The Summer has finally arrived here in Ireland and as we are fully aware, we have no idea how long it will last, so the scramble to dust off the BBQ and get the coals hot begins for 2013! As a nation we are particularly fortunate to enjoy excellent locally sourced meat such as beef and pork and this is one of the main reasons why we love our BBQ’s and the Saturday morning ‘Full Irish’ so much. Of course when eaten in moderation these are not a problem but the focus of this article is to highlight some of the dangers with over consumption of meats and also how to still enjoy meat but lower the health risks that come with them.
What Type of Diet is Best
We hear of numerous types of diets (fads & otherwise) in the media and it is hard to distinguish which is the healthiest and indeed safest for us. Is it healthiest to eat vegetarian or to eat a low carb diet like that of the Atkins which mainly consists of meat? Of course those who stuck to the Atkins diet lost weight and saw decreased levels of cholesterol but over time meat-eaters began to miss certain veggies and grains and indeed vegetarians began to miss their meat. There is a lot of research to suggest that those who stuck to plant-based diets enjoyed long-term health benefits by reducing their risk of cancer and heart disease – but you may not be ready to say goodbye to meat just yet – that’s OK.
In small or moderate amounts meat does provide certain health benefits. It is an important source of a number of nutrients such as iron, a number of B vitamins, zinc and protein. Concern arises from a number of studies which have linked those who consume large amounts of red and processed meats to early deaths.
How Are Processed Meats Harmful?
Recent studies have found that processed meats can be more harmful than red meat. This is likely to occur due to the fact that processed meats such as sausages, salami and the Irish favourite, bacon contain more saturated fat than lean meat. In the processing stage, saturated fat which is visible is usually ground into meat. However visible fat on red meat is often removed before cooking or as it is being eaten, as can be seen with the long strip of fat on a sirloin steak. Eating this saturated fat leads to a higher risk of coronary heart disease as well as being packed with calories. So if you can see any pieces of fat or grizzle on your meat, think twice before you eat them, even if it is your favourite part!
Another procedure that often happens with processed meats is salting, curing and smoking and often compounds and additives such as sodium and Nitrates are added to these products. This leads to exposure to carcinogens which in turn can cause cancer.
So Should I Stay Away From Meats?
You don’t have to give up the the Summer BBQ’s, the Saturday fry up or your favourite stacked meat sandwich. Moderation is important. Don’t eat these meat feasts every day and reduce the size and quantity when you consume them. If you can keep quantities to around 20 -30 grams per day than you are on track health wise. A slice of bacon when cooked is around 15-20 grams, a slice of salami is around 10 grams and a thin slice of pepperoni is roughly 2 grams. Ideally consume as few processed meats as possible, try and stick to lean red meat.
Essentially the idea is to rethink the amount of red and processed meats you consume each day. So instead of eating a huge piece of red-meat with a few veggies on the side, think about eating a good amount of veggies with a small piece of meat to add to the flavour of the meal. When BBQ’ing try grilling vegetable skewers instead of piling on meat or substitute chicken or fish for sausages. It will take a bit of extra thinking at lunch and dinner time but it is very important to maintain a balanced healthy diet. There are plenty of replacements for red meat and processed meats.
If you are wondering how you can do this, you can book an appointment and come in to talk to one of our Diet & Nutrition team members who will be able to recommend how to cut down and what foods can be substituted for meats.
In the meantime enjoy the weather, kick back with a cold one and don’t forget the sun cream!!