Harvard Men's Health Watch

Meat or beans: What will you have? Part I: Meat

Ask a red-blooded, all-American guy what he wants for dinner, and he's likely to ask for a steak or roast. Ask for a second choice, and it might be a burger or chop. Keep asking, and you may eventually come up with chicken or fish. But despite persistent questioning, our average gent is not likely to request beans.

It doesn't have to be that way. Beans were a staple of the Native American diet, and they remain so in much of Latin America and elsewhere in the world. That may be part of the reason they're neglected in the United States. Because beans are inexpensive, they are stigmatized as a poor man's food. In our affluent society, important people debate meaty issues and wealthy folks live high off the hog. In contrast, ignorant people "don't know beans" and worthless things "don't amount to a hill of beans."

It's true that red meat is a good source of iron and protein, and that beans can trigger intestinal gas. But if we look behind the cultural stereotypes and nutritional sound bites, a very different picture emerges. When it comes to health, red meat is oversold and beans are undervalued.

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