If I hear the phrase, “I don’t eat meat, I only eat chicken and fish” once more, I shall scream! I cannot understand the enormous delusion of someone who believes that:
a) Both these meats are vegetables
b) Both of them are ‘white’ meat and, (like everything else white that we Indians aspire to) healthy.
It’s like saying that you get less radiation in the house because you have a smaller TV. Or, similar to that idiotic joke about the person who only had a little bit of ink left in his pen so he wrote faster. (A film star, once campaigning in my Constituency, told me that the reason he didn’t have any of the smoker’s diseases as yet is because he smoked only half the cigarette. This is another example of the same specious logic). Let me deal with this delusion.
Fish and poultry offer as many problems to the human body as sheep, goat, cow or pig. What has happened is that the poultry industry has very cleverly stepped into the enormous confusion of facts created by agribusiness advertising and, seeing that ‘red’ meat is out of favour, tried to distinguish their product as ‘white’ thereby buying themselves a few more years of healthy profits.
Seeing the success of the white meat campaign, the other meats have also changed their campaigns internationally. Pork is being offered as ‘the other white meat’ and their advertising shows pigs as ‘the lean, mean, pork machine’ (SICK!). Beef now has ads calling it ‘lean beef’ and saying that it is healthy for the heart. And the egg people (The Egg Nutrition Centre in the USA, which distributes advertising material to nutritionists worldwide) have sent round a medical report saying you can eat 25 eggs a day and still have normal cholesterol.
If you really want a comparison of fat and cholesterol values of ‘red’ and ‘white’ meat, study the table given below.
In general, there is no difference in cholesterol among the meats. Most fall in the 70 mg range, except for shrimp which is more than double.
The cholesterol in chicken is more than in beef. And salmon gives you the same amount.
Now look at total fat. Three ounces of pork give 12 grams of fat and three ounces of mackerel give 15 grams. Dark chicken has only one gram less than the steak that doctors forbid if you have a fat-cholesterol problem.
But there is more to worry about than just fat and cholesterol. Most nutritional experts advise us to obtain 80 percent of our calories from complex carbohydrates and the rest from fat and protein. All animal flesh — be it mutton or chicken and fish — has no carbohydrates. Animal products pose health hazards because of their high protein content. Just three ounces of fish or chicken, barely enough for an appetiser, give more than the entire day’s quota of protein. In reality, servings go up to 10 ounces or more.
If you think that by trading in red meat and high fat dairy products for chicken, water-packed tuna or skim milk, you’re safe — forget it. You are trading in potential arterial diseases for bone diseases.
The World Health Organisation, as I mentioned earlier, recommends a maximum of 29 grams of protein a day for women and 37 grams a day for men. This amount is eaten in your three ounces of animal fat. What happens if you eat more protein than you need?
The body has no mechanism for storing excess protein. It eliminates it through the formation of urea in the liver. When urea and amino acids — which are a components of protein — enter the kidneys to be eliminated in urine, they cause loss of water and large amounts of minerals — mainly calcium. A few ounces of chicken or fish, a cup of low fat cottage cheese, and your system has been swamped with enough proteins to cause a negative calcium balance. Other offshoots of excess protein are liver disease, kidney failure — and obesity.
Consumer reports about fish show that nearly half the samples tested are infected with bacteria from human and animal faeces, PCBs which are pesticide contaminants, and metals.
This should be obvious. The water where fish live is a dumping ground for all our factories, all the pesticide and fertiliser runoff from farmers’ fields, all the sewage and detergent from our houses, all our spit, urine, faeces, dirt. The seafood farms, that have been set up in all the states of South India, Maharashtra and Gujarat, are hardly any better because their manufactured feed is made of fish caught from the waters that have all these pollutants.
And please don’t believe the stories about ‘fresh fish’. Each fish is over a day old when you buy it from the market — and that is if you live on the coast. Inland, the fish can be upto a week old as it has been trucked in. This dead meat is well on its way to putrefaction when you eat it. Shellfish, in particular, accumulate large amounts of contaminants because they are filter feeders.
Those fish that accumulate huge amounts of poison before you eat them are tuna, halibut and swordfish. Consumer Reports, an organisation that tests products intensively and then informs the buyer, recommends that children, pregnant women and women planning to conceive should avoid fish.
The information is as bleak for chicken. Studies have shown that ‘modern’ poultry plants increase the amount of bacteria in a chicken by 20 percent. Campylobacter jejuni is a virulent bacteria found in poultry which is on its way to becoming as widespread as salmonella and is extremely dangerous for the elderly, or for anyone who is suffering from any disease, and has a weakened immunity system.
White or red—meat is a killer