Do We Need Meat?

Have you chosen a diet for yourself? This article may help you in this.
No, say an increasingly vocal group of health and nutrition professionals.
Yes, say others in the field: Eat meat in moderation; it's a nutrient-dense food, and a little goes a long way toward supplying certain vitamins. Here, you'll find both sides of the story whether you choose to eat or pass it up for ethical or healthy reasons, here's what you need to know.
"Meat is an excellent source of good nutrition. I don't know a better source of iron or other elements — copper, zinc. With a vegetarian diet it's difficult to get the elements you need." Paul Saltman, Ph. D., University of Carolina, San Diego.
"It's wrong to put down a food simply because excessive amounts can cause health problems. Consumed in moderate amounts, meat is perfectly good for your health. The body needs certain building blocks for health — amino acids, minerals and vitamins. It so happened that meat is a very reasonable source of these requirements." M. Roy Schwarz, M. D., American Medical Association.
"The ideal diet contains zero meat and zero cholesterol. That holds for all people, including young women. While I think it is a step in the right direction for the meat industry to produce lean meats, the McDonald burger makes me worry that we may be dealing with something like a filtered cigarette. I don't think we're dealing with anything good in these products, just greater or lesser degrees of bad." Frank Sachs, M. D., Harvard Medical School.
"The current dietary guidelines give people a false sense of security. People think they're fine if they eat a diet that's 30 per cent calories from fat. I have a cholesterol about 200 mg. That's not always the case. Young adults' cholesterol should be 120 to 130 mg. Over age thirty, it should be under 150 mg. It's not all or nothing, but the closer one gets to the optimal diet, the more one sees the benefits." Dean Ornish, M. D., University of Carolina, San Francisco.
"The more frequently you eat red meat, the greater your chances of developing colon cancer is. Red meat contains substantial fat. Eating red meat puts you at risk for heart disease. There may be some benefit in eating red meat once or twice a week, but not necessary." Walter Willet, M. D., Dr. Ph, Harvard School of Public Health.
"Vegetarian diet reduces the risk of heart cancer, helps control diabetes, treats obesity and is kind to animals. It's an easy choice to make."
Neal Barnard, M. D., the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.
All the experts we spoke with agree that you should cut back on meat. The question is how much. Some proponents of a vegetarian diet are not opposed to eating small amounts of meat. Others think that a meatless diet as a goal is a strict necessity.
If you choose to eat meat: keep portions small. Buy lean cuts and thoroughly trim external fat before cooking. Eating skinless chicken and fish but no red meat will reduce your intake of fat somewhat. If you omit meat but eat dairy products, you still need to watch fat. "If you cut out meat and replace it with high-fat cheese, you're right back where you started," says Johanna Dwyer.
The biggest problem for women, who give up meat entirely — or just eat it occasionally—is getting enough iron and zinc. Women need more iron than men do. Eating small amounts of animal protein with your meals increases iron absorption as well, says Victor Herbert, M. D. editor of "The Mount Sinai School of Medicine Complete Book of Nutrition". High-zinc foods include wheat germs, beans.
If you avoid all animal products, it is not only difficult to get iron and zinc but also sufficient calcium and vitamins D and B12. See a dietitian who can plan a diet that may include nutrient foods.