3 surprising benefits of incorporating red meat into your diet

Nov 9 2021, 10:35 pm

The past 19 months have been a whirlwind. If in the midst of all the restrictions and changes, your healthy eating habits have gone out the window, you’re not alone.

As our sights turn to post-pandemic life, many are taking the opportunity to press the reset button when it comes to nutrition. Too often, though, people in search of quick fixes may mistakenly resort to cutting back on red meat — even though it can contribute to a well-balanced, nutritious diet.

If you’ve been thinking about giving red meat the ax, these surprising facts may have you thinking twice about its benefits.

Calorie-wise protein

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Protein curbs hunger, which in turn can help us maintain our preferred weight. Protein also plays an important role when it comes to building and maintaining muscle mass, making and repairing cells, and healing injuries.

According to dietitian Karine Rekunyk, people often think that red meat is high in calories, but consider this: a 100-gram serving of cooked beef (about the size of your palm) provides 35 grams of hunger-curbing protein and has just 250 calories. To put this into perspective, you’d have to eat about nine tablespoons of peanut butter (a whopping 860 calories), two cups of black beans (520 calories), or nearly six eggs (420 calories) to get the same amount of protein.

Food for thought: “On average, Canadians eat on the lower end (17% of calories) of the recommended range for protein (10% to 35% calories), so it’s a myth that we eat too much,” says Rekunyk. In fact, given all the health benefits of protein, it’s likely that many people could benefit from a little boost of protein in their diets.

Iron-rich

If your energy level is on the lower end, making it challenging to power through your workouts or the workday due to “brain fog,” you might be low on iron. Low iron tends to impact women disproportionately and a recently published study conducted by researchers at U of T reports that almost 30% of Canadian women aged 19 to 50 don’t get enough iron from their diets.

Not all sources of iron are created equal: heme iron, found in animal-sourced foods like red meat and seafood, is better absorbed than non-heme iron, found in plant-based foods. “Beef is one of the top food sources of heme iron,” says Rekunyk. 

“And here’s another reason to include meat on your plate: eating it can enhance iron absorption from plant sources by a staggering 150%. Restoring iron levels once you’re deficient can take up to six months,” adds Rekunyk. That’s a long time to feel sluggish, so better to optimize iron in your diet before you fall short. 

Food for thought: vegetarian women aged 19 to 50 need nearly twice as much iron (roughly 32 mg a day) as meat-eaters (18 mg a day), Rekunyk stipulates. “Poor eating habits, dieting, endurance running, and heavy menstrual periods can also increase your risk of low iron.”

Essential nutrients

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Statistics Canada data confirms that, on average, red meat intake has decreased among Canadians. In fact, the amount we eat has gone down so much that fresh red meat accounts for only 5% of our calorie intake, according to Rekunyk. “On the flip side, calorie-rich and ultra-processed foods, like baked goods, salty snacks, and sweet drinks account for 45% of calories in the average Canadian diet. It begs the question — what foods should we limit for health benefits?”

Beef for example is a single ingredient food and is a source of essential nutrients that many Canadians don’t get enough of, including iron, zinc, vitamins B12 and B6, thiamin, and magnesium. Eating beef is a delicious way to help close these nutrient gaps.

Food for thought: one of the best ways to enjoy beef is in a nourish bowl. Season and cook some lean ground beef to pile into a bowl along with loads of crisp and colourful veggies, beans, or lentils, and quinoa or barley for a healthy, satisfying, and delicious meal.


To learn more about the nutritional benefits of red meat, you can visit canadabeef.ca.

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