Over the years, there has been some speculation on the health effects of red meat. With a quick Google search, you can pull up plenty of blogs claiming increased health risks due to red meat intake. It’s not hard to see why people hop on the vegan/vegetarian train after reading a few of these articles.
On the other hand, we’re witnessing the uprising of the Carnivore Diet first-hand. People live entirely carnivorous lifestyles–eating animals and animal-based products solely– while reporting fascinating health benefits. While neither of these sample groups is practicing moderation, we thought it was an excellent opportunity to get to the bottom of this argument.
So, we reached out to a leader in the Carnivore Diet space to gather some more answers, backed by data. That leader is Judy Cho. Judy is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner who runs a private holistic health practice supporting her clients to get to root cause healing. She focuses on gut health, leveraging a meat-based elimination diet, and empowering her clients with nutritional knowledge to heal for the long term.
Now, Judy will weigh in and empower you. Keep reading to learn about the benefits of red meat, by Judy Cho, NTP!
A Meat-Based Nutritionist Weighs In
I just finished writing a meat-based book. Between you and me, the last thing I want to do is write another blog post. But when I learned that People’s Choice Beef Jerky is based in my hometown (Los Angeles!) and their jerky doesn’t have any added junk, I had to say yes. (And for the record, this is a non-paid post).
Seriously, the ingredients on their Old Fashioned Original Beef Jerky are 100% real Angus beef, water, sea salt, spices, and garlic powder. A very well-known competitor has additional ingredients such as sugar, hydrolyzed corn protein, yeast extract, maltodextrin, and many other not-so-ideal ingredients.
Get the real thing. Your body will thank you for it.
Red Meat Misinformation
We’ve come to believe that red meat with its abundance of saturated fats is a risk factor for heart health. We’ve also come to believe that cows are ruining the climate. I talk about both in detail in my book, Carnivore Cure, but let’s touch a little on this so you can fully enjoy eating red meat.
Red meat and heart disease
One of the main reasons we have come to believe that saturated fats cause cardiovascular disease was because of the Seven Countries Study by Ancel Keys, a Minnesota physiologist. He demonstrated that the countries that ate the most saturated fats had the highest rates of heart disease.
Funny, because the original study had 22 countries. He chose to exclude countries like France and Norway, which ate lots of saturated fats but did not have high rates of heart disease. He also decided to exclude countries like Chile, which ate minimal saturated fats but had higher rates of heart disease.
Needless to say, this began the anti-red meat era. Without getting into too much detail, heart disease barely existed 100 years ago. Now heart disease is the number one cause of death in the U.S.
But we are eating less red meat.
If the human body was supposed to hate saturated fats, why is the brain 60% cholesterol? Yes, the primary, preferred fuel source for the brain is fats (like in red meat).
Red meat and the environment
In terms of global climate footprint, 14% is due to greenhouse gases but almost 80% of that is from developing countries that use old agriculture techniques. In the US, electricity production is 28% of total emissions, transportation is 28%, and industry is 22%. All of agriculture accounts for a total of 9% and all of animal agriculture contributes 3.9% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. So if all Americans ate plant-based and we got rid of all the animals, the greenhouse effect would save globally, less than 0.5%.
But it’s the cows?
We are also not equipped to have the entire U.S. population consume an all-plant diet. We would become deficient in the essential nutritional requirements.
The Nutrient-Density in Red Meat
I could have made the above graphic nearly all images of red meat, as most red meats have all essential nutrients. Red meat also has the most bioavailable forms (the body can readily absorb) of iron and zinc.
According to the USDA food database, a 3.5 ounce (100 gram) portion of red meat (beef) contains:
- Vitamin B3 (Niacin): 22% of the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA)
- Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine): 23% of the RDA
- Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin): 134% of the RDA
Note that vitamin B12 does not exist in plant-based foods. Synthetic vitamins just aren’t the same.
- Iron: 15%
Note that this is heme-iron, which is much better absorbed than any non-heme iron from plant-based foods like spinach. Yes, most plant-based nutrients need to be converted into the bioavailable form before it can get utilized by the body. The ability for the body to convert the nutrients is dependent on factors such as gut health, genetics, disease, and even antinutrients—toxins in plant-based foods to protect the survival of the plants. (After all, plants can’t run from their predators but need to protect their future offspring. Gluten? It’s an antinutrient.)
- Zinc: 71% of the RDA
- Selenium: 46% of the RDA
Remember, these numbers are in just 3.5 ounces of red meat. Most people eat more than 3.5 ounces in a meal. The graphic below doesn’t include all the amino acids (the building blocks in the body) in red meat. For example, red meat is rich in creatine and carnosine, amino acids that non-meat eaters are usually deficient in and can impact muscle and brain function.
Excerpt from Carnivore Cure:
A ribeye steak has nearly all the essential minerals and vitamins the human body needs. Ribeye also has omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, as well as choline. All beef contains creatine and carnosine, which cannot be obtained from plant-based foods. Creatine plays a key role in energy regulation in the brain and muscles. According to the USDA’s food nutrient database, which provides nutrient profile information, ribeye is missing biotin (B7), but you can get healthy doses of it from dairy, beef liver, salmon, and egg yolks. Ribeye also lacks chromium, but it is available in egg yolks, fish, and liver. And the molybdenum missing from ribeye is found in egg yolks and liver.
Eat ribeye (or any red meat) with eggs, liver, and fish. You’ll cover your daily value of vitamins and minerals.
Eat the meat
Not only is meat tasty, you should also eat red meat for optimal health. If you consider the bioavailability of nutrients, you will have a better chance of absorbing the nutrients from meats than any other plant-based food.
There is a reason why all elimination diets, even in clinical settings, have one thing in common. They all include red meat. Red meat nourishes the body with its high-quality protein and fat content. It is the best fuel for the body and the brain (and hormones and everything system in the human body).
One tip I recommend is to eat your meat away from high carbohydrate foods. It’s the excess carbohydrates paired with the meats (with high fat and protein) that aren’t ideal for optimal health.
I hope this post gives you the security that you can eat red meat and know that you’re doing good for the body and mind. Facts are facts and there’s no denying the nutrient density of red meats. They have the most nutrients and in the most absorbable form. Red meat is one of the top 5 most nutrient-dense foods in the world.
Whether you eat a steak, ground beef or some People’s Choice Beef Jerky, your body will thank you for it.
About The Author
Judy Cho is a nutritional therapy practitioner and holds a Psychology and Communications degree from the University of California, Berkeley. Judy is the author of Carnivore Cure, the ultimate elimination diet for optimal health. Judy has a functional nutrition and holistic health private practice, serving both clients remotely and in Austin, Texas. Judy works with clients by focusing on the root cause for an array of health challenges. Together, they work to create individualized solutions, prioritizing nutrient-dense foods that are sustainable for the long term.
Prior to becoming a nutritional therapist. Judy Cho was a management consultant at a top 5 Consulting firm for over 12 years. She is now leveraging her psychology degree and nutritional therapy education to help serve the community in the most effective ways.
Judy is a nutritional advocate for the Carnivore diet and on most days her 2 young boys follow a low carb or ketogenic diet. Judy focuses on debunking nutritional misinformation and promoting self-knowledge and self-advocacy. She shares bite-sized holistic nutrition information with her infographics on social media platforms. She is passionate about helping people to be their best selves and live their best lives.
Carnivore Cure: www.carnivorecure.com