This is a question I get often: should we eat our meat RAW and, if yes, why should we do it?
We all had the chance to read about the subject; from “raw foodists” to “paleo folks”, eating raw meat is a very hot topic nowadays. But still, it is not easy to make an opinion in the ocean of information we get so I will try to put some of them together so you get a clearer image.
Maybe you will decide to stop reading right here as you surely know a RAW RIB-EYE steak is nothing interesting especially chewing on the uncooked fat (…) compare to biting in the juiciness of a grill one. You probably had to change so much your WOE on ZC, putting aside a lot of “serious food pleasures” since then, you may decide there is a limit to what you are willing to do, AGAIN… And this is all OK.
Let’s first settle the case of pork and poultry: they need to be cooked, even if we are beginning to serve “ lightly cooked pink pork” in restaurant, which is nothing really interesting in my opinion. In the case of fish and seafood, the lemon juice, vinegar or any acid you will use to prepare/marinate them will take care of “cooking the proteins”.
What we will talk here is mainly red meat like beef, veal or lamb.
I will immediately eliminate the “gourmet delicacies” that include raw meat as, for example, BEEF CARPACCIO or BEEF TARTAR, as they wouldn’t have any sense prepared in any other way.
So let’s look at the reasons that could encourage us to eat raw red meat and other reasons that could prevent us from doing so.
The nutrition value between raw and cooked meat is different, especially if you consider the proteins. Some cooking methods are worst then others as high heat and/or long exposition “denature” the said proteins. Clearly, here, we are loosing nutrients, especially in the fantastic and complete array of essential amino acids content of meat as, when the proteins are destroyed, they cannot perform their physiological role in the human body, which means they become useless. The other big concern is these “denatured proteins” are no more considered as food in the body and so, they trigger an immune response, the road to inflammation. Interestingly, white cells blood count does goes up if measured after eating cooked meat which means your body is reacting to an “invader”…
Another big concern with cooking meat is the loss of the vitamin content. As you all know, we were brainwash to believe that we need to eat vegetable and fruits “to get our daily vitamins” but meat is, contrarily to what most people think, a rich sources of vitamins. It contains good quantities of vitamin A and D, which are great antioxidants, a large array of vitamin B, including B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin) B3 (niacin), B6 (pyridoxine), B9 (folic acid), not forgetting B12 (meat being THE best source of vitamin B12 and it is NOT FOUND in the vegetal world…). Meat do also contain, against the mainstream belief, some vitamin C; that is, sadly, very heat sensitive...
Another big concern about cooking meat is the lost of liquid during the process. This can be translated into loss of minerals, including valuable iron and zinc, phosphorus, copper and precious selenium.
But the most important negative effect of cooking meat is the formation of AMINES, especially heterocyclic amines and polycyclic hydrocarbons. They are formed when muscle meat is cooked using high-temperature such as pan frying or grilling over an open flame. Sadly, these amines formation is what gives grilled meat its great taste as it SIMULATES brain neurotransmitters and STIMULATES pleasure centers…
The amines are known mutagenic molecules, that is, they cause changes in DNA that increase the risk of cancer. The cooking method is important as well as the “doneness” level, but whatever you do, above 300 F, some amines will be produced. Well-done, grilled or barbecued meat will contain a lot of amines.
Luckily, they can be diminish by avoiding exposure to open flame or hot metal surfaces, by reducing the cooking time or using a microwave to partially cook the meat before exposure to hot temperature. Other solutions include flipping the meat over many times during cooking, or removing the charred portions before eating and refraining from using sauces made with meat drippings.
But cooking still has beneficial effects as it helps destroying any microbes on the surface of meat, which can be of big concern in many countries but also it everyday hamburgers. It also helps digestibility by breaking down collagen, tenderizing any “non muscle” parts meat such as ligaments if you purchased low cost cuts.
Be careful when reading studies saying meat is bad for you as they also include “processed meat” in their statistics. The same for the association of meat and bowel cancer: it has been proven wrong many times by mega-studies.
Conclusion: meat is a very nutritious food items but overcooking can reduce these qualities and even cause some negative effects on our health.
Suggestion: if you are not into “raw meat”, try first a nice BEEF CARPACCIO. It should do the trick!!!