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Health & Fitness
Meat Is Good For the Brain

19 Feb 2015
I recently wrote a column about the problems of overcoming established obesity. Diet will always be the main culprit in establishing the problem, but we have good news from a survey of recent data in New Scientist magazine: fresh meat does not have bad health consequences - not red meat, not any kind as long as it is fresh. One study alone involved half a million Europeans in 10 different countries, so the data is wide and deep.

Processed meats like bacon and sausage remain dangerous. By one measure, for every 80 grams of processed meat eaten each day (almost three slices of bacon), your cancer risk increases by 15%. That's a substantial increase, but for a substantial bacon/sausage intake as well. Bacon or a little sausage with pancakes once a week won't hurt you, but more than that is an unhealthy practice.

Questions about cancer and heart health due to red meat turn out to be a big false alarm. In fact there is a bigger concern: not getting the nutrients (protein, iron, vitamins B-6 and B-12), you need if you are avoiding meat. Toward this end I gleaned information from the New Scientist article and put it into this table highlighting the tradeoffs of acquiring 50 grams of protein per day from various sources:
Food Source Weight Calories Vitamin B-12 Vitamin B-6 Iron Saturated Fat
Steak 200 g (0.4 lb) 407 3.32 mg 1.2 mg 3.6 mg 7.0 g
1.5 Salmon fillets 200 g 364 0.0061 mg 1.9 mg 2.0 mg 2.5 g
9 Eggs 522 g (1.2 lb) 566 0.0035 mg 0.0007 mg 7.0 mg 12.4 g
200 almonds 240 g (0.53 lb) 1,390 0 0.3 mg 9.0 mg 9.0 g
1.5 cans kidney beans 600 g (1.3 lb) 762 0 0.7 mg 13.0 mg 0.4 g
Dried crickets 75 g (2.6 oz) 341 0 0 4.60 mg 0

Clearly, as a comprehensive nutrient source, steak is a more powerful delivery mechanism than any of the other options, although eating a lot of salmon comes close as long as you can get the remainder of your iron, B-12, and B-6 requirements elsewhere.

If you think vegetarianism is healthier than eating meat, just remember that meat eating was the adaptive feature that made the human race possible in the first place. High-density protein sources are required to build the human brain. As we learn the truth that meat eating is not unhealthy, we also see that vegetarianism is not only not inherently healthier, it runs counter to your needs for long-term brain health. Eat fresh meats, but avoid sausage and bacon.

If you would like to read the original New Scientist article, click here.

You may also like this related article: Get Fit Before It's Too Late (205)
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