For years it has been thought by the general public that meats, especially red meats, were bad for your health and contributed to obesity and heart disease. Recent studies have shown that red meat doesn’t necessarily raise LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol, or cause hypertension (increased blood pressure) as we once believed. Meats have become much leaner than they used to be and also contain traces of B vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids (polyunsaturated fats). Red meat also contains other nutrients that are actually good for the heart, such as monounsaturated fats.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids (polyunsaturated fats) are the same type of acids that are found in fish and are considered to be essential fatty acids. These types of fat have been known to reduce inflammation in the body. Omega-3 fatty acids actually promote heart health and can decrease the possibility of arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats), reduce triglyceride levels, and lower blood pressure. Polyunsaturated fats can be found in foods such as fatty fish (including salmon, herring, and trout), corn oil, safflower oil, nuts and seeds (including walnuts and sunflower seeds), soybean oil, and vegetable oils. The American Heart Association recommends at least two servings of fish per week.
There are 8 essential “B” vitamins that make up what is known as the B-Complex vitamins. These water-soluble vitamins are important in breaking down carbohydrates and thus providing energy for the body. They also break down fats and proteins. The B-Complex vitamins are important for maintaining good immune function and preventing chronic diseases. The B-Complex vitamins include:
B5: Pantothenic Acid
B9: Folic Acid
Monounsaturated fats are considered to be the healthiest type of fats one can consume. Like polyunsaturated fats they are believed to help reduce cholesterol levels and reduce the risk for heart disease. They are also considered to be an essential fatty acid and can help to protect against certain types of cancers. These fats are high in the antioxidants, especially vitamins E, C, and A (beta-carotene). When our body uses oxygen, for example when it is breaking down food, it produces a by-product known as “free radicals.” These free radicals can cause damage to our bodies and bring about diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Antioxidants can help to repair the damage done by these free radicals. Foods that are rich in antioxidants include nuts and seeds, vegetable oil, liver oil, green leafy vegetables, and whole grains. Monounsaturated fats can be found in foods such as peanut oil, canola oil, olive oil, avocado oil, and almond oil.
Statistics have shown that those who don’t consume meat tend to be able to maintain their ideal weight much more easily than those who do eat meat. Studies have also shown that those who are vegetarian can eat more but at the same time consume fewer calories than those who do eat meat. This could be due to the fact that most vegetarian foods are made up of complex carbohydrates that are rich in fiber. These fiber-rich foods are generally lower in calories and in fats. Plant-based foods are naturally low in fats and can help one to lose weight. On average, those who are vegetarian weigh about 15 to 20 pounds less than those who eat meat. These plant-based foods are being used in the body as an energy source rather than storing the fat that is found in meat-based foods. Doctors, scientists, and other health care professionals have called vegetarianism the “ideal diet.” It not only helps one to remain leaner but can also help boost a person’s immune system and be beneficial in fighting and treating a wide range of diseases and disorders including diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and arthritis.
Iacobellis, Gianluca. Obesity and Cardiovascular Disease. USA: Oxford University Press; 1 Edition, 2009.
Wolin, Kathleen Y., and Jennifer Petrelli. Obesity (Biographies of Disease). Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood; 1 Edition, 2009.