Post Four on Meat: Can’t Argue with Science… or Can You?

6 05 2011

There are those that choose not to eat meat and those that do. But one thing is undeniable, the facts that should prompt that decision. A dietitian, I feel, is a reliable source to provide the science behind meat.

A Dietitian’s Perspective

“I think food fads, generally, are untested in terms of their long-term effects,” said Dietitian and Professor of Food Science M. Susan Brewer.

These fad diets are not typically based on science but on emotional appeal, Brewer said.

“Many believe Meatless Mondays will take care of all their problems including the potential heart disease issues, the high-fat diet issues and the ‘I will be nice to animals’ issues—when in reality it is a lot more complicated than that.”

Heart disease and cholesterol are dietary issues. Brewer said it’s not just meat, it’s all that fat and the French fries that create these problems.

“To make the presumption that meat is the culprit, is underestimating the contributions of everything else,” Brewer said. “If you didn’t eat meat on Mondays and you just ate nothing but chocolate chip cookies and doughnuts, would you be better off? Probably not.”

Brewer said fad diets, like Meatless Mondays, are problematic because the foods removed from the diet add value of some sort.

For example, animal products provide the only source of B12, Brewer said.

While vegetables contain iron, especially dark leafy vegetables, it is not the most absorbable form and plant materials bind up the iron making it unavailable compared to iron from meat, Brewer said.

Anemia, iron deficiency, is primarily a problem facing teenage girls and young women in their reproductive years. Brewer said is hard to get enough iron on a regular basis without removing meat from the diet once a week.

“For someone who is restricting their meat intake or their animal product intake, they probably do need to be cognizant of how they are going to get those nutrients into their diet,” Brewer said.

Vegetables do not provide complete protein that supports growth and reproduction with the right amino acids in the right proportions, Brewer said.

“That isn’t to say you can’t put them together from this category of vegetables and that category of vegetables and come up with a complete protein, with a complete amino acid profile,” Brewer said. “You can do that. But you do have to know what you are doing.”

Vitamins can be acquired through supplements. While supplements were not meant to replace vitamins in the diet, supplements are now the only source of those nutrients for some individuals, Brewer said.

According to the American Dietetic Association, the correct portion is the size of a deck of playing cards. Portion size, choosing leaner cuts of meat and leaner preparation methods of meat and are important considerations in lieu of removing meat from the diet, Brewer said.

“There is a contingency group out there that would like it to be meatless Mondays and Tuesdays and Wednesdays and Thursdays and Fridays—this is a starting point,” Brewer said.

So there you have it. The facts and the science behind meat.

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