There is an often used expression of “getting to the meat of the matter.” The phrase is used when someone wants to point out the most important or fundamental essence of an issue at hand. Such an expression compares itself to the importance of meat in the literal sense as the most important and basic part of any given meal. So, what is meat? The answer seems obvious. However, depending on cultural norms, religion, and dietary restrictions, some types of animal flesh are considered meat, and some aren’t.
According to Exploratorium.edu, “Meat is mostly the muscle tissue of an animal. Most animal muscle is roughly 75% water; 20% protein; and 5% fat, carbohydrates, and assorted proteins.” Meat can be broadly classified as red or white meat. Red meat is the flesh of mammals, such as cows, sheep, and goats. White meat is usually referred to as poultry, such as chicken or turkey. Although seafood is animal flesh, some people do not classify it as meat. There are many reasons for this. In some religions, meat is something that only comes from animals that live on land; sheep, cows, goats, and chickens. Some nutritionists consider meat something that is only derived from mammals or animals that produce milk and have muscle tissue. In this article, we focus on the advantages of red meat, white meat, and seafood.
In gastronomy, better known as culinary arts or cooking, red meat is basically any meat that is red when raw and becomes a dark color when cooked. In nutritional science, red meat is any meat that has more myoglobin than white meat. Myoglobin is an iron and oxygen binding protein found in the muscle tissue of most mammals. Myoglobin also contains hemes, the red pigments responsible for the color of red meat. Red meats like beef or lamb are high in iron. Iron is especially important for teenage girls and women in their child bearing years. According to Webmd.com, “Red meat also supplies vitamin B12, which helps make DNA and keeps nerve and red blood cells healthy, and zinc, which keeps the immune system working properly.” It also provides protein, a building block of muscle and bone.
Choosing lean red meats are better for your health, as they have less saturated fat. Some examples of lean red meats are sirloin tip steaks and lamb loin chops. Choose prime lean cuts of meat with the word “loin” in the name . The American Institute for Cancer Research, a nonprofit that focuses on cancer prevention through diet and physical activity, advises consuming no more than 18 ounces of cooked red meat a week. The group recommends avoiding all processed meats, such as sausage and deli meats, citing research that shows an increased risk of colon cancer.
White meat is any meat that is pale before and after cooking. Chicken and turkey are popular white meats, although the thighs and legs are considered “dark meat.” In nutritional studies, white meat excludes all mammal flesh. In general, white meats have less cholesterol and saturated fat than red meats. White meat is a leaner source of protein than red meat and contains less saturated fat. The U. S. Department of Agriculture states that “boneless and skinless white meat contains slightly less calories when compared to a boneless skinless dark meat.” However, white meat has less iron and protein than red meat.
Seafood is another source of nutrition rich in protein, vitamins, and minerals. Seafood is also low in fat and cholesterol. It is an excellent source of many important minerals, including iodine, zinc, potassium, phosphorus, and B complex vitamins. In the fatty skin of salmon and tuna lies a major source of vitamin D, which promotes healthy bone growth, calcium absorption, and boosts immune system efficiency. But the greatest benefit of eating seafood is that it is an abundant source of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids have been proven beneficial for heart health and for reducing the risk of stroke and heart attack. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish, particularly fatty fish like salmon, lake trout, sardines, and albacore tuna at least two times a week. Conversely, some fish, such as king mackerel, swordfish, or canned tuna are consistently high in mercury. Mercury can harm the nervous system of a fetus or young child. Consumer Reports recommends, “women who are pregnant, nursing, or may become pregnant, as well as young children, should take special precautions” and avoid mercury dense seafood.
For Muslims, our diet can include meat from a variety of different animals. Most meats are permissible for consumption except for a few. God says in the Quran, “And We will provide them with fruit and meat from whatever they desire.” [Quran 52:22]. Islam is a religion that promotes balance and moderation. Regarding meat consumption, this advice is especially crucial. While meat consumption has many advantages for our health, the overconsumption of meat can be harmful. According to the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, “A strong body of scientific evidence links excess meat consumption, particularly of red and processed meat, with heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, obesity, certain cancers, and earlier death.”
There are ahadith about the Prophet, peace be upon him, enjoying meat, on occasion, and that he preferred mutton shoulder. Of course, back then, meat was almost a luxury, eaten only occasionally by most Muslims. Today we often feel unfulfilled if we don’t have some meat every day. So though eating meat is an easy and tasty way to add protein and essential nutrients to your diet; Make sure to consume moderate portion sizes of lean meats along with healthy helpings of vegetables in order to enjoy a yummy and balanced diet.
Kelly Izdihar Crosby is an artist and freelance writer in Atlanta, Georgia.