Having heard about the link between red meat and heart disease and cancer, you may have decided to cut it out of your diet completely. And that is good for you!
However, stop before you decide to ditch red meat completely; especially if you are aiming to lose weight, its inclusion can be beneficial.
The bad name that meat has received relates more to fatty cuts of meat and processed products such as bacon, ham and sausages, as not only are these high in fat, but those that have been cured contain chemicals that are linked to cell damage and the development of cancer. So while yes, we should be avoiding these sorts of meat, unprocessed lean red meat can be eaten in moderation without worry.
Here we look at the benefits that it can bring for weight loss.
Meat contains a lot of protein; a 3oz steak will provide you with just under 25g, which is a significant proportion of our daily requirement – this is based on weight and is usually 1g per kilogram of body weight, but drops to 0.75g when body mass index rises above 30.
Like fiber, protein is known to help induce feelings of fullness; exactly what you need when your goal is to shed your excess pounds. This is one reason why high protein diets are popular, though these promote a reduction in carbohydrate such as bread, pasta and potatoes, which isn’t necessarily good news, as these are the body’s preferred source of energy, so you can be left feeling lethargic.
Including red meat as part of a balanced meal a number of times each week can help you work towards your goal; have poultry, fish, eggs or pulses (peas, beans and lentils) for lunch and dinner on the other days, as these are also good filling sources of protein.
Cutting back on your calorie intake can in itself make you tired and when feeling like this you might be more inclined to reach for something sugary to try to pick up your energy levels, which can put pay to your efforts if this happens regularly; you are also less likely to exercise, which can make weight loss slower.
However, if you become anemic this can compound the problem. The most common cause of anemia is due to iron deficiency, which prevents the red blood cells being able to transport oxygen around the body, needed for the release of energy.
Iron is provided by a range of foods in the diet, but red meat is undoubtedly the richest source. What’s more, the body is able to absorb this iron much more easily than it can that derived from plant sources such as green vegetables, dried fruit and beans.
Vegetarians can still obtain sufficient iron, but they need to work harder to do so to take into account their body can’t take up as much from the food they eat; while avoiding tea and coffee, as well as including vitamin C rich foods at meals can help their iron uptake, this does not fully compensate.
One of the amino acids in the protein in red meat, known as l-carnitine, helps the body to use fat as a fuel rather than relying primarily on carbohydrate to release energy. This encourages the body to use its fat reserves, helping you to see the pounds come off. While the body is able to produce l-carnitine naturally in the kidneys and liver, providing extra in the diet provides a helping hand to your weight loss attempts; additional sources include dairy foods, chicken and fish.
Through the amino acids action it also helps with the release of energy, ensuring that you can participate fully in whatever exercise you choose to boost your dietary efforts. For anyone advised to lose weight to benefit their heart health – perhaps you have angina or there is a family history of heart disease – l-carnitine can provide cardio-protective benefits by helping to reduce cholesterol levels and reduce the amount of fat surrounding the heart.
Additionally it is an antioxidant, so can help to protect the blood vessels by preventing injury caused by free radicals; these substances are produced during reactions in the body and can damage the cells if not mopped up by antioxidants, which are additionally provided by fruit and vegetables. It is possible to purchase l-carnitine capsules, so is an option for vegetarians looking for a weight loss supplement.
While a balanced diet, portion control and regular exercise are vital for weight loss, there is no reason why you still can’t include lean red meat in your diet two or three times each week and as you can see, doing so can bring with it additional benefit.