What you don’t know can hurt you

Some days I feel like a superhero dispelling health myths across the country. And there’s one myth in particular that just keeps rearing its ugly head, like my own personal Lex Luthor.

I’m talking about the ridiculous notion that red meat is bad for you. Yesterday, I tore into the latest example—a study claiming that red meat raises cancer risk.  But today, I’m going to take this conversation a little further. And tell you why giving up meat is actually one of the worst mistakes you could make for your health.

I’ll start by directing your attention to the eye-opening results of a recent poll. It revealed that consumers really don’t know much about the nutritional benefits of animal protein. A problem I come across in my practice each and every day.

Now, in all fairness, this poll was commissioned by the American Meat Institute. And obviously they have a stake in spreading the word about animal protein (pardon the pun).

But believe me when I say that the stakes are just as high where your health is concerned. So you should be just as concerned by this poll’s discouraging findings.

Like the fact that only 12 percent of consumers knew that animal products (like meat, chicken, eggs, and cheese) are the only natural dietary sources of vitamin B12.

In fact, one in five actually thought that cruciferous vegetables (like broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts) were the main natural source of B12. While 13 percent thought you get B12 from citrus fruits.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t eat those foods. Broccoli, cauliflower, and other cruciferous vegetables are a terrific source of various nutrients. Most notably sulforaphanes, which help to balance hormones and fight cancer, among other things.

But they don’t contain a single milligram of B12.

As you might remember, B12 keeps your levels of homocysteine—a major marker for cardiovascular risk—in check. And it’s absolutely essential for a healthy heart.   Not to mention a healthy nervous system. And, again, animal products are the only dietary sources of this essential nutrient.

The next question on the poll was about iron.

There are two forms of iron you can find in food. Heme—the most bio-available form— and non-heme, which your body doesn’t absorb as efficiently.

It’s an important dietary distinction. But unfortunately, most people have no idea it exists.

More than half of the people surveyed incorrectly assumed that you get the most iron from sources like spinach, kale, and other leafy greens, which contain the non-heme form. Meat and poultry are the best sources of easily absorbed heme iron.

According to the CDC, iron deficiency anemia is the most common nutritional deficiency in the U.S. Yet I don’t see any ads touting the benefits of meat. (Meanwhile “iron-enriched” junk like bread and cereal somehow gets a reputation as “health food.”)

So let me make this as clear as I can: Protein is an important part of a healthy diet. And contrary to what you may have heard, most people consume far too little.

As a general rule of thumb, I usually recommend eating your weight in grams of protein every day. (And up to twice your weight if you’re hitting the gym hard in an active effort to gain muscle mass.) So if you’re a 140 pound woman, you should eat 140 grams of protein per day. And a 200 pound man should aim for 200 grams.

Luckily, these days, it’s easier than ever to keep track of how much protein you’re getting. All you need is an app. The one I use is called Lose It—and it’s absolutely free. But there are lots of others out there like it. (And most of these tracking tools also have websites, so you don’t have to have a smartphone to use them.)

Please understand: I’m not trying to convert anyone who has given up meat on ethical grounds. That’s a personal decision that I support fully.

But the claims that going vegan is good for you? They’ve got to stop.

Cancer patients in particular have been on the receiving end of some pretty appalling dietary advice along these lines in recent years.

But that’s a much larger topic than I could possibly cover here. Which is why I devoted a full article to it in the most recent issue of my monthly newsletter Logical Health Alternatives. If you’re not a subscriber yet, consider signing up today. Especially if you or someone you love is battling cancer, this is an issue that you can’t afford to miss.    


“Consumers underestimate health benefits of meat: survey.” Foodnavigator-usa.com. 28 April 2014.