Cutting red meat out of your diet causes feelings of anxiety and depression, recent research suggests.
Contrary to a recent study claiming that a high consumption of red meat dangerously raises heart attack and stroke risks, new research suggests that eating too little red meat doubles the chances of depression.
Australian researchers from Deakin University and Deakin’s Barwon Psychiatric Research Unit investigated the relationship between a diet of beef and lamb and anxiety and mental disorders. The study looked at the eating habits of over 1,000 women.
Explaining the reasons behind the study, professor Felice Jacka explained in a statement: “We had originally thought that red meat might not be good for mental health, as studies from other countries had found red meat consumption to be associated with physical health risks. But it turns out that it actually may be quite important.”
The study compared the results of women who ate the optimum amount of red meat to those who ate little red meat.
“When we looked at women consuming less than the recommended amount of red meat in our study, we found that they were twice as likely to have a diagnosed depressive or anxiety disorder as those consuming the recommended amount,” explained professor Jacka.
“Even when we took into account the overall healthiness of the women’s diets, as well as other factors such as their socioeconomic status, physical activity levels, smoking, weight and age, the relationship between low red meat intake and mental health remained.
“Interestingly, there was no relationship between other forms of protein, such as chicken, pork, fish or plant-based proteins, and mental health.”
However, the researchers cautioned that it is better to eat a moderate amount of red meat a week than to overindulge.
“We found that regularly eating more than the recommended amount of red meat was also related to increased depression and anxiety.
“We already know that the overall quality of your diet is important to mental health. But it seems that eating a moderate amount of lean red meat, which is roughly 3 to 4 small, palm-sized serves a week, may also be important,” professor Jacka added.
Researchers added that when choosing your red meat, you should opt for grass-fed animals whenever possible.
“We know that red meat in Australia is a healthy product as it contains high levels of nutrients, including the omega-3 fatty acids that are important to mental and physical health.
“This is because cattle and sheep in Australia are largely grass fed. In many other countries, the cattle are kept in feedlots and fed grains, rather than grass. This results in a much less healthy meat with more saturated fat and fewer healthy fats.”