It may come as no surprise that a diet heavy in meat diet is often frowned upon. In fact, the consumption of large amounts of red meat, and particularly processed meat, has been shown in research to be associated with many harmful health consequences—like cardiovascular disease, colorectal cancer, and even type 2 diabetes. To stave off these negative health effects, many have promoted white meat instead.
But is white meat truly much healthier?
Students in nutrition and health studies understand the value of a healthy diet and the role it plays in our overall well-being. Knowing the difference between these meats can help students better optimize their dietary recommendations and training programs.
Here, we introduce some key differences between white and red meat while covering some benefits and recent studies to shed more light on this much debated subject.
Understanding the Impact of White Meat
Typically, white meat is used in reference to any light-coloured meats that retain their colour even after cooking. This can encompass a range of meats, but most notably includes poultry, game birds, rabbits and, sometimes even fish.
White meats are often considered the healthier option, particularly for those concerned about cholesterol and fat. However, a recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reveals interesting results that challenge that claim. The study separates healthy participants into three groups: consuming white meat, red meat, and non meat foods as a source of protein for a month. Interestingly, the results have found that:
- The type of (non) meat foods did not significantly impact the rise of cardiovascular risks
- White meat did not add any nutritional value in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease
Students earning a nutritionist certificate might be interested to know that the consumption of large amounts of saturated fats, regardless of the source of protein, made the biggest difference in this study—contributing to high cholesterol.
Exploring the Health Benefits and Risks of Eating Red Meat
Red meat is most often characterized by its high myoglobin content—an oxygen-binding protein found in heart and skeletal muscles. This protein contributes to the darker colour of red meats, which often refers to beef, pork, lamb, bison, and venison, to name a few examples. It should be noted that red meat can have some benefits due to its nutrient-dense content, with the most important being:
- Iron – helps preserve vital functions and generates haemoglobin for the body
- Zinc – helps the immune system and the body’s metabolism function (among others)
- Vitamin B12 – helps to maintain the health of nerve and blood cells and to create DNA
Despite these benefits, red meat developed a bad reputation backed by research that links red and processed meats to heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and premature death. Meat-lovers can still enjoy their favourite red meats, but are advised to eat small amounts. For example, the World Cancer Research Fund recommends eating no more than three portions of about 350 to 500 grams of cooked meat per week.
Notable Considerations for Students Earning a Nutritionist Certificate
Both meat options have their own health advantages, giving the consumer added nutritional value when taken as part of a well-balanced diet. To better navigate the harmful side effects of consuming too much red meat, individuals can try to adopt a heavier plant-based diet. Ultimately, promoting a healthy diet and staying informed with the latest research should always be prioritized.
Students in nutrition and health programs will benefit from learning the fundamentals of nutrition, gaining a better understanding of the requirements, deficiencies, toxicities, and their role in our diet and health. Students will also be able to develop the skills needed to conduct successful nutritional assessments, allowing individuals to work towards improving their own health and well-being.
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Contact AAPS for more information!