Outside of my life as a nurse practitioner (NP), I’m a certified health coach and functional medicine specialist. And out of any question I get from my clients, one of the most common ones is about meat.
“Is meat bad for me? Should I become a vegetarian? Will eating meat give me cancer or shorten my lifespan in other ways?”
Just like with most things in life, not everything is so black and white simple.
Unfortunately, a lot of things these days have taken a divisive, political overtone. And your dinner plate is included. Far-left food activists preach that veganism is the antidote to environmental collapse. While those on the more right-leaning side believe that being able to eat all the hotdogs you want is an ordained, God-given right and as American as baseball, apple pie and Chevrolet.
But to see the truth about meat, we need to steer clear of politics and have a centrist approach. The answer to the question, “Should you stop eating meat?” is not so clear-cut.
Is Meat Bad For Your Health?
Lord knows as a busy momma with a gaggle of kids to feed, I have been guilty of frying up some bacon. But the truth is that heavily-processed, cured meats like bacon, salami and deli meats is probably bad for your health.
In fact, Cancer.org says that processed meat increases your risk of developing colorectal cancer by nearly 20 percent.
So let that be a reminder to me to not make my kids bacon every single weekend for breakfast. Since I like to practice what I preach, I vow from now on to make bacon only as an occasional treat. But if I were somebody who was trying to overcome a chronic health condition, I’m pretty sure I’d give it up and listen to my functional medicine coach.
Vegetarians, the propaganda says, are 40% less likely to develop cancer than their carniverous counterparts. Or so says the Physicans Committee For Responsible Medicine. But if you don’t have to dig deep to find that this Committee isn’t exactly what it seems. A report by Newsweek suggests only 5% of its members are physicians, and that the group has ties to animal-rights activists, including People for the Responsible Treatment of Animals.
Hey, I’m all for treating animals humanely. But not when lies and propagana abound.
What Is High Quality Meat?
The truth is that most Americans eat low-quality meat that can indeed jeopardize your health. But meat should not be labelled as “bad.” In fact, high-quality meat is very nutrient-dense. For example, cows that are primarily fed grasses consume nutrients from the grass that benefit our health. This includes vitamins and minerals, essential omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants.
Yes, meat is higher in saturated fat and cholesterol. But the association between these two nutrients and heart disease has been called into question in recent years.
If you’re in reasonably good health and want to enjoy a burger at a restaurant every once in a blue moon, it probably won’t be the death of you. But if you eat meat regularly and want to live a long, healthy life then pay the extra bucks for grass-fed beef grown on a regenerative farm.
Regenerative farming will help heal the environment much better than plant-based fake meats. That’s because it regenerates the soil and captures excess carbon from the environment. Basically, regenerative farming is a back to the future type of farming that involves crop rotation and gives sections of the soil a much needed rest. (Soil needs to rest from time to time just like we do.)
Isn’t your health worth the extra bucks? Instead of finding the biggest coupons for meat, support your local farmers. Shop at farmer’s markets and ask the farmer how the meat is raised. Another advantage to small, regenerative farmed meat is that it tastes fresher, leaner and better.
Say No To Fake Meat
Plant-based meat is becoming very popular. We have Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat to thank for that. But fake meat is not necessarily better for your health. In fact, research shows that vegan imitation meat is harder for the body to digest and lacks components that are critical for a healthy-functioning brain and muscles.
Not only that but some types of vegan meat like the Impossible Burger are genetically-modified. The Impossible Whopper at Burger King, for instance, uses a type of soy protein that was grown in a lab and had never been consumed before in human history.
The moral of the story is simple. Eat a mostly plant-based diet consisting of real food. What’s real food? Ask yourself if it was around when your great grandparents were alive. If not, don’t eat it. Eat food that has one familiar ingredient: fish, lettuce, broccoli, chicken (pasture-raised), walnuts, avocado, hummus, edamame, etc. Avoid food with added sugars. (Start reading food labels when you go food shopping.)
Should You Stop Eating Meat: Conclusion
Look, there may indeed be a time and a place to drastically cut down on meat. If you’re trying to detox your liver then going without harder-to-digest meat for a few days is probably a good idea.
When it comes to meat, meet me in the middle. Meat can’t be lumped in one basket as good or bad. Like anything else in life, quality matters.