfying essential nutrients as part of a complete, balanced, and healthy diet.

Agronomist, nutritional consultant and scientific writer, author and co-author of 11 scientific publications and numerous articles on human nutrition and its impact on health and environment. In 2010 she received the title of Doctor Europaeus and PhD in Animal Production, Health and Food Hygiene in countries with a Mediterranean climate.