(dpa) – Eating meat is not as unhealthy as many people think. And while it contains important nutrients, like most things in life, it’s a problem if you have too much.
More and more people are abstaining from meat, or at least eating less of it. But how much is enough in a balanced diet?
In many Western countries, where food becomes ever cheaper and more readily available, meat consumption has risen correspondingly, which raises numerous health concerns. Germans, known for their meaty diets, on average now eat twice as much meat as dieticians recommend.
According to the German Society for Nutrition (DGE), Germans eat around 60 kilos of meat and sausages per capita per year – definitely not the way to achieve a healthy diet, say experts.
Moral issues aside, renouncing meat altogether is also not regarded as the way to strike the right nutritional balance.
Nutritionists recommend eating a maximum of 600 grams of meat and sausage in a week, or 31 kilos per capita per year, says DGE spokeswoman Antje Gahl.
Sausage meat in particular usually has a high fat content. “Fat is also added to it when the meat is prepared, for example during roasting and even more when it’s breaded,” says nutritional expert Gabriele Janthur.
Meat also contains cholesterol, which can cause cardiovascular disease. “Purines in meat can also create uric acid in the blood and trigger gout attacks,” says Margret Morlo of the Association for Nutrition and Dietetics (VFED).
People who eat a lot of red meat can also increase their risk of bowel cancer. Red meat includes meat products derived from beef, sheep, goat or pork. Consumption of white meat, such as poultry, is not associated with a higher risk of cancer.
If you want to, you can equally live a healthy life without meat: “Meat is not a must when it comes to nutrition,” stresses Janthur. In a non-meat diet, protein comes from plant foods such as beans, lentils, cereals, and milk and dairy products.
“Vitamin and mineral requirements can be amply covered as long as you eat milk and dairy products and vary your diet,” adds the expert, recommending a combination of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, and selected oils and nuts.
If you do not want to give up meat, you should eat it as an accompaniment to vegetables, salad, potatoes and pasta, rather than a main meal ingredient.
“A Bolognese sauce does not just have to be meat,” says Morlo. Carrots, onions, tomatoes, mushrooms and peppers are a healthier alternative as key ingredients.
Hobby cooks should pay more attention when preparing meat, which should ideally be boiled or fried with a small amount of oil.
Browning should also be kept at a minimum when meat is seared, and cooks should be aware that carcinogenic substances can result if meat is grilled or roasted at length.
These days, good meat can be found in abundance at the butcher’s, supermarket, or the weekly market or farm. But it is often difficult for consumers to distinguish quality levels, especially if they place an emphasis on better animal husbandry.
One way is to pay attention to the source of the meat. Nutrition expert Janthur recommends consulting with staff while shopping, since some breeds of animals are known for their better quality of meat.