With all thoughts turning to Easter festivities, there seem to be two constants on the food front. The first, of course, is the Easter egg – a lovely treat once a year and can even be marginally healthy if made with high cacao content dark chocolate which has health benefits from the anti-oxidants.
The other Easter stalwart is lamb…..recipes are popping up everywhere. This easy-peasy Nigella recipe for slow-cooked lamb with mint and pomegranate is one of our family favourites!
But how good is lamb for our health? Should it just be an occasional indulgence?
Well, there are a couple of things worth considering. The first is that red meat seems to be worse for our health than white meat or fish. In fact, it has been linked with various cancers – check out this world cancer research link which recommends limiting red meat to 500g a week. Some of the earlier research on the subject confused the issue as it included processed meats (such as ham and bacon) in the statistics. Now it seems that processed meat is definitely linked with an increased risk of some cancers and should be an occasional treat only. Fresh red meat like pork, lamb or beef is less of an issue but may still worth limiting until the research is a bit more clear.
The second factor worth considering is the quality of the meat. The classic spring image of lambs frolicking in the fields is not something we want to think about as we prepare the roast – but at least lambs are more likely to be reared on grass than factory-farmed, like chickens often are. Meat from grass-fed animals has lower fat levels, more vitamins and minerals and a better balance of omega 3 and omega 6 fats than meat from corn-fed animals…and that seems to be better for our health too.
What’s more, doctors are increasingly worried about antibiotic resistance – the fact that some bugs are no longer treatable with our standard antibiotics. These so-called superbugs are on the rise, partly due to our over-use of antibiotics for viruses or mild bacterial infection that don’t need them. But also, because of the increased use of antibiotics in rearing animals. They are then passed along the food chain. Organic rearing of livestock, as well as being more humane than intensive farming, doesn’t use antibiotics to boost production.
So, if you are going to feast on lamb this Easter, make it really good-quality meat. Yes, that comes at additional cost…but you are far better off having a smaller amount anyway for the reasons I have already mentioned. Choose quality over quantity and fill your plate instead with all the delicious spring veg that’s appearing (organic too, if you can). That helps you hit your 5-a-day target too!
Finish the meal with a nibble of your dark chocolate Easter egg and have a happy, healthy Easter!