Should You Eat More Meat? How Healthy Proteins Keep You Lean & Fit

Posted in: Diet & Nutrition
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Susan Ohtake, Certified Personal Trainer

Susan Ohtake, CPT

I've seen two sides of the meat debate lately.

Side one says things like "meat causes cancer," diabetes, and all sorts of other diseases, inflammation and more...

The other side? They're going to meat extremes and only eating meat (the other day, I saw a guy an on all meat diet...no veggies, nothing else, just meat).

Who is right?

The problem isn’t meat—it’s the way we eat meat. For a lot of people, eating meat means fast food burgers or mechanically separated chicken nuggets.

Are Vegans and Vegetarians Healthy?

Look...

I'm not anti-vegan or anti-vegetarian.

Vegans are definitely onto something with their diets. When done well, a vegan diet includes tons of healthy vegetables, grains, and fruits. We could all do with more of these foods in our lives.

But they could be even healthier if they included lean meats in their diets.

Of course, for some people, veganism isn’t simply a lifestyle choice, but a moral decision. However, others become vegan to improve their health and well-being. It’s these people who might reconsider the role of meat in their lives.

Myth or Fact? Cutting Out Meat Makes You Feel Better

Often, people who begin a vegetarian diet talk about how much better they feel. It seems like not eating meat is revitalizing them and improving their well-being. However, over time, they begin to lose the vigor and glow they have at the beginning of their diet.

What’s the deal with this health boost and then energy slump?

The problem is one of perception. When people begin a vegan diet, they shift from a junkier diet to a diet that is full of healthy foods that are full of nutrients. Cutting out meat products often means eliminating foods that can have negative effects on the body.

When people cut the junk and start eating nutritious foods, their bodies respond by feeling great and healthier than ever. It’s the natural result of eating more vegetables and whole grains. However, over time, your body begins to crave meat.

That’s when the slump happens. The slump is characterized by feelings of lethargy and can even present as flu-like illness. It’s what happens when your body lacks the healthy protein it needs to function properly.

What Does Science Say about Eating Meat

The science behind meat consumption isn’t as complicated as it might seem. The media makes much more of the controversial parts of meat consumption than scientists do. The scientific view of meat has been more or less consistent over the years: a healthy, balanced diet includes lean proteins.

Is it possible to be a healthy vegan or vegetarian? Yes. There are plenty of vegetable protein sources.

But it is much healthier to eat a well-balanced diet with lots of vegetables and protein from meat.

People who don’t eat meat or dairy often suffer from deficiencies in:

  • Iron
  • Zinc
  • Vitamin B12
  • Protein
  • Vitamin D
  • Calcium

While it is possible to get these nutrients from plant matter, it is rare that vegans actually do. It requires a very precise balance that most people can’t or don’t achieve.

What if You STILL Don't Want to Eat Meat?

A balanced diet is always going to be healthier than one that completely eliminates certain food groups.

Lean protein provides important fuel for fat loss and muscle recovery.

If staying vegan or vegetarian and avoiding meat is a lifestyle choice for you, consider the health benefits of keeping protein levels high AND supplementing with iron, zinc and B vitamins to make up for the lack of meat in your diet. You can maintain all of the benefits of your new lifestyle without missing out on the crucial nutrients that come from meat.

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