Even though our early ancestors didn’t eat red meat, the human body has since adapted to be able to metabolize and digest it. However, it’s still unclear if the digestive system has evolved to the point that it can handle the amount of red meat we consume nowadays.
As much as you enjoy a juicy, thick steak, you’ve probably heard about the negative effects of red meat consumption — on both our health and our environment. That’s one of the reasons why popular steakhouse chains like Chili’s, LongGorn, Carrabba Italian Grill, and Outback don’t serve red meat.
The great news is that it’s never too late to make a change. If you want to convince yourself, here are some things that happen to your body when you decide to stop eating cheeseburgers and steaks.
1. You’ll reduce inflammation
Inflammation is the body’s natural response to infection and injury. Unfortunately, certain lifestyles can cause chronic inflammation, increasing the risk of strokes, autoimmune diseases, heart attacks, and diabetes, among other conditions.
Inflammation isn’t always a bad thing. Its job is to resolve and control tissue damage. Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, is a different story. And some foods we eat may cause stress, which initiates the inflammatory process. According to research done in 2014 and conducted by The BMJ, this process includes the formation of certain compounds known as inflammatory markers.
Scientists analyze these markers’ levels to detect certain diseases and risks associated with them. Studies have shown that people who substitute red meat with whole grains have lower inflammatory markers. To put it another way, cutting out red meat eliminates a source of chronic inflammation.
2. You could lose a few pounds
Red meat is known to be high in calories. If you eliminate it from your daily diet, you may notice a lower number on the scale. According to nutritionists, a three-ounce portion of beef can have around 170 calories, while a serving of grilled chicken breast can be around 128 calories, and beans around 100 calories.
It may not seem like a big deal at first, but you may see a difference over time. A few studies have shown that vegans and vegetarians lose more weight than those who still eat meat, dairy products, and eggs.
Please note that cutting out animal-based foods is something you should discuss with your doctor first. However, if you would like to lose a few pounds, you may consider eliminating red meat from your diet.
3. You may be less bloated
Because red meat gets digested more slowly than other foods, you may feel increased gas, constipation, and abdominal pain after a steak dinner.
While you may experience indigestion right after eliminating red meat, it’s primarily due to eating more healthy, high-fiber foods. In the long-term, you’ll boost the number of healthy bacteria in your stomach, which may reduce inflammation and help you get rid of bloating. In fact, according to a 2015 study, vegetarians have lower rates of inflammation than those who eat meat.
Also, when you eat red meat, your gut bacteria produce TMAO (trimethylamine oxide). This compound can be very toxic at high levels because it raises cholesterol levels, which then increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases. However, because plant-based eaters have a different gut microbiome, they make little or no TMAO after having a meat meal.
4. Your cholesterol level may reduce
Eliminate red meat from your diet and you will limit the amounts of saturated fats, which are known to increase cholesterol levels. For example, The American Heart Association recommends reducing saturated fat to no more than 6% of your calories.
This balance lowers the risk of having high cholesterol, which can develop fatty deposits on your artery walls. This buildup is known as atherosclerosis, a condition that can lead to heart attack, coronary artery disease (CAD), transient ischemic attack (TIA), or stroke. While genetics may play a role in having high cholesterol, avoiding red meat will definitely make a change and help you reduce your body’s levels.
5. You could reduce your risk for certain cancers
Avoid beef and you may keep bowel or colon cancer at bay, especially if they run in your family. According to data, high-fat diets have been linked with increased inflammation, and chronic inflammation has been associated with the development of cancer.
Back in 2015, the World Health Organization identified red meat as a potential carcinogen, meaning it may cause cancer. “Some reports have linked high consumption of red meat to increased risk of getting cancer, particularly colon cancer”, says Adrienne Youdim, MD, the leader of the Center for Weight Loss and Nutrition in Beverly Hills.
In addition, a study showed that eating an overage of 2.6 ounces (about 76 grams) of processed or red meat per day was linked to a 20% increased risk of developing colorectal cancer.
Also, red meat cooked at high temperatures triggers the synthesis of certain compounds that may end up causing bowel cancer in folks with a genetic predisposition.
6. You will protect your heart health
Heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide, and our dietary habits are mainly to blame for this. Red meat has been frequently associated with increased cholesterol levels and blood pressure. So it’s safe to conclude that it’s not the healthiest choice of food for your heart.
Consuming red meat transports L-carnitine to the human gut, which triggers the production of TMAO. As already stated, TMAO has been proven to speed up the thickening and hardening of artery walls. This can cause heart problems in the long run.
Additionally, another study published in the European Heart Journal came to the same conclusion as other older studies: people who eat red meat have three times higher blood levels of TMAO than those who either eat just white meat or plant-based foods.
7. You may sidestep diabetes
Foods like red meat can affect the normal production of insulin, resulting in insulin resistance. As you may already know, this is the major cause of diabetes.
According to a study published in Diabetes Care, omnivores are twice at risk of diabetes compared with those who live in the Blue Zone regions. Blue Zones are five areas across the world that are almost disease-free and have many healthy centenarians.
On top of that, a separate study indicated that increasing red meat consumption by more than half a portion per day leads to a 48% greater risk of diabetes over 4 years.
8. You could reduce the risk of certain diseases
Ban red meat, and you could lower the risk of certain serious diseases. As already stated, red meat is high in saturated fats, which have repeatedly been associated with an increased risk of diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease. But that’s not all. Around 50 million people are struggling with Alzheimer’s, and red meat may play a huge role in this.
This type of meat is high in iron, and a study in the British Medical Journal indicated that too much iron in the brain can lead to Alzheimer’s disease. Whilst cutting out red meat alone won’t guarantee you’ll slash this serious disease, you can consider these lifestyle changes if you’re worried about your Alzheimer’s risk.
Please note that once you decide to eliminate red meat from your diet, you may run low on some nutrients. Though it’s both possible and easy to replace animal proteins, certain nutrients do come from red meat — and you may develop nutrient deficiencies if you don’t supplement.
For instance, if you eat shellfish, then you should know that 3.5 ounces of cooked clams contain the same amount of vitamin B12 as beef. Other good sources include cheese, soy products, eggs, and fish.
The same goes for magnesium as well. Many people who gave up on animal protein fall short in magnesium. The reason for this is that today’s soil is poor in magnesium, so plant-based diets no longer provide the necessary amount of this essential mineral.
Whilst some health professionals recommend taking a supplement, our advice is to discuss this matter with your doctor first.
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