Eating meat has health advantages and disadvantages.
A meat-based diet has several advantages over a strictly vegetarian one, but there are also some disadvantages. Meats are a terrific source of protein, amino acids and vital nutrients, giving your diet a healthy boost. Unfortunately, meats can also be high in cholesterol and saturated fat, which should be considered when deciding on your dietary choices. Overall, including meat in your diet can be a good choice if done in moderation.
Your body needs protein to maintain all of the processes necessary for keeping you healthy, which is why protein is considered one of the building blocks of life. Meat is a great source of protein, and even small amounts of meat are densely packed with it. As an example, a 3-ounce portion of prime rib contains about 23 grams of protein. This small serving is half the recommended daily allowance of protein for women, which is 46 grams of protein per day.
Essential Amino Acids
Protein contains amino acids that your body needs to function. There are nine amino acids that your body can't make itself. Although you can get protein, and thus some amino acids, from eating plant matter like beans, animal-based meats are a complete source of protein, while plant-based proteins are not. Meat contains all nine of the essential amino acids your body cannot produce without supplementing from outside sources. Amino acids are the building blocks for your body's tissues like muscles, skin and bones. Meats contain all of the essential amino acids your body needs in one convenient package.
Meats are rich in several important nutrients. Vitamins - especially B-complex vitamins like riboflavin, niacin, thiamine, vitamin B-6 and vitamin B-12 - are all found in meats. B vitamins help keep up your energy, contribute to proper growth, aid the digestion of iron and help with chemical reactions in the body. Meats are also good sources of essential minerals like selenium, zinc and iron.
Cholesterol and Saturated Fat
Meats contain cholesterol and saturated fat, which is a disadvantage of eating a large amount of it daily. All animal-based proteins contain unhealthy trans fats, which prompt your liver to make more cholesterol than your body needs to function properly. An average 3-ounce serving of prime rib contains about 14 grams of fat, including almost 6 grams of saturated fat and 75 milligrams of cholesterol.
The American Heart Association recommends eating no more than 11 to 13 grams of saturated fat per day. You shouldn't have more than 300 mg of cholesterol per day, recommends the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Avoiding meats higher in fats and cholesterol like liver and organ meats can help you stay healthier, as can sticking to low-fat lean meats that are trimmed of fat.
Salt-cured and processed meats often contain high quantities of sodium, which is unhealthy. Too much sodium in the body can lead to stroke, heart disease and kidney problems. That's why it's best to avoid products like bacon, cold cuts, salami, sausages, jerky and ham, all of which are very high in sodium. Meats that are not treated with salt, like fresh beef, are lower in sodium and not as much of a health risk. When picking meats to include in your diet, avoid cured and processed meats.