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Is Eating Red Meat Bad for My Health?

Two strips of fried bacon.
Most red meat is high in cholesterol and fat.
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  • Written By: Page Coleman
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 11 July 2014
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Red meats, usually considered to be beef, pork, mutton, and lamb products, offer nutritional benefits, but eating red meat also raises some health concerns. Choosing lean cuts and cooking meat correctly may offset these concerns. Grass-fed may also be healthier for both the individual and the environment than grain-fed products.

There are numerous nutritional benefits of eating red meat. It is an excellent source of protein, supplies all the essential amino acids, as is more digestible than plant-based protein. Red meats are also a key source of vitamin B12, which is only available in animal products and is key for both red blood cell and nerve health.

Red meat is also a rich source of zinc, selenium, and iron. Zinc aids the immune system and can help with wound healing and shortening the course of diarrhea in some circumstances. Selenium is used in both the immune system and for thyroid function, and is also an antioxidant. Iron assists in transporting oxygen in the blood, and low levels of iron can lead to feeling tired.

Eating red meat, especially lean cuts, may also help people with weight management. It is a satiating food because it combines protein and fats. People who eat red meat may find they feel less hungry.

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Though red meat offers many nutritional benefits, health risks of red meat may include the risk of heart disease, breast, and colon cancer. It is usually best to avoid processed meats, such as sausages and bacon. These tend to contain large amount of salt and nitrites, which may impair health.

The method of cooking the meat may play a role in reducing health risks. It is generally recommended not to under or overcook red meat and to avoid grilling. Undercooked meat may contain parasites. Overcooked and grilled meats may contain carcinogens.

When considering red meat and health, another factor is whether the animals were grain or grass-fed. The meat from grass-fed animals has a more favorable ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 essential fatty acids. In addition to being healthier to eat, grass-fed animals frequently have a better quality of life. Grass feeding can be more environmentally sustainable as well.

Many governments suggest the amount of red meat they feel can safely be included in a healthy diet. The amount varies with between nations, but several portions a week are usually acceptable. Those who choose to include eating red meat may wish to choose leaner cuts of grass-fed animals and to trim off any visible fat before eating.

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Discuss this Article

summing
Post 4

Ok, stupid question, but is pork considered red meat when we are thinking about effects on the health? I know that pork can have a very high fat content depending on the cut

backdraft
Post 3

My mom always tell me that I am eating too much red meat but I don't know what she is talking about. I am a healthy weight, have no problems with my heart and live a healthy and active lifestyle. So what if I like to eat burgers?

chivebasil
Post 2

There are many benefits of not eating red meat. I had to stop eating red meat about ten years ago do to an early heart attack and I have never felt better. I lost weight, got my heart back in shape, and trained myself to start making the healthy lifestyle choices that will help me live to see my grand kids graduate high school. I don't want to blame all my problems on red meat, but this was an important factor for sure.

jonrss
Post 1

Eating red meat is not bad for your health but eating large quantities of red meat certainly is. I think this is an important distinction because many people think they need to give it up entirely in order to achieve a healthy lifestyle. The simple truth is that the occasional burger or steak is not going to kill you.

As I say, moderation is key. Try to treat red meat like a treat. As much as possible focus on eating lean meats, or better yet, no meat at all. However, the occasional indulgence is nothing to worry about.

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