You probably know one or more vegetarians who never consume meat; however, you may not be acquainted with anyone who follows a meat only diet. Is a diet consisting only of meat healthy, or is it simply a passing fad? Meat only diets have actually been around for a while, and here is what you should know before trying one.
The body must have protein to function properly, and meat is the best source of it. Meat and animal-related products such as eggs and milk are the only sources of many essential B vitamins, which is why vegans sometimes suffer from a lack of them. Meat is also an excellent source of several nutrients such as thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin. The British Meat Nutrition Education Service reports that minerals such as zinc, copper, selenium, folic acid and iron are commonly found in red meat as well.
Fast vs. Muscle Loss
A meat only diet can have both positive and negative effects when it comes to shedding fat and keeping muscle. When you consume meat exclusively, you are taking in protein but not the carbohydrates your body needs for energy. This will result in your body burning fat stores instead. A diet consisting only of meat is therefore best suited for those with a significant amount of body fat to burn.
The down side to meat only diets is that they can strain the kidneys, leading to a loss in muscle fluid and ultimately muscle mass. As such, those who do follow a meat only diet should drink plenty of water to ensure their kidneys continue to function properly. According to dietician Monique Richard, high-protein diets are not a problem for “extreme athletes, burn victims, or specific cancer patients”, as these individuals may be depleting their protein stores faster than others.
No Effect on Heart
An Alaskan study compared native individuals who consumed a higher-than-average percentage of animal-based foods to others who claimed to eat the lowest percentage of them. Those in the “meat heavy” group had triglyceride levels that were on average 25 points lower than that of individuals in the other group, despite consuming more animal protein and fat. Research from Harvard University also indicates that there is no correlation between eating large amounts of unprocessed red meat and heart disease or diabetes.
Increased Cancer Risk
A meat only diet is low in fiber, and can therefore increase one’s risk of developing cancer. The Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) claims that eating more fiber decreases a person’s risk of developing colorectal cancer, and that it could also help women guard against breast cancer when combined with lots of whole grains. Vegetarian diets have been linked to a decrease in prostate, throat, mouth, and esophageal cancers as well.
Most nutritionists agree that a balanced diet consisting of lean, healthy meats along with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables is ideal. That doesn’t mean you can’t achieve some short-term benefits from a meat only diet, but rather than any extreme changes in eating habits should be carefully considered to ensure you know the pros and cons of them. If you enjoyed this article, you can also read about our article on healthy meats of the forest.