Why I'm Pro-Meat
The Diet industry (capital D will be used for strict Diets like keto or plant-based, whereas lowercase d diet will be used to describe a lifestyle of eating) likes to cycle through various diets every couple of years so that they can 1) continue to make money off of a “new and exciting” Diet and 2) leave us frustrated from the previous Diet and ready to jump onto the next.
We are starting to leave the keto world behind, and now, there seems to be a lot of propaganda and “studies” promoting a plant-based approach. It seems like everywhere I turn in the grocery store, from the meat section now adulterated with “Beyond Meat” products, to the frozen food section where “Quorn” products line the shelves, to the ever present magazines near the checkout advertising the latest and greatest plant-based meals to “help you lose 30 pounds in 2 seconds!”
Okay, that last one might have been an exaggeration, but the point is clear: we are moving into a plant-based arena, and while keto doesn’t work for everyone, plant-based for sure works well for an even smaller portion of people.
So why is it marketed to the general public, the very people who likely won’t benefit from a plant-based diet?
Money – that’s why.
But still, the propaganda around this new way of eating is so well done, how can we be sure that the studies aren’t actually right? The truth lies when we start digging deeper.
Most of the studies done on meat are observational studies, meaning that we can sometimes see possible connections between two variables, BUT there are often several other compounding factors, so we should not make black and white recommendations.
Correlation does not equal causation.
For example, if a study looks at the impact of eating fast food hamburgers and heart health, how can we be sure that it’s the red meat that is correlated to heart disease, not the fries fried in vegetable oils, the gluten in the bun, or the sugar/artificial sweeteners in the large soda? And those variables don’t even take into account stress, sleep, exercise, and environmental toxins!
See the problem?
So when we come across these studies, it’s important to keep in mind that 1) we’ve been eating meat for a long time and are designed to function best with it, and 2) there will ALWAYS be money in us not eating real food and choosing processed foods instead. ALWAYS.
Today, I want to propose a few reasons why you might consider keeping meat in your diet. You can find a ton more information over at Sustainable Dish with Diana Rodgers.
The protein found in animal meat is considered a complete protein, meaning all nine of the essential amino acids that we need to get from food are in meat. These amino acids are the building blocks for neurotransmitters, help with muscle and nerve function, and so much more! The remaining non-essential amino acids can be made from other amino acids, but not those that are essential.
Protein, especially in animal foods, is satiating and keeps us fuller longer, helping with weight loss, appetite control, and maintaining blood sugar levels.
On the other hand, non-meat protein sources often come from fat or carbs with carb sources being the most popular. When we have to turn to carbs for our protein, we usually end up doubling or tripling the amount of carbs we eat simply to get enough protein.
Instead, we would be much better off just eating the animal protein to get what we actually need in the quickest and most effective way instead of wasting extra carbs or calories to get the protein we need.
Here’s an example: people ALWAYS (and I mean ALWAYS) say that beans have protein. Yes, they do – about 7 grams of protein per ½ cup. They also have about 25-30 grams of carbs per ½ cup. In order to get the ~30 grams of protein that we might want at a meal, we are going to need to eat 2 cups of beans, and have 100 grams of carbs that we don’t necessarily need all of alongside for the ride.
We could have eaten 1/4lb ground meat and received the same amount of protein with 0 grams of carbs (not that carbs are bad, but we don’t need 100 grams of them per meal) along with tons of nutrients as well. It’s a no-brainer!
Speaking of nutrients, animal protein is LOADED with them. B vitamins (especially B12 which cannot be found in animal foods), iron (the most absorbable form too; no spinach doesn’t have great amounts of absorbable iron), zinc (important for hormone health especially in males), vitamin D, fatty acids, and more!
Plus, in this category, beef blows away chicken. In our race to demonize meat, especially red meat, we’ve given chicken a health halo that it doesn’t always deserve. Including beef alongside of chicken, eggs, seafood, etc is the best way to make sure we get the most bioavailable and absorbable forms of these nutrients. Just because a plant-based grain is high in a particular nutrient doesn’t mean that we can absorb it like we can in animal protein. Many grains contain what are classified as anti-nutrients that can inhibit the digestion of certain nutrients. They use this as a protective mechanism because, unlike animals, plants can’t run from predators.
Animal protein, especially red meat, contains saturated fat which, contrary to common belief, isn’t going to kill us on the spot. Go back to my discussion on studies earlier, and you have what happened to saturated fat in the 1960s and 70s with hand-picked data from several studies.
There was a man named Ancel Keys who had an agenda, an agenda to demonize fat, take the blame away from sugar, and let me tell you – he succeeded. We now have a health crisis we can thank, in part, to him and his work.
Healthy fat from animal and natural sources (not vegetable oils, margarine, or shortening) is actually GOOD for us, as it protects our organs; promotes cell growth; creates hormones; helps us absorb vitamins A, D, E, and K and essential fatty acids; and so much more!
What actually causes heart disease and high cholesterol is NOT red meat, but rather poor blood sugar management, vegetable oils and their by-products (like margarine or shortening), gluten, alcohol, excess sugar, too much/too little exercise, lack of sleep, and STRESS.
Protein is Inexpensive Compared to Nutrient Density
Many of the anti-meat proponents say that meat is expensive, but as we talked about earlier, meat packs a punch of nutrients and protein into a smaller serving size as compared to eating mounds of grains, vegetables, or nuts in an attempt to get more protein (all the while just getting more carbs and fat).
Again, carbs and fat aren’t bad for us; but we want all three to be in proportion to each other in order to get the most variety of nutrients, absorb the most of the nutrients, and be at our best overall health. Oh, and it saves us money in the long run too!
Fun fact- animal protein has one ingredient. Not 1385238 like Beyond Meat. One ingredient.
When we are trying to eat healthy, we want to avoid extra ingredients, chemicals, and additives. Most of the plant-based alternatives to animal protein contain all three of these and more! But when we choose animal protein, it has one ingredient.
Now what about the processed deli meats, sausages, etc – they contain more than one ingredient?! Yes, yes they do. But those are processed. While the regular plain-ole meat you buy raw at the store has been processed to get to you from where it was packed, it still contains just meat and nothing more. This is what should make up most of our protein consumption, not some fake meat that we create in a lab to taste, look, and even bleed like meat (why would we want to do that if being plant-based means we want to avoid eating meat, but are fine with eating something that looks exactly like meat?? Random question..).
Last but not least, many people struggle with gut issues, and sometimes, when we have a bacterial or yeast imbalance in the gut, we will not tolerate large amounts of plant foods. This may be because of the anti-nutrients we talked about earlier that inhibit digestion, different carbohydrates in the vegetables (like FODMAPs), or any other number of reasons, but if you are someone (like me) who gets bloated by even looking at most carb-based foods, we not only need to be eating more animal protein to counteract this, BUT we also need to be focusing on gut healing while we do so in order to fill our plate with a balance of protein, fat, and carbs.
Now, does all of this talk about protein mean that I hate vegetables? Absolutely not! They contain a variety of nutrients and antioxidants that we can’t always get from meat, so it’s important that we have a balance of BOTH to ensure overall health, well-being, and vitality.