Meat & Health
Animal foods provide us with some of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet – foods that have been eaten by our ancestors since the dawn of Homo sapiens some 200,000 years ago.
We humans have evolved the anatomy of omnivores (eating both plant and animal foods), indeed some would say that eating meat is what made us human – allowing our brains to grow while our digestive systems shrank. However, the ratio of meat to plants has varied across populations, reflecting the availability of these foods. Our ability to get the nutrition we need from a diet low in meat will vary with our genetics and will be influenced by what our ancestors ate. Undoubtedly too, we will discover that our gut microbiome plays a key role in our ability to make the most of our food.
Quality vs Quantity
In a mixed omnivore diet, we believe the quality of the food we eat – both plant and animal – is more important than the quantity.
But what proportion of our plates should be meat for optimum nutrition and health? There is no simple one-size-fits-all answer to this question and as alluded to above, individual needs will depend in part on genetics.
This helpful blog by Dr Sarah Ballantyne, PhD explores the issue of quantity: How Much Meat versus Veggies? September 2015
More on meat quality coming soon…
There are different definitions for red meat but most often we would think of beef, lamb, and pork. However, for health and sustainability reasons, it may be helpful to consider beef and lamb (and meat from other ruminants) separately from pork.
The quality, safety and nutritional profile of the meat we eat will depend upon what that animal has eaten in the course of its life. Animals should eat a varied and natural diet, free from added chemicals. For ruminants, this natural diet is made up of a diversity of grasses and other plants that grow in and around pasture land. However, these important factors are rarely taken into consideration in nutrition studies, leading to confusing messages.
Here is an editorial which suggest earlier messages to cut down may have been wrong:
There is so much debate about meat that the topic has generated a plethora of possible links to share. We hope the ones we have selected are helpful:
We believe that red meat from pasture fed ruminants is a healthy part of an omnivorous diet, and is healthier than other types of meat. We would also advocate eating nose-to-tail – more on this to come.
The debate over whether animal fats help or harm our health has been at the centre of contentious debate for some years.
We will examine these arguments in due course in: Fats and Oils