Archive for the tag - red meat

Are Fake Meats Healthy?

Dear Davey,

I recently became a vegetarian for health and moral reasons and have been eating a lot of fake meat products. Though they are vegetarian, the products try to mimic the taste and texture of real meat. From a health perspective, are these fake meat products any better?


fakemeatDear Jeff,

It’s true that plant-based diets are associated with a number of health benefits – and that most Americans would be well served by cutting their red meat consumption. But not all vegetarian foods are created equal.

When we talk about fake or mock meat products, we’re not talking about tofu or tempeh. We’re talking about vegetarian foods that are specifically created to imitate the look and feel of real meat. Like tofurkey, fakin’ bacon, chick’n and veggie burgers that are intended to taste like meat.

On the one hand, mock meats can be helpful when transitioning to a vegetarian diet. They’re like a stepping stone and can serve as a gateway to a plant-based diet, especially if and individual is craving the flavor or texture of meat. And, because mock meats are entirely vegetarian, there’s no guilt or possibility of animal cruelty.

On the other hand, mock meats really aren’t that healthy. Let’s compare real chicken to the vegetarian product, chick’n. Real chicken is a healthy, lean meat that contains only one ingredient… chicken. Chick’n, conversely, contains the following ingredients:



Masquerading plants as meat takes a lot of processing. Fake meat products often contain many artificial ingredients and preservatives, lots of sodium and sometimes MSG. From a purely health perspective, you’re better off eating chicken.

The reality is, mock meat products are never going to taste like real meat. Though I’m not a vegetarian, I’ve tried many of these products. At best, they’re mediocre. And I don’t think anyone wants to settle for a mediocre diet.

Instead of disguising plants as meat, why not enjoy the delicious flavor that fruits, beans, nuts, vegetables and grains have to offer? Processed vegetables will never taste as good as a burger – but a burger will never taste as good as a fresh, colorful and delicious salad! Rather than settle for a veggie burger, grill up a flavorful portobello mushroom topped with tomatoes, avocado and lettuce. Sandwich the mushroom between two whole wheat buns.

Rather than eat fake meat products that fall short, celebrate vegetables and grains and fruits for the delicious and nourishing foods that they are.


Is Bison Healthier than Beef?

bison2First, let’s set one thing straight.

Most of us eat way too much red meat. In an often-cited study from Harvard, researchers found that 9% of male deaths and 7% of female deaths would be prevented if people lowered red meat consumption to 1.5 ounces (or less) per day.

In other words, we should eat red meat sparingly – if at all.

Having said that, there are significant nutritional differences between bison and beef. Also, it’s worth noting that bison is often incorrectly referred to as buffalo meat. Buffalo are different mammals, and only live in portions of Asia and Africa. In fact, they’re very different from the American bison that’s available in your grocery store.

One big advantage to bison meat is lower fat content. Though fat content varies greatly from cut to cut, you’ll generally find about half the fat in a comparable cut of bison. A beef burger, for example, has nine grams of fat. A bison burger of the same size has 4 grams. With reduced fat content, bison also has fewer calories than beef.

It’s also more common for bison to be grass-fed, though you’ll need to check with your supplier. Grass-fed meats offer a number of nutritional advantages. Beyond reduced fat, grass-fed meats are lower in cholesterol, higher in omega-3 fatty acids and contain more vitamins and antioxidants.

But let’s not get carried away; bison meat isn’t a nutritional miracle – and you’re much better off eating some steamed vegetables or a nourishing and colorful salad. But if you’ve got a craving for red meat, bison meat does offer a nutritional upgrade from beef.

Is Pork Healthier than Beef?

We know that limiting our intake of red meat can provide some great health benefits, but is pork really a smarter beef alternative?

When people think pork, fatty bacon and glistening BBQ ribs often come to mind. It’s true that these cuts are high in saturated fat – and that, according to the World Health Organization, the American Dietetic Association, American Heart Association and others, saturated fat is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. But other cuts of pork meat, such as tenderloin or center-cut chops, are much leaner.

To compare apples to apples, let’s look at the nutritional differences between a pork tenderloin and a top sirloin (one of the leanest beef cuts available). In an 8-ounce serving, pork has 50 fewer calories, nearly half the fat and saturated fat content and a similar amount of protein.

If you look at 8 ounces of 90% ground beef, the differences become even more dramatic. When compared to pork, the ground beef has 233 additional calories and 5x the amount of total fat and saturated fat.

Moreover, pork manufacturers are responding to consumer dietary trends by breading leaner pork. Today’s pork is leaner than ever – and its reputation is slowly changing. In fact, pork is sometimes even referred to by nutritionists and dieticians as “the other white meat.”

The bottom line: For health-conscious carnivores, lean cuts of pork can be a smarter alternative to red meat.

Are you a pork fan? Let me know in the comments below! Personally, I love pork! But I only eat pork when I’m able to buy cuts from humanely raised animals.

Benefits of Eating Less Red Meat.

Back in December, I shared my resolution for the upcoming new year: To limit my consumption of red meat to two meals (or less) per week.

Since we’re more than halfway through the year, I wanted to share an update on my progress. I’m proud to say that despite my shoddy New Year’s resolution track record, this is one commitment that I’ve managed to keep. In fact, I’ve decreased my red meat consumption from nearly daily to once or twice per month.

Before I share how it’s changed my life, I’d like to reiterate why this resolution is important to me.

  1. Heart disease. There is a clear and documented link between red meat consumption and heart disease. Depending on the cut, red meat can be high in unhealthy saturated fats which tend to raise blood cholesterol levels and increase heart disease risk.
  2. Cancer. In some studies, red meat has been associated with certain types of cancer.
  3. Overall death risk. According to one study of 500,000 people by the National Institutes of Health and AARP, red meat eaters had a 30% increased chance of dying during the 10 year study. In a separate study at Harvard, researchers found that 9% of male deaths and 7% of female deaths would be prevented if people lowered red meat consumption to 1.5 ounces (or less) per day.
  4. Environment. When you compare the environmental impact of red meat to other foods like fruits, vegetables, dairy, chicken, etc., it’s not just a little bit worse. It’s hugely worse. According to one study, red meat accounts for just 30% of the world’s meat consumption – but it’s responsible for 78% of the emissions.

Instead of the usual burger or steak, I’ve been consuming red meat substitutes and opting for healthier cuts of chicken and turkey. Truth be told, it really hasn’t been difficult to make the transition and I can’t help but notice that my body feels cleaner and more energized.

The difference is most noticeable when I do eat red meat. I’m surprised at how gristly and fatty it tastes – and how sluggish I feel when digesting it. I never seemed to notice how unfavorably my body responds to red meat until I started cutting back on my intake. Because of the unpleasant response that red meat consumption inspires, it’s been very easy to stick with my resolution.

By far, replacing red meat with healthier options has been the best change that I’ve made to my diet in the last year. My only regret is that it took me 29 years to figure it out.

Are you interested in decreasing your red meat consumption? Do you think it’s something you’d like to try? Let me know in the comments below!

6 Healthy Red Meat Substitutes.

Hi Davey,

I have a question for you. I cut out red meat from my diet about 12 years ago and I haven’t touched it since. I’m not a vegetarian (I eat fish and poultry), but I do enjoy Morning Star veggie products. Unfortunately, the sodium is really high.

Is there anything else that I can substitute for red meat?


Yummy tempeh sliders!

Hey Frankie,

It’s no secret that most Americans eat far too much red meat. As I recently shared, a Harvard study concluded that 9% of male deaths and 7% of female deaths would be prevented if people lowered red meat consumption to 1.5 ounces (or less) per day. Studies like these are part of the reason why I’ve lowered my red meat consumption to twice weekly.

Because you eat other types of meat, you have no shortage of leaner alternatives. There are a million great chicken, turkey or fish dishes that you can enjoy. But if you want to look beyond the butcher block, I do have a few meatless suggestions:

  1. Seitan. Also know as wheat gluten, seitan was popularized by vegetarian monks in China. It’s frequently used in place of red meat, chicken or pork – and, with a whopping 30+ grams of protein per 4 ounce serving, it’s certainly worth trying.
  2. Tofu. Because tofu has become increasingly popular, you can find it in most grocery stores. It doesn’t have much flavor in and of itself, but it tends to pick up the flavors of the foods and sauces around it. Made from soy, 4 ounces of tofu contains about 17 grams of complete proteins.
  3. Tempeh. I really enjoy tempeh – and, in fact, you can use it to make homemade veggie burgers. The taste is quite earthy and nutty, but very delicious. It can also be marinated before you grill, fry or bake it. It also has 20 grams of muscle-building protein per each 4 ounce serving.
  4. Mushrooms. Portobello mushrooms, in particular, are a popular alternative to meat. Because of their large size, the mushroom can be used in place of a whole piece of meat (i.e., in a sandwich or on a burger bun).
  5. Eggplant. Though it’s one of the few foods that I don’t enjoy, eggplant is a very versatile meat substitute. Eggplant also works well on sandwiches or in other dishes like meatless meatballs or veggie lasagna.
  6. Beans. As I’ve mentioned before, beans are an often-overlooked nutritional powerhouse. As a meat substitute, beans work well. And, much like seitan, tofu and tempeh, they contain a good amount of protein. They’re also incredibly versatile and can be used in soups, stews, salads, veggie burgers and more.

I’m not a vegetarian. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t enjoy the above alternatives. In fact, many of these options are so delicious that the label “alternative” doesn’t do justice.

If you are interested in trying a tempeh burger, give this recipe a try:

Grilled Tempeh Burger: Serves 2 – 4

  • 1 (8 ounce) package of tempeh
  • 1/4 cup low-sodium tamari
  • 2 tablespoons mirin (also known as Japanese rice cooking wine)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 whole grain buns

Cut tempeh in half, lengthwise. Then cut across into 4 pieces.

Steam over simmering water for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and poke holes in tempeh (both sides) with a fork.

Mix tamari, mirin, garlic powder and onion into a dish for a marinade. Add the tempeh and turn to coat. Set aside for at least a half hour – but overnight is best.

Heat a grill to medium heat. For 4 to 5 minutes per side, grill tempeh until browned with grill marks. If you don’t have access to a grill, heat a dab of canola oil in a skillet over medium heat and cook tempeh for 3 to 4 minutes per side – or until browned.

Top with whatever your heart desires. Avocado, peppers, tomatoes, lettuce, sprouts, pickles, onions, ketchup, etc. all make for great choices!


Davey Wavey

Is “Pink Slime” Healthy?

The processed meat-ish byproduct known as "pink slime." Bon appétit.

In the last few weeks, you’ve probably heard a lot about so-called “pink slime.” Otherwise known as “lean finely textured beef trimmings,” pink slime is a processed meat byproduct found in 70% of packaged ground beef in the United States. Rather than being made from muscle tissue, this meat-ish byproduct is created from connective tissue and treated with ammonia hydroxide to kill salmonella and E. coli.

Doesn’t sound too appetizing. And really, the publicity about pink slime was one of the rare instances where mainstream consumers peered behind the veil and saw the unpleasant reality of industrial farming. The family farms and red barns that adorn product packaging are far cries from the shocking truth about how our food is made.

Despite the unappealing process by which it’s created, the USDA considers pink slime safe for human consumption. Moreover, when it is added to ground beef, current regulations do not require that it’s disclosed on labels.

Of course, safe and healthy are two different things. Twinkies are safe for consumption, but certainly not part of a healthy diet. The truth is, most Americans eat far too much red meat – pink slime or otherwise. In fact, a recent study by Harvard researchers concluded that 9% of male deaths and 7% of female deaths would be prevented if people lowered red meat consumption to 1.5 ounces (or less) per day. That’s a sobering statistic.

The moral of the story is to eat less red meat. Period. It’s not that we need to exclude red meat entirely, but most of us would be significantly healthier with less red meat in our diets. Back in January, I made the decision to limit my red meat consumption to twice weekly. Instead of including red meat as a staple in my diet, it’s more of a special treat – and, when I do eat red meat, I usually opt for healthier, grass-fed varieties.

If you hold the mindset that your body is a temple, then you’d want to fill that temple with those things that honor it. Twinkies, pink slime and the like certainly don’t make the cut; make those food choices that nourish, energize and lift up your body.

Is Red Meat Really Bad for You?

A few days ago, I shared my New Year’s resolution. In 2012, I’ll limit my red meat consumption to two meals (or fewer) per week. I received a lot of interesting emails from blog buddies – mostly asking, “What’s so bad about red meat?”

In short, nothing. Lean cuts of red meat, when eaten in moderation, can certainly be part of a healthy diet. And red meat is definitely rich in muscle-building protein. But eating red meat each and every day can have a negative impact on the body’s health.

There is a clear link between red meat and heart disease. Depending on the cut and type, red meat can be high in saturated fat – and saturated fat raises blood cholesterol levels. High levels of LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) increase the risk of heart disease.

(It’s worth noting that grass fed beef is lower in saturated fat than mainstream, grain-fed beef. It’s also higher in Omega 3s, vitamins and nutrients. Still, it’s not exactly healthy.)

Beyond heart disease, red meat has also been linked to increased cancer risk in some studies, including one by the National Institutes of Health and AARP. Researchers examined 500,000 participants and found that red meat eaters had a 30% increased chance of dying during the 10-year study. Not surprisingly, these findings have been rejected by the beef industry.

And then there’s the environment. Red meat isn’t just a little bit worse than other food sources in terms of carbon dioxide and other factors that impact the environment, it’s substantially worse. Just look at the attached chart; eating red meat is the culinary equivalent of driving down the highway in a Hummer. According to one study, although beef only accounts for 30% of meat consumption in the developed world, it’s responsible for 78% of the emissions.

When you consider the impact that red meat has on the human body – and the world as a whole – it’s easy to make a good case for eating less of it. And besides, there are plenty of delicious, healthy and environmentally sound alternatives like chicken and turkey.

But since it’s still December 28 and I have a few days until my New Year’s resolution, it’s time for a burger.