Red meat's place in the Mediterranean diet

Written by Emily Parks

Written by Emily Parks

The Mediterranean diet is currently regarded by many people as one of the healthiest ways to eat. It symbolises a healthy pattern of eating consisting of fish, monounsaturated fats from olive oil, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes/nuts, and moderate alcohol consumption.

It is thought that a Mediterranean-style diet is more effective than a low-fat diet for heart health. Numerous studies have now shown that the diet can cause weight loss and help prevent heart attacks, strokes, type 2 diabetes and premature death. A key point of the Mediterranean diet is the high intakes of fish compared with other meats, such as red meat. It’s this key point that often receives the most attention.

In New Zealand, we currently eat red meat well within national and international guidelines and lean beef and lamb are an important part of the typical New Zealand diet.

Summer BBQ’s, quick beef stir-fry’s, and the kid’s favourite spag bol are what makes us so Kiwi – the best people in the world, right?!

Something often glazed over is the fact that it’s not the individual foods in the Mediterranean diet making it so beneficial to our health. Yes, nuts and oily fish are nutritious foods that offer benefits in their own right but more importantly, it is the overall pattern of eating that puts the Mediterranean diet above all others.

Simply following parts of the Mediterranean diet does not make up for the effects of an otherwise unhealthy diet or lifestyle. This means drizzling olive oil over your salad will not make up for the weekend junk food binge or daily muffin habit. 

Lean red meat contributes essential nutrients to the New Zealand diet and should be included in moderate portions a few times each week.

We can use the Mediterranean diet as our gold-standard example; plenty of vegetables and fruit, fibre-rich foods, olive oil as the chosen vegetable oil, and a variety of lean meats, fish, and alternatives. Because we live in New Zealand, we should aim for a healthy ‘New Zealand’ diet – and that includes lean beef and lamb which is regarded as the best in the world!

If all this talk is making you hungry check out our delicious and nutritious Sirloin Steak, Zucchini & Pearl Barley Salad.