How to Make Your Meat as Healthy as Possible

Denise Minger is a former vegan and very popular blogger. She is well known for her thorough debunking of the china study (the holy bible of veganism).

The video above is her presentation at the 2012 Ancestral Health Symposium, Meet Your Meat: An Objective Look at a Controversial Food.

As she says, there may be a few concerns about a high meat consumption… but they can easily be rectified with a few simple adjustments.

Eating Only Muscle Meats Can Create an Imbalance

Woman Eating Meat

Throughout evolution, humans didn’t just eat muscle meats. Back in the day, we used to treasure the organs.

Hunter-gatherers ate “nose-to-tail” – muscles, organs and other tissues. Organs like liver tend to have a lot more micronutrients than muscle.

Muscle meat also tends to be very high in the amino acid methionine. There is some evidence that eating less methionine has health benefits in rats (1, 2).

I’m not really sure if this is relevant to humans on a lower-carb, higher-fat, moderate-protein diet though.

Dangers of High-Heat Cooking

Bacon

There are some dangers when cooking meat at a very high heat.

This can form unhealthy compounds called Heterocyclic Amines (HAs) and Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs).

This happens when some of the nutrients in meat react to form these unhealthy compounds at very high temperatures (3).

These compounds have been linked to cancer in animals but hasn’t been proven in humans.

I do think these concerns are legit. Foods damage at very high temperatures and this applies to other foods as well, not just meat.

How to avoid/minimize HAs and PAHs:

  • Use gentler cooking methods like stewing and steaming.
  • Limit charred and smoked food. If your meat is burned, cut away the charred pieces.
  • Don’t expose meat directly to a flame and minimize cooking above 150°C / 300°F.
  • Marinating meat in olive oil, lemon juice, garlic or red wine can reduce HCAs by up to 90%.
  • When cooking at a very high heat, flip the meat frequently.

Red Meat is Very High in Iron

Meat

Having very high iron levels in the body can cause problems over the long term.

Humans (except menstruating females) don’t have any efficient mechanism to expel iron from the body.

For most people, this does not matter.

However, having a genetic disorder called Hereditary Hemochromatosis can result in elevated absorption of iron, which in some cases can increase total iron levels in the body (4).

For people who have this disorder, eating a lot of iron-rich foods can cause problems… and red meat is very rich in iron.

If you have this problem then there are a few things you can do:

  • Donate blood.
  • Drink coffee or tea with meals that have a lot of iron in them.
  • Avoid Vitamin C rich foods when you’re eating foods with a lot of iron (Vit C increases iron absorption).
  • Eat less red meat.

The only way to know if this is relevant to you is to see a doctor to get tested for blood iron levels, or to get tested for the genetic mutation itself.

I personally have not gotten tested, but I do donate blood from time to time… which is a good idea for other reasons as well, such as saving lives.

Take Home Message

Meat, especially if it is naturally fed, is a healthy food.

But as with most things in nutrition, there are some potential concerns… which can easily be accounted for with some minor adjustments.

14 Comments

  1. Thanks for these tips Kris.

    Apart from liver, would you insist we eat the brain and bone marrow, as some tribes did?

    • Not quite sure, I think eating liver from time to time would suffice. I don’t eat a lot of organs myself, even though I know I should.

    • Hi Kris, I buy some lambs liver monthly and cook it up with bacon pieces. The pork fat tends to change the flavor, so it is more palatable. I also cook up a broth weekly now. It has started to become quite a habit. Weather it is beef, pork, or chicken, I try to incorporate the bones, so I can get some of the gelatin in the broth. I have been using these few ideas plus others for 2 months and I am losing weight without effort ;-) Cheers.

      • Go to Mercola.com and type in Bone Broth for the best brief video and article on the incredible benefits of broth, and a way to easily and quickly prepare it.

  2. Thanks Kris, It’s very important to me.

  3. Very helpful post. As for me, there is nothing wrong if we eat meat, they are rich in protein which is good in building a good body and muscle, but of course we should always consider to eat in moderation, too much meat is not good for us.

  4. Theresa says:

    Hi Kris,
    As you probably know, the media is blowing up today about red meat increasing the risk for heart disease due to its carnitine content. I’m confused, though, because other stuff I’ve read has talked about the beneficial effects of carnitine for the heart (preventing ischemia, particularly).

    I was hoping to get your take on that article. Also wondering if it could have something to do with potentially harmful bacteria being fueled by too much sugar intake?? Your thoughts would be much appreciated. http://www.nature.com/nm/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nm.3145.html

  5. Hello Kris! Have you come across any evidence to suggest that cooking meat affects the protein content or availability? What are you thoughts on raw fish/meat as a way of meeting our protein requirement without risking the cancerous HAs and PAHs?

    • Haven’t seen any research on that, no. Raw fish/meat would have less of those compounds that may contribute to cancer, but personally I find the idea of eating this stuff raw to be quite nauseating.

      As long as you don’t use too much heat and burn your food, then I don’t think there’s anything to worry about.

  6. Ludona H. Smith says:

    I was raised on heart, tongue, liver, gizzards, “ox tail”, bone broth and fresh butter. My dad encouraged us to eat cartilage which I still do to this day. My parents were raised eating “sweet breads” which were the name given to glands I believe, brain, “head cheese”, cod liver oil, fresh butter and eggs, etc.

    We love lamb, fish, including sardines. Minger needs to learn more about “chemical cooking” which is marinating meat in, including, vinegar, lemon juice sour cream, buttermilk, garlic, salt, and other ingredients. When high acid things or salt are added to other seasonings they actually chemically “cook” the meat and remove much or any need to cook meat.

    When my husband and I lived in Saudi Arabia we ate eyeballs, testicles, tripe, etc.

    We also eat eggs and cheese, products of animals. We eat cooked skin and fat of most meats we prepare.

    I am overweight so I going to try cutting back on portions.

    We also eat vegetables, and small portions of starches. I have stopped eating all sugar. Not as easy as it sounds.

    Loved Minger’s presentation. I’d like to hear her again in 5 years when she’s done more research and has a little more experience.

  7. I was raised to eat pig, chicken, fish’s organs, eyeballs, and brains.

    Our culture actually values them more than the lean muscle meat. In fact, they are reserved for children to eat first.

    I am glad recent science is finding truth in my traditional culture.

  8. Forget to mention the pig bone marrow also. We use chopsticks to dig it out and suck it.

    Of course, everything is cooked first.

  9. I have to also mention that there was a TV series in USA. It is called fear factor. In the show, participants are challenged to do “crazy” things, sometimes including eating animal organs and brains. I always laughed and wanted to say, they are delicious food in my culture!

  10. James Quarello says:

    I have to disagree with the high heat theory. Controlled heat cooking is relatively new. Man cooked over an open fire for millennia. Granted he wasn’t burning his meat and certainly some of it was eaten raw, but…

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