COMMENTARY | As consumers chew over the problem of "pink slime" in hamburgers, a study from the Harvard School of Public Health says we might want to reconsider red meat in general. If we want to live a normal life span, that is.
The study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, says eating one 3-ounce serving of beef or pork a day bumped the risk of early death 13 percent. The American Cancer Society says what we call a serving is usually two to three times that amount. If the portion is multiplied, the risk is too. Eating cold cuts, hot dogs and processed meat boosts death risk even more. It makes that bacon triple-cheeseburger a veritable time bomb.
Apparently, it's the saturated fat, nitrates, chemical chains and iron that do us in. I can attest to the fact red meat doesn't digest well. I rarely eat it anymore; when I do, it gives me terrible stomach cramps. Although I can't prove it with any autoimmune test, practically speaking, I'm allergic to red meat. My husband notices the same thing.
What's curious is we've not always had this reaction to red meat. We grew up with BBQs, Sunday pot roast, Oscar Mayer and McDonald's. Meat was the focal point of the 1970s Middle America diet. Neither of us had digestive issues. I can't speak empirically, but I'm guessing it's due to meat being fattier and chemical-based.
The documentary "Food, Inc." showed corporate farms ramp up steroids and antibiotics to make cheaper, bigger meat animals. They want super cows. Ergo, the "pink slime" advent. Consumers want lots of meat, but not the E. coli and salmonella, ABC reports. Rather than cut production and lose profits, manufacturers inject meat with bug killer.
So what do we eat instead of meat? The Harvard study, the Los Angeles Times says found the best substitute was nuts, followed by poultry and whole grains, low-fat dairy and legumes and fish. I would have thought fish rated higher, but it has been hard hit by mercury and contamination in waterways, the Environmental Protection Agency says. Nuts are high in good, heart-healthy fats, whereas most fish contains little fat.
For Lent, we're eating a mostly vegetarian-pescetarian diet. Based on these health findings, I think it's one we can live with for good.