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For all those who truly love their Meat

The Meaty Bits... Protein, Fats and Organic Meat verus Processed Meats

In this article we will explore Meat - got you excited hasn't it. But wait there's more. There's more to it than meats the eye.

From the onset I will say, if you are eating meat as part of the protein content of your diet, then eat the freshest, most organic - hormone free - meats you can source. If you can't get them organic-fresh, get organic frozen. If you can't get them organic or organic frozen, drop in to your local butcher and get the freshest cuts you can.

Meat is generally around 22% protein in its butchered form and contains several nutrients in their concentrated form, specifically iron, and B12. These two nutrients are generally much more available in meats compared to plant sources. (Although you may be surprised to know a great source of non-meat bioavailable iron can be found in prunes). Have a look at Healthy Protein Alternatives for non- meat eaters

Meat can provide the body with a source of mostly saturated fats which is important for providing us with energy. Fats provide twice as much energy per gram than carbohydrates or protein. Fats also provide our bodies with cholesterol to build all membranes and nerve mylenation as well as sex and adrenocorticoid hormones and bile salts.

Lets look at the types of meat generally available to us and it's advantages and disadvantages.

Fresh Meat

Fresh meat has a good protein profile like the muscle meats of beef, lamb, pork, game, the typical steak cuts and roasts. These muscle meats provide us with similar amino acid (protein) profile to our own muscles. As mentioned before meat has some saturated fats. Depending on the cut of meat this will vary, leaner is better. Fresh meat is high in nutrients like selenium, phosphorus and potassium.

Meat must be cooked thoroughly as raw meat may still contain bacteria. If the meat is not organically certified it may contain steroids, hormones, chemical residues, (fungicides, herbicides, pesticides), heavy metals from water sources/and or grazing pastures. And now we have to be mindful of the source of the animals food, ie. GM grain crops that have a round-up ready modified gene.

The more raw the meat is, the better your digestion needs to be to cook it and break it down with your digestive acids. Those with poor digestion will find meats that have been cooked for longer periods will be easier to digest - eg. A stew simmered all day compared to a steak straight off the barbeque. Inhumanely grown and butchered meat makes for inferior quality meat, evident in its flavour, texture and nutrient content. If it is cooled too rapidly when butchered the muscle fibres shrink and make the meat tough when it is cooked (ie Lamb will do this).

Fresh meat will keep in the long term if it is frozen, otherwise it needs to be refrigerated no more than 2 days and then cooked, so it does not make for a very transportable form of protein compared to nuts, seeds or even eggs. A high fat content can rapidly lead to spoilage at room temperatures (rancid fat). Frozen Meat - will last for 1 - 2 years but the quality is inferior to fresh meat.

Meat has almost no fibre in it. In fact high red meat diets are one of the main contributing factors in colon/rectal cancer. Research has shown that this type of cancer is less common in those who tend to eat more chicken and less red meat, and even less in those who consume fish at least 3 times per week.

Processed Meats

Smoked, pickled, preserved, refined & combined - sausage meats, bacon, salami, sandwich meats, rissoles, hotdogs etc,

Well, the be honest, there are not a lot of advantages here. Not truly healthy ones and that's what this is all about - recommending foods that will give you the best possible health benefits. If you were starving these processed meats would provide your body with a certain amount of nourishment and therefore energy. It may be better for you than say - dying of hunger or eating no protein at all. A lot of disadvantaged people (and armed forces personnel!) are supplied with canned meat and no other major sources of protein. This will often sustain them until they can resume eating from /or create their own regular food sources, but it is far from ideal.

It really is good to get these sorts of meats direct from a butcher who makes them himself on the premises and knows the art of creating these kinds of foods in the traditional way, otherwise you are buying products that are full of chemicals you don't want. Ground mince is best if you do it yourself or wait at the butcher's while it is done for you. There are just too many reasons not to buy these kinds of products especially when better forms of protein are available to purchase.

The biggest disadvantage is that cured/processed meats are high in sodium nitrates and other preserving chemicals. Processed meats are also a poor source of nutrition, especially in the long term. Nitrates (like sodium nitrites) are potentially carcinogenic (cause cancer) when mixed with amines (natural or synthetic). This is combination is common, particularly in western food combining practices, like having processed meats with beer and wine. The problem is - the nitrates are in more and more foods.

And not only foods, they are in some prescription drugs as well. How many people do you think would consider their 'drugs' as part of their daily nutrition intake? They are, and cannot and should not be disregarded.

Once in the body sodium nitrite forms a nitrosamine compounds that enter the bloodstream and lower the function of the liver and pancreas. In the 1970's the USDA (United States Dept of Agriculture) tried to ban this additive (ie so they know its bad for us) but it was vetoed by food manufacturers who complained there was nothing else they could use to preserve their packaged goods.

Why would manufacturers continue to use a chemical that is so dangerous?? "Simple; this chemical just happens to turn meat bright red. It's actually a colour fixer, and it makes old, dead meats appear fresh and vibrant. Thus, food manufacturers insist on using sodium nitrite for the simple reason that it sells more meat products. Consumers are strongly influenced by the colour of grocery products and when meat products look fresh, people will buy them, even if the true colour of the months-old meat is putrid gray." (

Nitrates are a really big problem I'm sure no one in the food industry likes to discuss, in fact I think they'd all really like for the nitrates & amines issue to disappear, but I anticipate that over time it will become a similar scenario to that of the smoking lobby ."Smoking is not harmful to your health" and then a whole lot of lawsuits, campaigns, lives lost, and money spent later "Smoking is harmful to your health".

Talking of processed meats, this is a good time to mention MRM - Mechanically Recovered Meat (sounds yummy). Commonly used for pie or sausage filling - in bakery products and products you will buy in the supermarket. MRM is "the carcass scrapings removed from the bones once the best meat has already been removed.

The remaining bits are put through a machine similar to a giant washing machine, which strips every last shred of tissue from the bones. (It then becomes) a grey, porridge-like slurry with the addition of additives, preservatives to keep the bacteria in check, emulsifiers to thickeners to make it firm and chunky, and colourings to make it pink and lean looking." Hmm Sausage rolls will never look the same So make sure you buy your sausage rolls and pies from someone who makes their own meat mixtures.

"In the UK, it took another 6 years to ban the use of cattle vertebrae in MRM, after it was discovered to be the highest potential carrier of BSE virus in cattle." (Sue Dibb) Oh but the Govt and its departments always has our wellbeing in mind don't they?? Only when it suits them and the market.

How are the vitamins affected when meat is processed?

Organically grown meats will have higher levels of vitamin and minerals than mass produced, caged, force fed animals. The more the meat is processed, the less nutrition is available in it. For example ground beef mince contains lower nutrient values than a steak. In poultry most of the saturated fats and cholesterol is found in the skin so removing the skin can lower the fats consumed. Red meats, depending on its cut, may be more difficult to remove the fat, as sometimes it is marbled through the meat.

Frozen meat will loose some quality when thawed, compared to fresh meat. Its vitamin E content is somewhat lowered due to oxidation. Proteins remain unchanged during freezing but the fats may be susceptible to rancidity.

Pork and poultry are richer in unsaturated fatty acids and are more susceptible to rancidity than other meats.(paragraph - fao website) There is a lot of variation in the nutrient composition of frozen/thawed meats in the scientific data. This seems to be due to the many ways in which to cook meat, thawing processes, freezing duration, and time lapsed between slaughter and the initial freezing, as well as the variation in testing conditions and the animals selected. (In a pork chop) "It was tentatively concluded after storage at -12oC and cooking that about 90% of the thiamin was retained but no firm conclusion could be drawn about other vitamins. No conclusions could be drawn about storage at the lower temperature." (fao website)

The same study said approximately 90% of riboflavin was retained at -12oC and there was 80% pyridoxine, however results were erratic.

With processed meat products I did find results that said the thiamin content of some meat products will differ from country to country, eg.The UK uses sulphur dioxide as a preservative which destroys thiamin however the USA does not.

You have to wonder what happens to meat when it is 'cured' these days. Traditionally, it used to take weeks for the meat to age and be put through its processes. Nowadays, when everything is about speed the curing process can be sped up to 1-2 weeks by injecting the meat with a curing solution, and thin slices of meat like bacon can be cured in a few hours, and even faster if the meat is heated and the cure can take place in the packaging. I haven't found any research in this area - stating what actually happens to the nutrition value of the meat in this kind of sped up process, or even research on the curing solutions they use and the interaction it may have with plastic. Which overall is a bit concerning considering most all the processed meat is sold in plastic.

Biological actions attributed to over consumption of meat

My findings have been so far that this area of research is by far from definitive and there seems to be quite a bit of unresolved questions regarding the effects of meat once it's in the body. Part of this confusion I believe is related to that fact that when testing, some meat may be heavy with contaminants (heavy metals, pesticides etc) while other meat may be more on the organic side. The meat with toxins, once in the system cannot but create a confusing picture for the observer when attempting to assess the bioavailability of the nutrients being studied. In one of the most resent studies completed in June 2005, 'Professor Sheila Bingham, Principal Investigator of the study from the MRC Dunn Human Nutrition Unit in Cambridge, UK said "People have suspected from some time that high levels of red and processed meat increase risk of bowel cancer, but this is one of the largest studies worldwide and the first from Europe of this type, show a strong relationship. The overall picture is very consistent for red and processed meat and fibre across all the European populations studied." ' (Medical Research Council, UK , medicalnewstoday website)

Another survey showing a 67% increase in pancreatic cancer for people consuming moderate amounts of processed meat (think sodium nitrate) on a frequent basis. (Pulse, Vol. 65/Issue16; 23/1/2005, website) Besides then, the ever increasing group of side effects from ingesting preservatives and toxins through the meat, there is also the meat itself to consider.

The high consumption of meat may increase the amount of circulating triglycerides and cholesterol, therefore increase cholesterol levels and increase blood pressure. Increased volumes of meat in the diet contribute to the following;- - increased risk of colon and rectal cancer (partly because of the lack of fibre) - atherosclerosis; - heart disease; - kidney disease; - osteoporosis; - constipation - due to the lowered fibre intake; - less energy; - less good fats and too much saturated fat.

Some research I came across felt that the focus on the 'fat content' of the meat was a distraction from the real problems - being toxins found in the meat (fat cells) prior to being processed and then the toxic processes afterward. It seems no one wants to talk about it because its obviously a huge issue.

Ways to combat the chemical onslaught

Some proven strategies have been to consume high doses of vitamin C and vitamin E before the meals containing the sodium nitrite is consumed. Having these antioxidants available in your system will inhibit the conversion of sodium nitrite to the cancer-causing nitrosamines.

Another thing you can do is have chlorella in your diet as this will help bind heavy metals and assist them in being eliminated from your body. Some people like to combine eating these kinds of greens when they eat seafood so that it will take out any of the heavy metals that might exist in the seafood. In Clinic we use a couple of products to remove the heavy metals and toxins. They tend to be homeopathically based and work very well.

Like I said in the beginning "get it fresh and organic" or at least, get it fresh.

Article by Shauna Kendall

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