Is beef good or bad for health? The debate has been raging on for ages. Here are the benefits of including beef dishes in the diet along with the harm that they can cause.
Considering the nutritive aspect, the major attraction of red meat like beef, mutton and pork is that it contains very high amounts of protein. In fact, all the amino acids necessary for the body are present in the complete proteins of beef and similar meat.
Another benefit of red meat is that it is rich in Iron, which is needed to form haemoglobin in the body.
Red meat is a good source of protein, but it has high levels of saturated fat too. This type of fat increases the risk of developing life-threatening conditions such as heart attack, stroke and certain kinds of cancer.
The level of homocysteine in the blood shoots up after the consumption of beef. In fact, homocysteine is known to be one of the trigger factors of heart attack. Indians are known to genetically have high levels of this amino acid and are evidently much more prone to heart attacks compared to people belonging to other countries.
Similarly, red meat like beef increases the level of uric acid in blood, leading to inflammation and pain in the joints of the leg. Several diseases of joints like gout develop as a result of this condition. High level of uric acid in blood is also a trigger for heart attack.
Yet another danger posed by red meat is that it totally lacks fibres. Making matters worse, parts of beef like the liver contain high amounts of purine, which releases higher amounts of uric acid into urine. This could lead to the formation of stones in the kidneys.
If you cannot avoid eating beef, have it once a week, instead of every day. In addition, limit the quantity of intake. Another point to remember is to never eat beef more than once a day.
Meanwhile, before buying beef, remove all the fat. While cooking too, if any fat remains, throw it away before preparing the dish.
Avoid frying beef. As oil is another source of fat, an excessive level of this nutrient makes its way into our body. Also remember to use the minimum quantity of oil while preparing beef dishes.
Many health experts have suggested that beef can be totally avoided from the meals and replaced with fish, which is healthier.
On the other hand, if you love beef so much, eat plenty of vegetables along with the red meat. Even salad would do. On the day you have beef, remember to eat lots of fruits too. Fruits contain folic acid, Vitamin B6 and Vitamin B12 which control homocysteine level and reduces the risk of heart attack.
(Dr T M Gopinatha Pillai is an author of medical books and a public health activist. He presently works at Santhiniketan Hospital, Ponkunnam in Kottayam district.)