Meat and fish are excellent sources of protein as well as some vitamins and minerals. However, many red and processed meats are high in saturated fat. Too much saturated fat in the diet can raise the amount of LDL cholesterol (also known as bad cholesterol) in your blood. High LDL (bad) cholesterol increases your risk of heart disease. The NHS recommends a daily meat intake of no more than 70 grams. Reducing your intake of red and processed meats will not only benefit your health, but it is also good for the environment.
We have some tips to help you reduce your red and processed meat consumption.
- What are red, white and processed meats?
Red meat includes beef, lamb and pork and it tends to be higher in saturated fat. White meat, such as chicken and turkey are lower in total fat and saturated fat. Processed meat includes smoked, cured and preserved meats, such as bacon, salami, sausages and ham.
- What are the pros and cons of eating meat?
You do not have to eat meat in order to get all the nutrients you need to stay healthy. The table below highlights some of the positive and negatives of meat consumption.
Meat is high in protein, which is essential for growth and repair. Protein provides the body with energy and it can keep you feeling fuller for longer. Animal products contain vitamin B12 and red meat is also a good source of iron. Vitamin B12 and iron are important in the production of red blood cells and for transporting oxygen around the body.
Red and processed meat can be high in saturated fat, which increases the likelihood of having raised LDL (bad) cholesterol in your blood. This can lead to a blockage in the coronary arteries, the vessels which supply your heart with blood. High red and processed meat consumption is also associated with increased rates of bowel cancer. Eating a lot of meat has a negative impact on the environment.
- Take a break from red and processed meat once a week
Don’t feel pressured to cut out all meat from your diet. If you tend to eat red and/or processed meat most days, why not challenge yourself to one meat-free day every week? Try searching online or in cookbooks for meat-free recipes. You can also get some inspiration by visiting: https://www.meatfreemondays.com/
- Switch to white meat or fish
If you eat a lot of red and processed meat, try switching to chicken, turkey or fish instead. This will help to reduce your saturated fat intake. Aim to eat two portions of fish every week, one of which should be an oily fish. Oily fish, such as salmon, sardines and mackerel, contain omega-3 fatty acids which help to keep your heart healthy.
- Try some vegetarian alternatives
Meat substitutes, such as vegetarian sausages, mince and burgers are lower in saturated fat compared to equivalent meat products. Explore different meat substitutes and find out which you like, you might surprise yourself! Keep an eye on the food labels as some meat substitutes are high in calories and salt. If you’re not a fan of ‘fake meat’ you could try products made with beans, pulses and nuts as these are all good sources of protein. If you do not eat oily fish, you can get omega-3 fatty acids from nuts and seeds, such as walnuts and pumpkin seeds.