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Your health's at steak Dec. 1, 2012
Written by: Dr. W. Gifford-Jones, QMI Agency
 
What's on Dr. Giff's plate? Very rare meat

(Fotolia)

“Are you sure you want your steak blue,” waiters often ask. I’ve learned the word “blue” is the best way of ensuring a rare steak.

But lately I’ve noticed I’m the only one eating meat. Friends are ordering either chicken or a vegetarian diet. They claim this is the way to better health.

But I’m a cocktail- before- dinner guy, and hell will freeze over before I give up steak. Now, I’ve found an ally in Duo Li, professor of nutrition at Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China.

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Li reports, in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, my veggie friends may be lacking in iron, zinc, vitamin B-12 and essential Omega-3 fatty acids. These nutrients are needed for cardiovascular health.

So how does the lack of these nutrients affect cardiovascular health? Platelets, tiny particles in the blood, help clotting. Vegetables show an increased number of platelets resulting in greater chance they’ll stick together, causing a fatal blood clot in coronary arteries.

Vegetables also produce an increased amount of homocysteine in the blood. This has been associated with increased risk of heart disease. And Li’s study shows the vegetarian diet results in a decreased amount of high-density lipoprotein (the good cholesterol), also a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

I have to admit some authorities disagree with Li. This is to be expected as there are no 100% solutions. But I believe Aristotle to be right when he preached moderation in all things (I’m sure he would have included a cocktail before dinner).

So I believe a moderate amount of steak makes more sense than a totally veggie diet. After all, humans have been enjoying meat since the caveman discovered it could keep him and his mate alive.

I also eat meat because I’ve never enjoyed spinach. I’d have to eat three cups of spinach to obtain the same amount of iron contained in a six-ounce sirloin steak. Meat is also rich in heme iron, the type more easily absorbed than non-heme iron. So it’s a no-brainer for me.

Today iron is a nutrient often lacking in North American diets. Young children, teenagers, pregnant women, nursing mothers and athletes are at particular risk. The recommended allowance for iron is 18 milligrams (mg) a day, yet the typical diet contains only six mg.

Meat is a complete protein containing all the essential amino acids required for maintaining body tissues. Our bodies do not manufacture amino acids to keep the immune system functioning.

In addition, meat contains vitamins B-6, B-12, five of the B-complex vitamins, niacin, phosphorus and zinc. Many people do not consume sufficient zinc required for growth, night vision and the manufacture of hormones.

If you’re concerned about calories, a six-ounce tenderloin steak trimmed of fat has six grams of fat and provides only 366 calories. Compare this to a roasted chicken, skin included, that has 23 grams of fat.

What about the cholesterol in steaks, since so many people suffer from cholesterolphobia? Some people claim this is why they eat only chicken and fish. But a six-ounce steak only contains 146 mg of cholesterol.

So why do I order a blue steak? By doing so I face a small risk of toxoplasmosis, a parasitic disease. I’ll take my chance on this one as 40% of North Americans have had this disease at one time or another, are unaware of its presence and require no treatment.

Most people are also not aware that a blue steak can help to protect the heart. Meat is one of the primary sources of co-enzyme Q10 (Co-Q10). This enzyme is essential, producing the body’s fundamental unit of energy, ATP, the gas that provides energy for the heart. A steak well done not only tastes like leather, but it destroys Co-Q10. Cholesterol-lowering drugs also destroy this enzyme by as much as 40%, which may be setting the stage for heart failure later in life.

“So, waiter, I prefer my steak rare!”

 

MORE COLUMNS BY DR. W. GIFFORD-JONES, QMI AGENCY

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