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Why this nutritionist says we should eat more red meat

The Country,
Publish Date
Wed, 4 Nov 2020, 3:37PM
Nutritionist Mikki Williden. Photo / Supplied

Why this nutritionist says we should eat more red meat

The Country,
Publish Date
Wed, 4 Nov 2020, 3:37PM

Independent nutritionist Mikki Williden says Kiwis shouldn't be afraid of eating red meat.

Recently the Heart Foundation suggested people should consume less than 350g of unprocessed red meat a week to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.

This amount was "super low", Williden told The Country's Jamie Mackay.

"It would be a rare case where I would encourage people to have less than 160 grams cooked which might equate to about 200 grams raw - and then across the course of the week - that is well in excess of what the Heart Foundation is recommending."

Reducing red meat intake to 350g a week could do more harm than good, Williden said.

"So many people are avoiding red meat and with it, their intake of protein, their B12, their iron, their zinc - [they] are all lower than what they need to be to be healthy."

Avoiding red meat often led people to eat food that was not nutrient dense and would "ultimately leave you in a worse place than when you started," Williden said.

New Zealand red meat was of such a high standard that consumers didn't have to buy the most expensive cuts to gain the health benefits, Williden said.

"People are afraid to eat red meat, but in New Zealand we've got good quality red meat available - it doesn't have to be your eye fillet steak."

While replacing the protein lost from red meat with a plant-based diet could be done, it would be "super challenging", Williden said.

"Plant protein is less bioavailable than animal protein, which means our body can't utilise it to the same extent - so you need to have potentially around 30 per cent more plant protein."

Plant proteins, (with the exception of quinoa and soy), were not complete proteins, which meant they didn't contain the nine essential amino acids "which our body needs to help with everything that protein does," Williden said.

In a blog post last year, Williden said she was aware that her stance on red meat wasn't fashionable.

"It is challenging being an advocate for eating red meat, and (in a lot of cases) encouraging clients (particularly young and not-so-young women) to eat MORE red meat, in a climate of meat avoidance. It isn't a popular message, particularly with the bad press that red meat consumption (and production) has received over the last few years."

Williden was still concerned with the lack of red meat in women's diets.

"They're lagging in energy, they're unable to do what they want to do because their diets aren't set up in a way that provide these nutrients and they avoid red meat because of the rhetoric around plant-based. And again - I love plants - but not the exclusion of red meat."

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