response to last weekís column on New Mexico green chile,
reader D.B. writes: "I enjoyed your recent article on my
favorite vegetable. However, your mistaken reference to
"chili is what they eat in Texas ó a dish made of meat,
beans, tomatoes and chile powder" is totally wrong. (I am
5th generation Texan). Itís not just ĎmeatíÖ turkey
nor chicken wonít do. Texans NEVER use beans nor tomatoes.
Seasonings vary, but are kept simple; never, but never,
so-called "chile powder."
for that. And so I am curious. What IS in Texas chili?
speaking of Texas, letís talk about red meat. Its definition
is a bit vague, according to licensed nutritionist Monica
Reinagel in a publication of the Academy of Nutrition and
Dietetics. Most dietary studies categorize beef, veal, pork
and lamb as "red meat." Simple enough.
really. Food scientists say red meat is red because it
contains myoglobin ó a protein in muscles that holds on to
oxygen and iron. However, the dark meat of chicken and turkey
ó known as "white meat" ó actually contain more
myoglobin than veal or pork. And to further complicate things,
dark-fleshed birds like emu and ostrich are sometimes
identified as "red meat," says Reinagel.
cares if a meat is "red" or not? Because some
research studies have associated the excess consumption of red
meat (especially processed meats such as bacon and hot dogs)
with an increased risk for certain diseases, including heart
disease and cancer. Other studies have found no increased
disease risk and even benefits with the consumption of red
herein lies the confusion Ö and the controversy.
"Observational studies can detect a correlation between
dietary patterns and health outcomes, but they cannot prove
causation," states Reinagel. Think of it this way: I may
observe a higher number of overweight people walking at the
mall. That does not prove that I will become overweight if I
walk at the mall. Other factors are obviously involved.
why excess red meat might not be good for our health abound.
Maybe itís due to too much saturated fat and cholesterol,
which increases the risk for heart disease. Perhaps too much
iron. Or maybe itís how we cook our meat. Any meat ó red
or white ó that is char-broiled at high temperatures can
release potentially cancer-causing compounds.
other hand, recent clinical studies ó meaning they were
actually tested on real people ó have found that eating 3 to
4 ounces (moderate amounts) of lean beef each day helped
enhance muscle development and strength in adults. Other
recent studies found that moderate amounts of lean red meat
could be reasonable additions to a heart-healthy diet. And donít
forget that red meat is a nutrient-dense food ó rich in
protein, essential minerals, and B-vitamins.
my Texas friend is correct. Itís not just meat. And perhaps
the "redness" of a meat matters less than the
context of how much and how often I eat it. For instance, a
(3-ounce) portion of pork tenderloin with fresh vegetables may
affect my health much differently than two double-bacon
burgers with cheese fries.
you color it, we still have choices. Letís see where the
evidence takes us.