Red meat, namely beef, pork, and veal, is one of the most common types of protein sources in the Western diet. Unfortunately, it’s a bit problematic when it comes to your health. A mountain of studies have been done on its effects on long-term health, and the results are most often negative. That said, it’s delicious and a staple in the diets of many. Rather than needlessly try to banish all red meat forever, it’s better to keep it around and eat it in healthy moderation. So just how much is the right amount?
A minor tangent on pork
Yes, pork is red meat when it comes to your diet. While a famous ad campaign may say otherwise, those commercials neglect to mention that there are actually two types of definitions for meat type: culinary and scientific. In culinary circles, i.e., chefs, pork is considered white meat. In terms of nutritional science, i.e., the one that matters when it comes to your health, it is most definitely red meat.
One week’s worth of red meat
If you eat meat, then white meat should be your primary source. White meat in this case includes chicken, turkey and other poultry as well as fish. Eating fish frequently is a great idea and Olumia Life highly recommends it.
When it comes to red meat, it’s best to keep it at or below about 30% of your meat intake for the week. That means 70% of your meat intake should be chicken, fish, etc.
Also, it’s worth pointing out that this is your meat intake, not your protein intake. You can get protein from all sorts of places beyond meat, like milk and yogurt, eggs, nuts, beans, quinoa, and many more. In fact, maintaining a variety of foods in your diet is the best way to stay engaged and enjoy eating healthy.
The problems with red meat
The foremost issue with a red meat-heavy diet that most people think of is cardiovascular problems, like an increased risk of heart attacks and heart disease. This thought came primarily from the abundance of saturated fat in red meat. Saturated fat, which had been labelled something of a bogey-man in recent years, can actually be part of a healthy diet.
When it comes to an increased risk of cardiovascular problems, the primary culprit is processed red meat, like bacon, sausages and hot dogs. Unprocessed red meat, like ribs and steaks, has been found to be a far lower risk. In general, you should avoid processed meats altogether, unless your Cheat Half-Day coincides with your next trip to the ballpark and a hot dog becomes part of the fun.
Rather than heart trouble, the reason to avoid red meat to an extent is related to cancer risk. Anything that can cause cancer is labelled a carcinogen. One massive study by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (a part of the World Health Organization), concluded that processed meats are a carcinogen and red meat is “probably” a carcinogen. These are pretty strong conclusions, as the study was based on an analysis of the results of 800 previous studies.
So it is likely that excessive red meat causes cancer. This includes colon cancer, but red meat has also been linked to prostate and pancreatic cancer as well.
The next step
There are ways to help reduce the risk of red meat and still enjoy some every so often. (Remember, it should only be about 30% of your total weekly meat intake!) When you do decide to eat some red meat, here are some tips.
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