Meat refers to cooked animal flesh which is consumed as food. Since prehistoric times, humans have survived as hunters and gatherers and have thus consumed a diet containing different types of meat. In modern times, these meats are broadly classified as red meat and white meat, with each type having its own benefits and side effects and each being cooked differently yet deliciously.

If you are conventionally a non-vegetarian and regularly consume a type of meat, it is imperative that you know about its nutritional value and effects on the body, so that you can decipher the amount you consume each day. If you are looking forward to adding some meat to your diet, either for muscle building or a more protein based diet, knowing about these benefits and nutritional values will help you make the right decision. So, let’s get started by discussing all these types of meat in detail.

  1. Types of meat
  2. Meat nutrition facts
  3. Benefits of eating meat
  4. Best meat type
  5. Side effects and risks of eating meat
  6. Takeaway

Meat is broadly classified into two types, that is, red meat and white meat, with the latter being consumed more commonly in India.

Red meat

Red meat refers to the type of meat which is red in colour before being cooked and later on takes up a nice brownish or a dark hue. Although some types of red meats are not a part of Indian cuisine, others like lamb meat are widely consumed. Red meat typically includes beef meat, lamb meat, mutton, goat meat, horse meat and pork meat. As delectable it may taste and as high protein content it may pack, regular consumption of red meat is detrimental to your health. So, it is recommended to eat this type in moderation. Other than the above conventional sources, red meat is also abundantly present in dishes and sides like bacon, sausages, hot dogs, meat pies, meatballs, lamb chops and a number of kebabs and grills. It is important that you be highly mindful when consuming these foods and not make them a part of your daily diet. Choosing lean varieties of these meats and cooking them in a healthy manner can help do away with the side effects while providing an excellent protein source for you.

White meat

White meat refers to the type of meat, which is pale to white in colour before cooking and stays the same after. This type of meat is associated with fewer side effects and could thus be a great addition to your diet. White meat sources are chicken meat, rabbit meat, turkey meat, game meat, duck meat, goose meat and the meats of other poultry and farm birds. Even when consuming these type of meats, it is important that you ensure that the meat is properly cooked. Only purchase your meat from reliable stores, which preserve these in utmost hygienic conditions.

White meat is further classified into light and dark sources. For chicken, parts like breast provide you with light meat whereas legs store the dark variety. Light meats are typically lesser in saturated fats and calories and are considered to be lean and healthy. So, even while choosing white meat, it is recommended that you opt for the right sources and not consume an excess. It is also important that you adopt healthy recipes.

Meat is the richest source of proteins and is also loaded with healthy fats. But, that’s not all of its nutritional composition. Let’s have a closer look at the nutritional content of both the above-mentioned types of meat:

Nutrients Red meat (per 100 gram) White meat  (per 100 gram)
Water 62 gram 74.5 gram
Energy 254 kcal 114 kcal
Protein 17 gram 21.8 gram
Fats 20 gram 2.3 gram
Calcium 18 mg 12 mg
Potassium 269 mg 378 mg
Iron 1.9 mg 3.2 mg
Magnesium 17 mg 29 mg
Phosphorus 158 mg 226 mg
Sodium 66 mg 50 mg
Zinc 4.18 mg -
Selenium 15 mg -
Niacin 4.23 mg 1.8 mg
Folate 7 mcg -
Choline 56.4 mg -
Vitamin B12 2.14 mcg -
Vitamin A 4.2 mcg -
Cholesterol 71 mg 81 mg
Fats/Fatty acids    
Saturated 7.6 mg 0.7 mg
Monounsaturated 8.8 mg 0.6 mg
Polyunsaturated 0.5 mg 0.4 mg

Meat makes for delicious meals and as it may already be apparent from the nutritional table, meats have a number of benefits for your health when consumed in moderation. Let’s have a look at each of these benefits:

Eating lamb meat for good health

Meat is a rich source of proteins, zinc, fatty acids and several vitamins and minerals, which makes it a healthy addition to your diet. Packed with several nutrients, the inclusion of lamb meat in the diet is associated with a healthy life and greater longevity. This is because it helps prevent several nutritional deficiencies, which are quite common in vegetarians due to a lagging diet. The consumption of meats has not only been considered safe but healthy. However, it is important that you opt for lean varieties of lamb meat.

Red meat for protein in the diet

Proteins are an integral component of diet and form around 10 to 35% of a balanced diet. Unlike fats and carbohydrates, since proteins cannot be stored, they are needed to be consumed in the diet each day. It has been found that most vegetarian diets lack in some or the other essential amino acids and are thus not complete sources of proteins. As compared to vegetarian diet, proteins and some other important nutrients are more bioavailable in meats. So, it is a great idea to include some form of meats in your diet in addition to cereals and pulses.

Eating proteins is important because they help to maintain the structure of your hair, skin and bones and provide you with energy for daily requirement. Proteins are all the more important for those who exercise as they help to maintain muscle mass.

(Read more: Bodybuilding foods)

Eating lean meats for weight management

Sounds counterintuitive, doesn’t it? Can you really lose weight while eating meats? Well, the answer is yes, if you include them in moderation and opt for the low-fat varieties or lean meat. Studies have found that meat provides your body with essential nutrients, which are either not present in vegetarian diets or have limited bioavailability. But, with the inclusion of meats, even smaller portions can provide you with all the desirable nutrients, thereby allowing you to eat lesser. Meats are high in fats and proteins and have no carbohydrates, which is often the scheme of various diet plans like the keto diet.

So, it can be established that meats have a weight loss benefit due to its high protein content, which aids in the oxidation of fat and improvement of muscle mass, provided they are consumed moderately in the diet.

(Read more: What to eat and what not to eat to lose weight)

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Lean red meats for cholesterol management

High cholesterol is a significant risk factor for cardiovascular diseases and it is generally said that a high intake of red meats may cause this. But, what about moderate intake and what about healthy meats? Researchers suggest that high cholesterol, which is ascertained to be caused due to the intake of meats, actually occurred due to saturated fats originating from fast food sources, processed foods and other unhealthy ways in which meat has been cooked. Concerning lean sources of red meat, quite the opposite has been found to be true, that is, it reduces the levels of LDL and is thus cardioprotective, when consumed moderately.

(Read more: Heart disease causes)

Lean red meats for healthy ageing

Ageing symptoms are not just physical in the form of wrinkles and dark spots, but also, there is a marked reduction in motor skills due to loss of muscle mass. Consumption of healthy red meats can take care of both these concerns. Since red meats are rich in fats and proteins, they protect the skin from damage, wrinkling and other signs of ageing, while keeping your skin soft and smooth.

Studies suggest that lean red meats also help to improve muscle mass and manage muscle tissue loss, which is a common consequence of ageing. Improvement in muscle mass helps to improve motor and functional skills of older individuals. So, meat can be a healthy addition to the diet of the elderly in moderation.

(Read more: How to tighten face skin

Eating meats prevents anaemia

Iron deficiency and iron deficiency anaemia are common public health problems having severe impacts on the health of an individual and affecting their daily functioning. Consuming enough greens and fruits is not enough for the management of anaemia if iron from these sources is not adequately absorbed. Meat is essential for the absorption of non-haem iron (iron obtained from plant sources) by the body, so, it can be effectively utilised in the management of anaemia. This is why higher intake of meats is often recommended alongside a balanced diet for the prevention and management of anaemia and iron deficiency.

When it comes to meat, there is no best type that can provide you with all the health benefits and not have any other impacts on your health. Although it is generally considered that red meats are unhealthy and must be replaced with white meats in the diet. This is conventionally true, studies have found that the inclusion of lean varieties of red meat like lamb meat had no significant side effects on health. Upon comparing the lipid profile of individuals who typically consumed white chicken meat with those who ate lean lamb meat, no significant differences in LDL (low-density lipoprotein) or total cholesterol were found. So, it can be ascertained that whatever type of meat you choose, it is important that you keep in mind its nutritional value and opt for lean and healthy varieties but not consume it in excess. This is because excessive consumption of red meats is a certain risk factor for several types of cancer, even if it has no affect on your cholesterol.

Despite the high protein content of the food and the abundance of nutrients it packs, it is recommended to stay away from excessive consumption of meat because:

  • A predominantly meat-based diet increases the risk of high cholesterol, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disorders like coronary artery disease.
  • Higher intake of meat may lead to weight gain due to its fat content, which increases the risk of insulin resistance and diabetes. When consuming meats during a weight loss program one must be exceedingly mindful of the calories and try to indulge in balanced, low-calorie meals.
  • Consuming too much meat can lead to attrition of the tooth structure (wearing off of the occlusal or chewing surface). Over time, this can cause a reduction in the chewing capacity of the teeth.
  • Indigestion and diarrhoea can be some of the side effects of excessive meat consumption.
  • Processed meats and red meats are a definitive risk factor for the development of various types of cancer including colorectal cancer, pancreatic cancer, prostate cancer and breast cancer. It may also lead to lung cancer, liver cancer, bladder cancer, oesophageal cancer and cancer of the rectum.
  • Studies also suggest that red meats can increase the risk of heart failure and stroke.
  • Overall, excessive meat consumption increases the risk of mortality due to the manifestation of any of these conditions, particularly colorectal cancer.
  • Consumption of meats is not safe during pregnancy as raw meats and eggs carry the risk of infections like salmonellosis.

There are different types of meat, each having a different nutritional composition, so, they must be consumed accordingly. At the same time, it must be taken care that the intake of meats falls within your balanced diet plan. When taken in limited amounts, the risk of cancer along with other health conditions can be modified.


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