These days, it seems like meat doesn’t have many friends. Vegetarians hate it. Environmentalists rail against it. And your doctor has probably told you to avoid it.
But it may be time to come to meat’s defense. After all, there is considerable evidence to suggest that lean beef and other meats can be a meaningful part of a balanced diet.
No one is suggesting you must eat an 18-ounce Porterhouse for every meal. But you may be surprised to find that meat can be very good for you in ways you never considered.
Consider these great benefits of eating meat.
1. It’s Packed With Protein
One six ounce steak has about 44 grams of protein, or nearly 90% of the daily recommended intake for an average middle-aged man. That’s great for building strong muscles and repairing damaged tissues.
2. It’s a Great Source of Iron
If you’re feeling tired or lethargic, more meat may be what you need. Most meats, especially beef, have high amounts of iron, a mineral that helps ensure good oxygen content in the blood. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the iron in meat can be absorbed two to three times faster than the iron in plants. In fact, the CDC said eating meat can help the body more effectively absorb the iron we get from other foods.
3. It Has Lots of Other Vitamins, Too
Meat is also a great source of vitamin B12, which is only available from animal products and helps release energy from food. It also contains helpful amounts of vitamin B6, zinc, selenium, phosphorous, and riboflavin, according to the US Department of Agriculture. People who avoid meat have to work extra hard to find these vitamins and minerals in other foods.
4. It Has Fat, but Not All of It’s Bad
It’s important to know that there are different kinds of fat, and some are more healthful than others. Saturated fat is generally not good for you, but monounsaturated fat — the kind found in olive oil — can help boost your HDL (good) cholesterol. And guess what? About half of the fat content in beef is monounsaturated. Beef also has a small amount of polyunsaturated fat, including the heart-helpful Omega-3 and Omega-6.
5. It Fills You Up and May Help You Lose Weight
In part because of that great protein, beef takes a while to digest. That’s a good thing if you are looking to keep your appetite in check. Beef rates quite high on the Satiety Index, which scores foods based on how long they can keep a person feeling full. Beef has a score of 176, meaning that it is 76% more satisfying than a similarly sized portion of white bread. (See also: 9 Foods That Will Keep You Satisfied Longer)
6. Our Bodies Know What to Do With It
Many health-conscious people have adopted the “Paleolithic” diet, which essentially eliminates any food that we humans didn’t eat in the early days of our evolution. The diet is based on the theory that humans haven’t really changed much genetically in thousands of years, so it’s best to stick with foods we commonly ate during our hunter-gatherer days. That means we’re essentially left with meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruit, nuts, and seeds. Our bodies, in theory, know exactly how to digest and process these foods.
7. It May Be Good for the Environment
OK, there are many people who will surely disagree with this one. After all, a United Nations report estimated that livestock are responsible for as much as 18% of all greenhouse gases. But there are some who argue that figure is actually lower, and that livestock can actually be helpful to the ecology when properly raised.
In his book, “Meat: A Benign Extravagance,” author Simon Fairlie writes that livestock can play a role in a well-balanced ecosystem.
“Livestock provide the biodiversity that trees on their own cannot provide,” he writes. “They are the best means we have of keeping wide areas clear and open to solar energy and wind energy. They harness biomass that would otherwise be inaccessible, and recycle waste that would otherwise be a disposal problem.”
8. It’s Great for Your Mental Health
I count grilling out on a summer evening among life’s greatest pleasures. And there is at least one study that suggests cookouts can be beneficial to your psyche. A study in Psychology Science said that many “comfort foods” — such as those found during a typical family cookout — can play a role in making people feel less lonely. Environmental psychologist Sally Augustin further theorizes that there is an additional benefit to being outside, and that the music played at barbecues can improve a person’s mental outlook.
What’s your favorite reason to eat more meat? Please share in comments!