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Can’t quit red meat? Make it healthier

SUNDAY MAGAZINE
By Faith Kariuki Biongo | April 28th 2019

A number of health problems including heart diseases, some types of cancer and Type II diabetes are linked to excessive consumption of red meat, with the risk being higher for processed meats.

However, when included as part of a healthy, varied diet, red meat is a good source of protein and other nutrients. 100 grammes of red meat can provide up to 52 per cent of your daily protein requirements, 35 per cent of vitamin B6, 12 per cent potassium and 15 per cent of iron.

To reduce the risk of negative health from red meat consumption, follow the following tips: 

1. Reduce the portion

Red meat intake is associated with increased risk of colon and rectal cancers, with the risk increasing with the amount consumed. On average, a healthy adult requires approximately 1 gramme of protein per kilogramme of body weight. This means, a person weighing 60 kilogrammes would require on average 60 grammes of protein, not forgetting that other meals eaten in the course of the day also provide protein. Keeping track of the portions eaten per day can help you reduce the cancer risks associated with red meat.

2. Trim excess fat

When grilling or roasting meat, always remove any visible fats first. This reduces the amount of fat dripping on the charcoal and hot surfaces that form polycyclic amines (compounds that can alter one’s DNA). Fats on the meats are usually saturated fats which can cause a rise in blood cholesterol if consumed in large quantities too often. Trimming off the fat will not only lower your cancer risk but also reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases due to high cholesterol. When buying your meat, chose lean cuts, trim off any visible fats and avoid adding more fat when cooking your meats.

3. Limit your weekly consumption

Studies encourage consumption of a plant-based diets. People who consume meats frequently leave very little room for plant based foods, so they don’t get to benefit from the compounds present in the diet.

4. Marinate before cooking

Marinating your meats using natural herbs and spices can reduce the carcinogenic property of meat cooked on open flame and those cooked under high temperature significantly. In one study conducted by Kansas State University and Science Food Institute, carcinogenic compounds of meat marinated in natural herbs dropped by 72 per cent. Marinating also helps soften the meat reducing the time and temperature of cooking.

 5. Use healthier cooking methods

Cooking methods that use high temperatures like pan frying, grilling and roasting can generate compounds that may contribute to the meats’ carcinogenic risk. When fats and juices from the meat drip on the open fire, they form carcinogenic compounds known as polycyclic amines that rise up with the smoke and fumes and embed themselves on the surface of meat. The charred part of the meat contains the highest concentration of these compounds. Methods of cooking that don’t use direct heat or very hot surfaces like boiling, steaming and stewing lowers this risk.

 

6. Use shorter cooking time

When muscle meat is cooked under high temperature for a long period of time, its amino acids, sugars and creatine react to form a chemical known as heterocyclic amine. This chemical has been found to be mutagenic, and can cause changes in the DNA, increasing a person’s cancer risk. Shorter cooking methods that don’t use high temperatures like stewing and steaming are better. To reduce time of grilled meat, you can steam the meat for a while before grilling.

7. Turn your meat regularly when grilling

If you have to roast or grill meat, marinate it and keep flipping it as it cooks. This helps avoid charring which holds the highest concentration of the polyclic amines that forms on the meat when the drippings fall on the charcoal of hot surfaces.

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