Many people argue over whether red meat is actually beneficial to your health. While there certainly can be a few downsides to this meat, do the benefits outweigh the negative impacts that red meat can have on your health? Furthermore, what is the best way to include red meat in your diet? Read this article to find out more about the health impacts of red meat along with tips for enjoying this meat in a healthy way.
What Are Red Meats?
In general, red meats are any meats that are reddish in color when uncooked. For the most part, this consists of meat from mammals such as cows and sheep. However, the meat of some birds is considered red as well, such as duck and goose. Red meat gets its color from myoglobin, a protein which is helps the body utilize oxygen more efficiently in aerobic respiration. The higher concentration of myoglobin in red meat makes it distinguishable in color from white meat.
Benefits of Red Meat
Although many experts attempt to steer individuals away from eating red meat, this type of food does provide a few health benefits for the body that should not be overlooked. Those benefits include:
- Boosting the immune system through high levels of zinc.
- Providing a good source of iron that the body is better able to use than iron from other sources.
- Helping to lose weight when lean red meat is eaten on a high-protein diet.
- Providing a good source of complete proteins, which is essential for muscle and organ health.
- Helping to maintain nerve cells through high levels of B vitamins.
Unfortunately, red meat also comes with a few risks to your health. The reasons that doctors advise people to avoid or cut back on red meat include:
- Increasing the risk of bowel cancer. This is one of the key negative health effects noted by experts when explaining why red meat can be bad for you. However, this risk generally applies only for those who eat at least two servings of red meat each week.
- Raising cholesterol levels. Many cuts of red meat contain high amounts of cholesterol, which can certainly lead to negative health impacts over time. Most notably, excessive cholesterol in the body is linked to heart disease and heart attacks.
- Gaining weight. Although this appears to contradict one of the health benefits of red meat, it's important to note that certain cuts of this meat are high in saturated fat, which can lead to weight gain.
- Increasing the risk of osteoporosis. Some studies have found that excessive amounts of red meat may be linked to osteoporosis. That's because the acid byproduct required to digest the significant amount of protein in red meat can have a negative impact on bones and joints.
- Increasing the risk of breast cancer. One study has found that women who ate red meat every day had twice the risk of developing breast cancer. Although further evidence is needed to prove this link, this reputable study has caused many women to think twice about eating red meat regularly.
- Causing food poisoning. According to The Independent, about one in six cases of food poisoning are caused by red meat. Many people should be more cautious about preparing and eating this type of meat since it has a higher risk of causing this illness.
- Increasing the risk of Alzheimer's disease. This link to red meat is less straightforward than those previously mentioned, but still worth noting. Those that eat a diet that contains mostly plants and fish and hardly any red meat (also known as a Mediterranean diet) have a much lower risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. That has led many researchers to believe that eating too much red meat may increase the risk for this disease.
Tips for Eating Red Meat
Many of the negative effects caused by red meat have scared people away from eating it. However, because red meat does offer some great health benefits, you don't necessarily have to cut it out of your diet entirely. Instead, you can cut back on your intake of red meat, be more cautious about which cuts of meat you consume and prepare your meat in healthy ways.
First, try to make red meat only an occasional part of your diet rather than a daily habit. The recommended intake of red meat varies according to which source you look at, but the World Cancer Research Fund suggests limiting the amount of red meat you eat to no more than 17 ounces a week. Some sources have that weekly amount set even lower, so you may want to stick to just two or three small servings of red meat a week in order to protect your health.
Next, focus on which cuts of red meat you eat. Look for lean meat which contains very little fat. In general, processed meats will contain more fat and additives than fresh cuts of meat. You can also look for meats from animals which have been raised naturally rather than given growth hormones, which may increase the risk of cancer.
Finally, eat meat that has been prepared in a healthy fashion. According to The Independent, a rump steak which is grilled and has the fat trimmed off has 5.9 grams of fat with 2.5 grams of saturated fat. The same rump steak without the fat trimmed that is fried rather than grilled has 12.7 grams of fat with 4.9 grams of saturated fat. Making sure the cuts of red meat are as healthy as possible will reduce the risk for the negative health impacts associated with red meat.