Red Meat: Good or Bad?

by in Food News, Healthy Tips, March 24, 2009


The media loves telling us how bad red meat is (have you heard about the new study claiming red meat may cause an early death?). Meanwhile, dietitians say it can be part of a healthy diet. So what’s the real deal?

All That Cancer Talk
You can’t miss the negative buzz swirling around red meat. This week, the Washington Post had an interesting piece on how eating beef or pork increases your chances of dying early. This Los Angeles Times article from last year claimed “the news for red meat is getting worse and worse” when a December 2007 study linked red meat to an increased risk of various types of cancer.

In 2006, another study of more than 90,000 women tied breast cancer to eating the red stuff. In 2005, the American Cancer Society said eating red meat increased your chances for colon cancer — but they also said that there is a greater risk of getting cancer from being obese (and being a coach potato) than eating red meat.

Some scary stuff to say the least.

Other Noted Risks
Processed meats such as sausage, deli meat and hot dogs contain nitrites, which help preserve and prevent stuff like E. Coli from growing (did you think hot dogs were naturally that red?). These chemicals have also been linked to cancer risks. Good news is there are nitrite-free meats available.

Let’s not forget the possible problems from cooking at high temperatures, especially grilling over charcoal — that’s also linked to increased cancer chances. And you’re probably wondering if those “grass-fed” labels make a difference. Conventionally raised cattle tend to have a higher ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats, which research indicates can increase the risk for heart disease. Many folks are opting for grass-fed meats that have a more balanced ratio of the fats.

So What’s a Carnivore To Do?
By now, you’ll probably want to ban red meat from your shopping cart or tear your hair out! Not so fast. Do you see every meat eater in town running around with various types of cancers? I don’t. Yes, there is loads of evidence against eating red meat, but pinpointing the exact cause of the cancers is difficult and unknown at this time — and there are many factors to consider (especially what’s added to the meat or how the animal was raised).

If you want to eat meat, your best bet is to go lean and eat it in moderation. And beef isn’t the only red meat — don’t forget about lamb, veal and bison. Lean cuts of beef include tenderloin, top and eye rounds, sirloin and flank. Look for lamb shanks, sirloin or rack of lamb. If you rely on ground beef a lot, look for packages labeled 90% lean or higher. And be mindful of portions: no more than 4 ounces, which is about the size of a deck of cards.

It’s just as important to prepare — and pair — your meat with low-fat, wholesome ingredients.

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Comments (37)

  1. Harry says:

    I live in Finland and we haven´t good steak placies. But I would visit in Florida next year. I´ll gonna eat lots of good meat. Harri /

  2. Eugenia Vela says:

    When reading those articles such as the one from the New York Times quoted by Patricia:

    "In addition to the health benefits, a major reduction in the eating of red meat would probably have a host of other benefits to society, Popkin said: reducing water shortages and pollution, cutting energy consumption, and tamping down greenhouse gas emissions — all of which are associated with large-scale livestock production",
    you need to consider the fact that every article is written from the [usually] biased point of view of the journalist, most of the time with ulterior motives, hoping to convince people to get on their side. There are thousands of articles and studies out there that tell us about the bad, terrible, unhealthy effects of eating red meat. The truth is, EVERYTHING is bad for you if you do take it to the extreme- everything in moderation is fine. You also gotta remember that most of those studies are done about the ground beef used for fast food places' hamburgers. Red meat can be really good for you, you need the protein, and it is especially good if NOT eaten as a Big Mac, but a good steak every once in a while.

    In reference to Carol's comment saying her grandparents were carnivores and lived to be 92 years old- yeah, eating meat is a tradition as old as time. It seems that the more we learn about what we SHOULD eat, the less healthy food we eat. You just gotta remember that if you want to keep healthy it's all about a BALANCED diet, which means a little bit of everything- meat, vegetables, fruits, carbs, etc. AND exercise (for those interested to live longer).

  3. Melissa says:

    There are no warnings on the package because there is no concrete evidence that red meat is bad for you. Researchers simply identifed that a correlation exists between individuals who reportedly eat red meat and those who have cancer. The experimental design of such studies has many flaws. Correlation is not causation. There are way too many other extraneous factors which may be contributing to poor health. Maybe these individuals are also eating loads of processed snacks, fried food, artificial sweeteners or processed sugar along with their red meat. Native tribes have consumed animal flesh for as long as man has existed. The change is not in man's consumption of red meat but in the way it is produced and what is eaten along with it. I eat a diet consisting of fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, grass fed meat, wild caught fish and have never been healthier in my life.

  4. Gerald says:

    Ok! I admit it, the meat scare has scared me straight. In doing my own research I have found article upon article on how meat was bad for you and not just for meats sake. The processing of meat can be down right poisonous. Another if you are a person who believes in the green movement you will find that the raising of cattle takes a terrible toll on the earth resources (water, grain,ect). One more thing if meat causes a lot of illness (strain on resourses) and you have to take a pharmacuetical drug (a dangerous chemical that causes negative side effects) you are polluting the water when you eliminate and the water filtration cannot detect many drugs let alone filter them.

  5. Gerald says:

    It's not that the meat is so bad, but it's how we eat. Our famous claim to fame in our diet is meat and potatoes. Never, ever eat meat and potatoes together. It takes to different modes of digestion to break down meat and potatoes which cancel out each other, which leaves undigested food in the digestive tract to putrefy, and cause all kinds of problems

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