Coming up on this episode of the Doctor’s pharmacy,
Dr. Mark Hyman:(00:03):
Meat is one of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet. It can help prevent disease, prevent nutritional deficiencies, particularly when you eat it with lots of plant foods.
Welcome to Doctor’s Pharmacy. I’m Dr. Mark Hyman. That’s Pharmac who have a place for conversations that matter. And if you’re confused about whether you should eat meat, whether it’s going to kill you or save you, you’re going to love this podcast because we’re going to get deep into the science of meat, what we know, what we don’t know, what you should and what you shouldn’t do, and how to make sense of all the nonsense. So today we’re doing this to form one of our health bites, which is little small bits of health information that help you take small steps daily, that make significant changes in your health over time. So let’s get into it. Eating meat will clog your arteries, it causes cancer Type two diabetes and will take years off your life, right? Well, no, but it’s understandable why you believe that, because a lot of people do, even meat lovers and abstainers alike because of all the misinformation, the confusing science, the ideology, the forces of the carnivores and the paleo folks and the vegans making it very confusing for anybody to understand what do we know and what do we not know?
Now, I personally wanted to be 120 or more. I don’t want to eat meat if it’s going to kill me or shorten my life. And so I decided rather than listening to all the noise and all the headlines, I’m going to go read between the lines. And I locked myself away in a hotel for over a week with all the top studies in meat. So every major publication that looked at the health risks and benefits of meat, and I actually read all the papers, the methods, the science, dissected it all and tried to make sense of what we know and we don’t know. Studies are not clear cut. We think science is science, but it’s not. It depends on how the study was done, how it was designed, who the subject participants were, whether it was an observational study, a randomized trial, an animal study, a case control style study or whatever it was.
So it’s really important to understand the science and it’s hard for the average person to do so. That’s what I did. And here’s the deal. Now look, we’ve been eating meat since the dawn of evolution of humans, and yet it seems to be the most controversial thing on our plate. People are having raging fights about this. Warring nutritional theories are, our concern about it is growing. We’re told that if we eat meat, we’re destroying the planet and causing climate change, it’s killing us. It’s causing all of our nation’s health issues. It’s unethical, it’s dangerous for the animals, and I think people are just super confused. So is meat bad or good for us? And if we want to live to be long, healthy, should we eat a lot of it or none of it? So when I began to look at meat, there were really three buckets that were controversial and they often get conflated, and I want to just break them down.
The first is health. Is it good or bad for you? Two is environment and climate. Is it good or bad? And three, ethical. Now, ethical moral arguments are hard for me to counter because it’s your belief and you’re entitled to whatever you want to believe. If you’re a Buddhist monk and you believe in the sentient of all living things and you don’t want to harm a living creature or even step on an insect, I understand that. And I studied Buddhism and I fully get that, although I know the Dai Lama eats meat. So I’m not sure how he reconcile that. But basically I respect that.
Although I would say that people don’t really realize when they eat vegetables, they’re just to grow crops, vegetable crops and plants. There’s over 7 billion animals that get killed in the making of those plants. In other words, you’re destroying their habitat, you’re plowing over them with big machines killing mice and rabbits, and we’ve lost half of our bird species because of growing plant compounds, plant foods. And so there’s no way out of this cycle of life and death, as they said in the Lion King, the great circle of life. So I think we have to understand that we become food for microbes and fungi and plants when we die. So it’s just a big circle of life. But I do understand the ethical concerns. But let’s get into the health concerns, and I will touch a little bit on the environmental concerns because I think health is the most important one.
It’s the most controversial. Now, does meat hormones, is it really the thing that’s causing global warming? And how do we make a good decision about meat if we want to eat meat? Now, there’s a lot of anti meat advocates and scientists who’ve tried to scare Americans by linking meat to everything from cancer to heart disease, to diabetes to obesity. But actually the research shows that meat is one of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet. It can help prevent disease, prevent nutritional deficiencies, particularly when you eat it with lots of plant foods, with a plant rich diet, lots of fruits and vegetables, but not part as a typical Western diet with big mac fries and a Coke. That’s not going to save you, right? And doesn’t mean isn’t a dark side eating meat? There is, and we’ll talk about that. But there are really good scientific studies and very health-focused reasons for eating high quality, regenerative, organic, grass-fed, sustainably raised meat as part of an overall healthy diet.
So I want to explore some of the top things you need to know about meat. First, it’s the single best source of protein for humans. We are animals and we have a lot of muscle. The best way to get muscle is to eat muscle, which is basically meat. Now, you might’ve heard that beans have a lot of protein and they do for plants, but they also lack some really essential amino acids. And you have to eat large volumes to actually get the protein you need. Now, think about this. The only macronutrient we need in large quantities is protein, carbohydrates. There’s no biological requirement for even the National Academy of Sciences. Dietary reference Index say there’s no human need for carbohydrates. We don’t need them. There’s no essential carbohydrates, fats we do need, but we only need essential fatty acids in gram doses, like a gram of fish oil, a couple of capsules of fish oil, we’ll do it protein we need in large doses, probably about a gram per pound to be healthy.
Now, that might sound like a lot to you. So if you’re 180 pounds, that’s 180 grams of protein, which seems like a lot’s about 60 grams a meal or more spread out over more meals. But the reality is that our bodies as we age, need more protein and we need protein to build muscle. And as we lose muscle, we lose our health. And it’s really important to understand. Now, you can get plant proteins, either plant proteins that are processed like soy protein, but even then you have to march larger amounts. But here’s the key. For example, if you have to eat three cups of beans with a hundred grams of carbohydrates to equal six ounces of chicken or fish or meat with zero carbs. Now one of the most important things to know is that animal foods are much higher in a critical amino acid called leucine.
And we need about two to three grams of leucine per meal to activate muscle synthesis. Super important. And if you don’t have enough of this leucine, you actually can’t turn on the mechanism that builds muscle. And plant proteins are very low in leasing. So you either have to add leucine to them or you have to supplement amino acids, or you have to add huge amounts of plant proteins to just get the equivalent. And it comes a lot of baggage, animal protein across the board and based on the data, and I read this in my book, young Forever for Longevity is the single best source of protein, especially as we get older, where muscle loss is the biggest cause of rapid aging and disease. Now, meat was unfairly demonized, and I’ll explain why. And it still is Basically, it was a discovery that about 50, 60 years ago, that saturated fat raises cholesterol and that saturated fat hypothesis that fat causes you to be fat, that fat causes heart disease, particularly saturated fat was the dogma of the day.
But the truth is that it’s not true total fat consumption and it’s not linked to heart disease. And even saturated fat consumption, although there may be some associations in some populations for most people, is not associated with increased risk of heart disease. And there was review over 72 studies, randomized trials, intervention studies, blood looking at blood levels of fatty acids and observational data. I mean, large amounts of studies of over 600,000 people found really no link between saturated fat and heart disease. So we did a lot of things when we heard that meat was bad, we cut back on meat, we chose lean meat, we trimmed all the fat off our meat. But it turns out that that’s actually not the right idea. Heart disease is very complex. It’s not only related to your cholesterol, but also to inflammation and to your blood sugar and triglycerides and your HD level and a lot of other factors.
So it turns out that heart disease is an inflammatory disease and that your cholesterol is only a problem if you have a lot of inflammation. So it’s important to know this is a complicated subject. I encourage you to read my book food. What the heck should I eat and what the eat fat get thin, and even my book Young Forever to kind of understand a little bit more about the science, but saturated fat in meat, for example, steric acid doesn’t really have an impact on blood cholesterol levels. So we’ve kind of been cutting out meat to lower cholesterol. Now, meat comes with a lot of other things, right? It comes with other things too that may be a factor. But what’s even more surprising than most people is that eating saturated fat doesn’t necessarily raise the blood levels of saturated fat that cause heart disease.
It’s actually the carbohydrates and refined starch and sugar that are raising levels of small L D L particles and actually causing more of a we’ll call atherogenic lipid profile. So it’s sugar starch and carbs that are driving most of the bad cholesterol in this country. There’s a lot of people debating what’s healthy, what’s not healthy. The American Heart Association demonizes saturated fat, but the latest wisdom suggests it’s pretty neutral for most people. It’s not necessarily a health food, but it’s not necessarily as bad as we thought. Now, combining with sugar and starch, the sweet fat, I call it deadly butter and bread, ice cream, cookies, that kind of stuff, which has butter and or saturated fat and lots of carbs and refined carbs in particular is deadly. So don’t do that. So what’s really interesting is that the American Heart Association says we should have less than 5% of our calories as saturated fat, but breast milk is 25% saturated fat because it’s critical for brain development for all our cell membranes for so much of our body structure.
And does that mean we should ban breast milk because it’s got five times the saturated fat that the American Heart Association says we should have? I don’t think so. I think we didn’t have a faulty design. I think breast milk is exactly what we should be having. So people say, well have saturated fat and meat in butter in moderation. So what does that mean? Well, we need a lot more research, but I would not be worried about having little grass fed butter with your food. I wouldn’t worry about having pasture raised eggs. I wouldn’t really worry about having a grass-fed steak instead of the halibut next time you eat out. Now, there’s some caveats there. I would really recommend it be regenerative or grass fed. If you can get it. It’s a little harder to get, although now I see more and more restaurants offering grass fed fed meat.
Second thing you should know is that meat is actually a nutritional powerhouse. It provides our only source of B 12, which is animal food. It’s essential for life. It has lots of minerals and nutrients and vitamins, enzymes, we need to access in nutrients, critical amino acids, cancer fighting antioxidants like vitamin A, which by the way, you can’t get from vegetables. You can get carotinoids, but you can’t actually get vitamin A from that. And also if you’re vegan, we see a lot of deficiencies. I do a lot of nutritional testing on people. I’ve done this for decades, and it’s just remarkable how even what we call healthy vegans, not just people eating soda and junk food because you can be a chips and soda vegan, but people actually try to do the right thing are deficient. B 12, they’re deficient iron, they’re deficient zinc, they’re deficient in vitamin A and D.
And plant foods has some of these nutrients, but they’re way more bioavailable in meat. And now grass-fed regenerative is better. There’s some great sources. We had a podcast with Robbie Sampson and Taylor who actually create a company called Force of Nature that allows you to buy frozen regenerative meat online. And it’s great. It’s delicious from all over the world, but you can get grassed, regenerative grain of meat. It’s definitely healthier for you when you look at the phytochemicals in the meat. And there’s been lots of studies on this looking at metabolomics, Stephen Van ett we’ve had on the podcast, we’ve talked about bison for example, that was fully pasture raised or grass fed versus those who were finished in a feedlot. Profound differences in the phytochemical content, in the nutrient content, in the fatty acid profiles. So really important to understand that now it has way better fats has more omega threes, less omega sixes, more C L a or conjugated linoleic acid, which boosts metabolism, prevents cancer.
It also, again, has higher levels of minerals, vitamins, and lots of nutrients. But here’s the key. Most of your diet should still be plants. People call a vegan diet a plant-based diet. I would say we should be eating a plant rich diet or a plant forward diet. Most of our diets should be plants. 50 to 75% of your plate at night should be colorful veggies and the rest should be a serving of meat. And you don’t need as much as you think. Probably if you have a six ounce piece, which is maybe the size of your palm protein each meal, for example, you have a protein shake in the morning, I use whey protein from goat. You can have piece of chicken, fish, sardines, macro, whatever, and have another 30 depending on your size, 20, 30, 40 grams of protein each meal. You’re actually going to be getting what you need.
And again, it’s not like a 12 ounce or 60 ounce steak. It’s a smaller piece, but it actually has profound effects on your overall health. Another thing people should know is that organ meats are one of the healthiest foods. If you look at, for example, liver and you compare it to any vegetable, it’s like winds like by a mile in terms of the level of nutrients. It contains a whole range of vitamins, minerals, coq 10 and lots of protein. And I love liver. I love chopped liver. I’m Jewish. Bate is great. I think I love liver. In fact, I just bought some grass fed chicken livers at the farmer’s market and it was great. Now, people don’t like to eat organ meats, but actually they’re what the animals eat. So if you’re a lion, the thing you’re eating is all the organs first and then you little meat, but you leave the rest as scavengers and we kind of think, oh, we should eat it.
It’s got high cholesterol, but dietary cholesterol is not a factor, including even the dietary guidelines said in the last iteration that we don’t need to worry about dietary cholesterol, that it’s really not what’s causing our cholesterol to be high. So we can eat egg yolks, we can have cholesterol from liver and not worry about it. People say, oh geez, what about all the toxins in liver? But it doesn’t actually processes them and they’re stored in the muscle and fat tissues in the brain. It’s fine. When I was a little kid, we lived in the queens in a one bedroom apartment. We were pretty poor. And I thought it was a gourmet food because my mom made it, but she would make chicken livers and onions and rice, and that’s what we had. I thought it was a gourmet meal, but I love it. And not everybody’s taste, but it’s actually good now.
Even have organ meat pills. Also, how you cook your meat matters when you fry it, when you smoke it, grill it, and high temperatures, it may actually create carcinogenic compounds called heterocyclic amines or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Basically all that black grilly stuff, you should be careful not to do that. Slower cooking is better, by the way, if you grill your vegetables, same thing happens. So it’s not just meat. You can minimize that by actually marinating your meat and acidic marinades, lemon vinegar, things like that. Low temperature cooking, baking, roasting, stewing also. Great. What about global warming climate change? Should we worried about this? Most people say that animal agriculture contributes 14% of greenhouse gas emissions. I agree. We should not be having lock house industrial agriculture destroys of soil. It creates a huge problem for the environment and really is not a good thing. So for sure, we should not be factory farmed animals.
And a hundred percent agree with you from ethical perspective, from a health perspective, from a global environment and climate perspective. Now, intestinal gas from cattle methane counts for half of agriculture’s greenhouse gas pollution. And if you’re using industrial agriculture, it takes about 248 gallons of oil. Think about this oil. We use oil to produce food, which we don’t really need to do if we did it right and followed nature. But basically 248 gallons of oil required to produce about the 2,800 pounds of corn that are eaten by a conventionally raised factory formed cow during its lifetime. So you need almost 250 gallons of oil to produce the meat from one cow globally. One fifth of all of our energy consumption is used for industrial agriculture. That’s more than is used for all our transportation. Cars, trucks, planes, trains, boats combined. Livestock production consumes about a third of the world’s fresh water because of how we grow it, not if we did it right.
And this is industrial agriculture. And also even more concerning to me is the cultivation of soy and corn crops, which is what factory farmed animals are. Fed, requires huge amounts of oil inputs through pesticides, herbicides, fertilizer, which are all petrochemical products and also large amounts of irrigation and depletes our water resources because of how we destroy the soil. I wrote a whole book about this called Food Fix if you want to learn more. So what can we do about it? Well, research has shown that regenerative agriculture is the future of how we can grow meat. And it helps the environment. It repairs soil, it reduces greenhouse gas emissions. It actually is what we need to actually build soil. We’ve lost about a third of all our top soil because of our farming practices. Most of those, like I said, farming practices are used to feed animals.
We grow crops for feeding animals that then we eat instead of letting them eat their natural food. And actually by using well-managed grazing practices, we can offset or even compensate for the methane and other greenhouse gases that are caused by beef production. The grass basically will, our plants will soak up and store and sequester the carbon and prevent the carbon dioxide being released in the Asher. It’s stored in the soil. In fact, that’s where the biggest sink is, other than the oceans for carbon is in the soil, not the rainforest. And so in order to do this, you have to mimic nature like the bisons used to roam. They regularly move the animals from pasture to pasture. They actually let the grass not be overgrazed. They help, helps restore the water tables. And I did a podcast with Robbie Sampson and Taylor, who from Force of Nature, which I encourage you to listen to, which talks about what does it actually restores.
Water tables uses less inputs, brings back lots of wildlife and it’s great. Okay, so what should we looking for if we’re eating meat? Well, animal welfare proves certified humane Global Animal Partnership, food lion certified. There are now regenerative organic certifications that are emerging grass fed for sure, and grass finished I would say, because they can say, oh, ate grass. But that means actually feed the finished if you lot So choose beef, bison, goat, lamb, sheep that are certified. Be the American Grass Fed Association, look for the logo, American grassed, that sort of certification. Now all animals that are certified by the American Grass Fed Association are raised entirely on open grass pastures. Now some, like I said, grass fed animals are raised on grass and then they’re given grains or other crops when they’re finished that way. But the A certification prevents that also, these animals are allowed to graze on grass and not forced into small feedlots.
They’re not given antibiotics or hormones, and they’re basically also for the a g certification. It’s only American meat, but you can get regenerative meat from around the world. So what should I eat? If you’re going to eat meat, grass fed beef or regener raised beef, grass fed lamb, past raised pork, bison, venison, elk, you can small amounts of high quality organic nitrate, sugar-free bacon, ham, salami, Turkey sausages. There is a small risk of cancer, but it’s like basically your risk goes from five to 6%, which is not very much. And if you ate five pieces or four pieces of bacon every day for your whole life, which nobody does, and by the way, the studies are challenging because they’re observational, so they don’t prove cause and effect. So I wouldn’t worry about that. Also, what should you avoid? Well, don’t eat conventionally raised anything. Beef, lamb, pork, avoid all the deli processed meats, the typical ones, hot dogs, conventional sausages, conventionally made bacon, salami, get rid, all that stuff.
So check out the force of nature to learn more about how to eat the right meat. And I hope this has helped clarify some of the issues around climate health. There’s lots more to read about. Check out food with Should I Eat Young Forever and also Eat Fact Get thin. So that’s it for today’s Health Bite. Be sure to share with your friends and family on social media. I’d love to know what we’ve learned about your own health, eating meat or giving up meat. We’d love to learn and everybody’s a bit different. And we’ll see you next time on The Doctor’s Pharmacy.
Speaker 3 (21:58):
Hi everyone. I hope you enjoyed this week’s episode. Just a reminder that this podcast is for educational purposes only. This podcast is not a substitute for professional care by a doctor or other qualified medical professional. This podcast is provided on the understanding that it does not constitute medical or other professional advice or services. If you’re looking for help in your journey, seek out a qualified medical practitioner. If you’re looking for a functional medicine practitioner, you can visit ifm.org and search their find a Practitioner database. It’s important that you have someone in your corner who’s trained, who’s a licensed healthcare practitioner, and can help you make changes, especially when it comes to your health.