Conflicts of interest: I really enjoy eating red meat
“A healthy diet is a predominantly plant based diet but supplemented with meat and this can include red meats (but not processed meats)”
Here at Cardiologist’s Kitchen we pride ourselves on objective, evidence-based information and transparency as our core value. The information we provide has no agenda — other than to accurately improve the health of our patients (and the public) and to counter all the confusion and misinformation which exists in the public space. Equally we pride ourselves on keeping an open mind to new concepts — even if they go against historical science or medicine, until we have explored the background ourselves. This is a time consuming process and requires a certain amount of expertise to fully understand the ‘language’ of science and medicine.
With this core value at heart, I feel that I need to provide you with full disclosure regarding this article — I really like eating red meat and therefore have a degree of bias. For me a life without red meat would miss out one of my great culinary enjoyments. One of my top meals of all time is a marbled Rib-eye steak. Equally a beautiful roast rib of beef is a great celebratory family centrepiece with a real sense of luxury and occasion. Clearly these are indulgences and fully acceptable in the context of a generally healthy and balanced diet. What about red meat on a day-to-day basis — what is the evidence?
A detailed discussion is an article in itself but here is a summary. The two largest high quality meta-analyses from the USA (Harvard group) and Europe (European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition — EPIC) in recent years suggest that red meat per se is not a major health concern. The thing to look out for is processed or low quality meats. Here is part of the problem with previous research — specifically the definition of ‘red meat’ which lumped together a number of meats including beef, pork, lamb and processed/low quality meats in the studies. When you separate out the processed meats, these seem to account for the majority of the cardiovascular and cancer related concerns.
However, I don’t think we can claim that any red meat is ‘healthy’ or specifically protective from a cardiovascular perspective. It is nutrient rich and a good source of protein, iron and B vitamins but overall you could regard it as a neutral food. If you replace neutral foods with protective proteins (e.g. oily fish) then you will have an overall heath advantage. If you replace the red meat with processed meat or refined carbohydrate you will have an overall health disadvantage — it’s all relative. However, enjoying sensible amounts of red meat within the context of healthy meals and for your overall enjoyment is perfectly OK.
So we come to a fundamental concept when it comes to meat and health — quality over quantity. The effects of intensively reared live stock with low quality feed, hormones and antibiotics on human physiology is unclear but intuitively it sounds bad and we know that processing of low quality meats is bad. This is particularly prevalent in the USA. Our common sense approach is to buy the best quality meat possible and focus on quality rather than quantity. A good strategy is to use higher quality but cheaper cuts of meat that go well and far in slow cooked dishes, combined with lots of vegetables they are full of flavour and melt into the final dish. This is the strategy used in this chilli recipe — you will see it is packed full of healthy ingredients including veg and beans that have been supplements and flavoured with good quality meat.
We made a quinoa salad when we cooked it with Andreas, Executive Chef, as you can see from the photo and it looked superbly delicious. We can vouch for the fact that it tasted that way too!