Is red meat bad for you? All you need to know about red meat
Have you ever wondered what effects can eating red meat have on your health? There is still a lot of research conducted in this area, trying to answer a pressing question: Is red meat bad for you? Some studies have shown a possible link between red meat consumption and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and even certain types of cancer. Still, is it really necessary to give up this type of meat altogether?
What is red meat?
So, what falls under the red meat category, exactly?
Red meat is any meat from animals such as beef, lamb, or pork, named after its colour when raw. It is different from white meat, which generally comes from poultry such as chicken or turkey.
Red meat can also be found in supermarkets in the form of processed meat. Processed meat is red meat that is further processed through various methods, such as smoking or adding salt and preservatives. In this category we find sausages, salami or cold cuts.
Benefits of eating red meat
Red meat can have a positive effect on the body due to its high contents of protein, iron, vitamin B1 and zinc.
The protein in beef is considered complete protein, meaning it contains all the amino acids your body needs. Vitamin B12 is also an essential component for the proper functioning of your nervous system, while zinc is vital to your immune system.
How does eating red meat affect health?
On top of benefits, studies show that there are many downsides to a high red meat consumption. Here are some of them:
Red meat and cardiovascular diseases
Research shows a strong link between frequent red meat consumption and heart problems. A study in the United States showed that high red meat consumption (at least two servings a week) contributes to a 7% increase in the risk of cardiovascular disease and early death.
Another Oxford study revealed that the level of risk differs quite a lot between unprocessed and processed red meat. The results of the study showed an 18% increase in cardiovascular disease risk from eating processed meat. Compared to the previous findings on red meat in general, this percentage is worryingly high.
This means that the increased risk of cardiovascular disease could be due to the high amount of saturated fats and salt found in processed meat, and not just red meat in general. Eating a high amount of saturated fat leads to increased levels of LDL cholesterol or bad cholesterol in your blood. It blocks your blood vessels, leading to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Red meat and cancer
According to Cancer Research UK, processed meat is thought to be one of the leading causes of colon cancer, alongside alcohol and tobacco.
Unprocessed red meat could be a possible cause of cancer, although more quality studies are needed in the near future to better understand the link between the two.
Red meat and type 2 diabetes
There is even a link between red meat and type 2 diabetes. One study has shown that, when we increase the amount of red meat in our diet, the risk of type 2 diabetes increases as well. Replacing red meat with other sources of protein decreases this risk.
However, it is worth noting that, even in this study, researchers found major differences between the effects of processed and unprocessed meat on the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Red meat and environmental issues
Although the causes are not yet fully understood, there is a clear link between some types of red meat and an increased risk of health problems in later life.
However, the effects of red meat on your health don’t end there. The meat industry is currently the biggest cause of deforestation in the world, and one of the biggest producers of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the planet’s atmosphere. These are among the main causes of the environmental disasters and climate change issues we are facing in recent years. There is a clear need of a massive diet change, both for your own health but also the planet’s.
How can we eat red meat in a healthy way?
So, is red meat bad for you? The short answer is yes, red meat may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and even colon cancer. No need to panic, however – there are plenty of ways in which you can still eat red meat in a responsible and healthy way.
In addition, the risks associated with cardiovascular disease decrease considerably when red meat consumption is combined with a healthy diet and frequent exercise.
Most doctors advise you to keep the amount of red meat eaten below 70g per day. Here are some other easy ways in which you can keep red meat in your diet without too much stress:
- buy red meat that is low in fat (no more than 10%)
- cook meat in the oven or on the grill instead of frying it in a pan
- avoid eating processed meat altogether (sausages, bacon, salami, burgers, etc.)
- buy locally sourced red meat to reduce environmental impact
Alternatives to red meat in a healthy diet
When you give up red meat altogether, you’re also giving up a lot of nutrients that are beneficial to your body. It’s important to find healthy alternatives that can supply your body with all the nutrients you’re missing out on
The best alternative to eating red meat is the Mediterranean diet. This diet is based on very simple principles:
- limited consumption of red meat in favour of fish, chicken or plant-based protein (found in lentils, nuts or seeds)
- increased consumption of fruit and vegetables
- replacing saturated fats with healthy fats (e.g. replacing sunflower oil with olive or avocado oil)
Through the Dahna nutrition app, you can find out everything you need to know about the Mediterranean diet and how it can help you live a healthy life to the fullest. Make your heart your first priority, and download the free version today for nutritional menu ideas tailored to your body’s needs.