Do you enjoy a succulent, juicy, and tender beef kabob? But is takeout not an option? Or is it still too cold to grill?
Now, there’s no reason to freak out when your local kabob or Middle Eastern restaurant is closed, because you can totally make kabob without a grill and on your stovetop!
In light of the Persian new year coming up, I’ve decided to devote another post to Persian cuisine. Today, we’re going to focus on kabob, one of the most popular and iconic foods in Persian cuisine. We’re also going to talk about saturated fat/red meat and why you don’t need to avoid it like the plague!
Why Saturated Fat and Red Meat Aren’t the Devil
For a long time, I used to have a love-hate relationship with kabob, specifically beef kabob. I loved the flavor and texture of this meat, but I was always afraid it was going to clog my arteries and put me at risk for colon cancer. But as I dug through the research and the literature, I realized there are some holes in the saturated fat and red meat guidelines that haven’t been totally explained.
First, let’s discuss saturated fat. Ever wonder how saturated fat became such a four-letter word in the diet and health community? Researchers in the 1950’s and 1960’s basically fudged data to fit their hypothesis, which is a big no-no in nutritional epidemiology.
Better yet, even with guidelines to restrict saturated fat consumption, Americans are now experienceing more heart attacks and heart disease than ever. If saturated fat consumption is basically the lowest it’s been in 40 years, what gives?
If saturated fat has been removed from the diet and statistics for heart disease are higher than they’ve ever been, clearly it’s not the saturated fat that’s the problem.
You’ve probably heard this before, but when food industries cracked down on fat in their products, they replaced that fat with refined sugars to make their products more palatable. In other words, it’s not the steak that’s giving you a heart attack. It’s that fat-free twinkie you’re eating. Refined sugars are what’s leading to more instances of heart attack, stroke, and diabetes. And most Americans don’t even know it.
So now that we’ve covered saturated fat, let’s talk a little about red meat. Technically, it’s the only study out there that links red meat consumption with colon cancer. For the study, researchers conducted what is called a correlational study. They compared how much meat was consumed in the United States each year and compared it with how many cases of colon cancer occurred each year. They noticed over the years that the more red meat was consumed, the more instances of colon cancer occurred. So from their data, we can conclude red meat causes colon cancer, right?
Not exactly. First off, let’s clear up the fact that no study ever proves an association between two variables. We’ll never be able to prove that smoking causes cancer or that french fries lead to heart disease—we can only suggest that there is a relationship. Second, while correlational studies might be super helpful in determining baseline information about the relationship between two entities (in this case, red meat consumption and colon cancer), they only show that as one number increases/decreases, another number increases/decreases. For instance, pollution rates could have increased in the same way that colon cancer rates increased. Car accidents could have also increased. The number of people that go to Virginia beach every year could have also increased. But does that mean car crashes contribute to colon cancer? Or that beachgoers contribute to colon cancer? Probably not.
The Takeaway: How to Eat Read Meat Healthfully
Does the debunking of these food myths mean you’re allowed to eat unlimited steak at The Outback or order an extra patty on your burger at Five Guy’s? Absolutely not. Red meat may not be the death trap we once thought it was, but this doesn’t give you license to eat it as your main source of protein for every single meal. A good and healthy diet is balanced, incorporates a variety of foods from all sorts of food groups, and doesn’t get too much of one food or too little of another.
When choosing red meat and other animal proteins, it’s important to go for quality. In my opinion, in a perfect world we’d all eat organic, grass-fed, and/or local meat and dairy. Why? Because when you consume animal products, you’re not just eating the animal—you’re also eating everything that animal ate. When it comes to grain-fed red meat vs. grass fed red meat, there could be a difference in the quality of product you’re consuming. The jury is still out about grass-fed meat being superior to grain-fed meat. But if you ask me, cows were meant and naturally designed to consume grass. Why then, are we feeding them corn?
But I digress. Anyways, the point today is not to get too carried away with red meat consumption. You don’t need to fear red meat, but no one is asking you to become a red meathead either! Follow the guidelines of balance, variety, and your own personal intuition and eat what works for your body! This may mean eating red meat three times per week, this may mean not eating meat at all. The choice is yours. All I ask is that you honor your body by feeding foods that nourish it and keep it healthy 🙂
Oh yeah, almost forgot. Today’s post! Cooking kabob on a stove top may sound like some ingenious food hack you read about on Buzzfeed. But Persians and other Middle Eastern cuisines have been doing this for what seems like forever! I’ll admit that you might not get that char-grilled flavor or traditional beef kabob, but it’s definitely a simple and delicious weeknight dinner with plenty of leftovers.