Can we do without meat? It depends –

Meat is increasingly being distinguished for its negative effects on the climate. But what about its effect on health? The rumor detector And the one comma five Consultant experts.

Beef or poultry?

to start, You areIt all depends on the meat we are talking about. For example, a meta-analysis published in 2013 placed red meat (beef, pork, lamb, and veal) and processed meats (sausages, deli meats), which are associated with an increased risk of several chronic and cardiovascular diseases.

On the other hand, little is known about the effect of poultry consumption on health, and studies on this topic are very scarce. However, in Quebec, the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAPAQ) estimates that more than a third of meat sold falls into this category.

Poultry is presented as a “healthy” option because it contains less saturated fat, which is linked to increased “bad” cholesterol in the blood. “But we don’t have any studies to prove it,” notes Benoit Lamarche, a nutrition researcher and director of the Nutrition, Health and Society Research Unit (NUTRISS) at Université Laval. At best, white meat or poultry seems to be health-neutral. »

A study published in 2019 that compared red meat and white meat concluded that consumption of white meat poses a lower risk than red meat — but higher than fish — of increased cholesterol, and possibly cardiovascular disease. “So the risk is not zero,” comments Dr. Samer Mansour, CHUM’s cardiologist, who recommends his patients eat chicken and turkey. The risk, according to him, will be “comparable to the risk of red meat if the amounts of saturated fat are equal.”

Consuming red meat in moderation

Canada’s most recent nutritional guide, published in 2019, does not recommend eliminating red meat entirely, which accounts for nearly 60% of meat sold in Quebec, according to MAPAQ. “No recommendation says [d’éviter la] red meat, but there is a strong consensus to replace it with vegetable proteins,” says Benoit Lamarche,

Health Canada, the World Health Organization and the World Cancer Research Fund estimate that red meat can occupy a place on our plate about three times a week. This equates to a maximum consumption of 500 grams per week. This is consistent with current consumption of red meat and processed meat in North America and Europe, according to the authors of the 2019 study. The Canadian Cancer Society recommends smaller portions, which ultimately equate to 255 grams per week.

On the other hand, deli meats should be avoided because they contain large amounts of salt and fat, as well as added preservatives, which can be carcinogenic.

Giving up meat completely?

Is the healthy solution to drop the meat? Not necessarily, according to Benoit Lamarche. Yes, replacing the saturated fats in meat with the unsaturated fats found in olive oil, nuts and avocados in particular is associated with lower mortality and risk of cardiovascular disease. On the other hand, some nutrients are found in meat in a more concentrated way than in vegetables. “Red meat is rich in heme iron, which is easily absorbed by the body. By giving it up, we have to compensate by eating plants that contain a lot of iron”, explains the researcher.

For his part, Dr. Martin Juno, cardiologist and director of occupational services, prevention, and cardiovascular rehabilitation at the Montreal Heart Institute, sees the advantages of only plant-based proteins to reduce the risks of high blood pressure, type 2, cardiovascular disease, and possibly some types of cancer. . As long as you choose them well.

“If you choose ultra-processed products like imitation meats that have no cholesterol, but almost as much saturated fat and more salt than a cut of lean beef, you are not improving your diet,” he points out, adding that meat – the diet should be varied. Free from protein-rich vegetables like whole grains, legumes (like chickpeas, beans, lentils, soybeans, and beans), and oilseeds (walnuts, cashews, almonds, and hazelnuts).

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