There’s no denying that red meat can be delicious, but some people believe it’s necessary to give up red meat to have a healthy diet and lifestyle. But the issue of whether you should eat red meat has become quite controversial, with many advocates both on the pro side and against it.
Red meat is one of the most controversial foods globally with nutrition and health. This guide will help you understand if giving up red meat entirely is right for you.
Beef, lamb, pork, and veal all fall under red meat. It is the most common type of meat consumed in Western countries because it can be raised on grassland or pasture at a low cost compared to other meats such as chicken or fish.
It is also relatively easy to raise and so a popular choice for small farmers. The World Health Organization classifies processed red meats as carcinogenic, which means they cause cancer, while fresh or unprocessed forms are not included in that list due to insufficient evidence of any link with cancer.
How much red meat should you eat?
The average adult in America eats about 4 1/2 servings of red meat per week. Some health experts say people should stop eating so much red meat because it increases their risk for heart disease and certain cancers; others argue that moderate amounts are fine and point to studies suggesting that people who eat beef may live longer than those who don’t.
So what’s a smart shopper to do? Here are some tips to help you make an informed decision before plunking down your money:
It all comes down to how often you eat it and how many ounces
While there aren’t any concrete recommendations, doctors generally agree that having less than two 6-ounce servings of lean beef, pork, lamb, or game (such as venison) per week is a safe bet if heart disease is your biggest concern. However, limiting yourself to four ounces a month could be even better for cancer prevention.
Read food labels carefully
If you see anything but beef or pork in front of an ingredient list’s first item (like beef tallow or pork fat), avoid buying it unless your package says specifically that it was raised organically and has no additives.
Always go with grass-fed meats when possible
Not only are they free from hormones and other drugs fed to conventionally raised animals, but they also have more conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which has been shown to reduce body fat while increasing muscle mass.
The top reasons people give up red meat include animal welfare, environmental sustainability, and health benefits. Although cutting back on red meat consumption can help you lose weight and reduce your risk of developing certain cancers, it may also have drawbacks.
Diseases Associated with Red Meat
Studies have linked red meat to several serious health problems in recent years. Here are a few that affect more than just your taste buds:
- Colon cancer: A large meta-analysis found that a 50-gram portion of processed red meat (3 ounces daily), was associated with an 18 percent higher risk for colon cancer.
- Coronary heart disease: An analysis of studies published in Circulation found that eating at least 100 grams of red meat per day (roughly three times more than average) raised your risk for coronary heart disease by 34 percent.
- Type 2 diabetes: A study published in Archives of Internal Medicine found that people who eat more red meat are at higher risk for type 2 diabetes. The researchers concluded that eating less than 12 ounces per week of red meat could lower your risk. One way you can lessen diabetes’ effects on your body is resistance training. According to a review published in Diabetes Care, just 30 minutes of weightlifting three times a week helped diabetics build muscle mass and even slightly lowered their blood sugar levels.
- Heart failure: Research suggests that a high-meat diet (one with 100 grams or more per day) may increase your risk for heart failure, according to a review published in Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care.
- Gout: Several studies have found that high intakes of red meat increase your risk for gout, a painful type of arthritis caused by uric acid buildup in joints. A study published in Nutrition & Metabolism found that cutting out red meat reduced participants’ blood levels of uric acid. You can also take gout maintenance supplements to ease your pain and lower symptoms.
Many factors can lead to your decision to give up red meat. The choice to give up red meat may depend on your goals, diet preferences, and personal ethics.
Since red meat is a common source of protein, it may be hard to give up eating it altogether. With some planning and research, you can develop a healthy diet plan that allows you to consume foods containing red meat in moderation. Your body will thank you for it!