Hey Angels and Alphas,
The nutrition world is full of meat lovers, and summer is a season famous for its hamburgers, hot dogs, exotic cuts like bison, and more treats for them to enjoy.
But nobody can deny there’s also a darker side to the diet of a carnivore.
Excess consumption of red meat has been directly linked to an increased risk of heart disease, cancer, Type 2 diabetes, and more dangerous health problems. There’s specifically a lot of strong evidence that eating excess amounts of red meat such as pork and beef, as well as processed meats such as bacon and sausage, has been associated with a higher risk of certain cancers including colorectal cancer.
So let’s talk about how much red meat is considered too much, how much you should actually be consuming every week, and how to make small changes in your cooking game so you’re actually making the most out of your red meat meals.
Why exactly is red meat bad for you?
Red meat is especially high in saturated fat which increases your “bad” cholesterol (LDL) levels and your risk of heart problems. Furthermore, most smoked and cured meats go through a preservation process that leads to the formation of cancer-promoting compounds. Not to mention, red meats are high in sodium, which is, in its own right, a trigger for high blood pressure.
While it’s true that protein, iron, and vitamin B12 are some of the most vital building blocks for red blood cells and muscle cells, it’s not like meat has a monopoly on these nutrients. They can also be found in foods that don’t have the same negative health consequences, such as eggs, nuts, fish, and chicken.
There are definite health risks that come along with eating red meat… but you don’t have to give it up entirely if you don’t want to. You can learn to enjoy it in moderation.
So how much red meat can you really consume?
You should be eating no more than 3 portions of about 5-6 ounces a week, a total of about 18 ounces. This is the general recommendation provided by the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR.)
This allows you to find a balance between taking in the necessary nutrients you need and limiting your consumption of potential carcinogens. While there is a safe amount of red meat you can consume, processed meat should be limited as much as possible.
Here are 4 cooking and nutrition tips you can use to make red meat (a little) healthier:
- OPT FOR LEANER CUTS
Always try to find a cut that visibly has lower amounts of saturated fat. You can also look out for keywords on the labels such as “loin” or “round” which are usually lower in fat when you compare them to “prime” cuts.
- TRIM THE FAT YOURSELF
As you’re prepping your cuts for the grill, always make sure to trim off any visible fat. After that, just pour off all the melted fat when the cut is done being cooked.
- ADD DIVERSITY TO YOUR PLATE
Instead of trying to make red meat the main meal on your plate, try to expand your plate with chicken, salmon, veggies, and more. It’s a great idea to focus on fresh seasonal produce and shift your mindset from planning your side dishes around meat to planning your dishes around plant-based plates with an abundance of fruits, veggies, beans, and whole grains. To do this right, try bringing out recipes that are full of flavor and use your favorite produce, be it sweet potatoes, tomatoes, lettuce, or another veggie.
- AVOID CHAR AND SMOKE
When you’re cooking red meat, especially at high heat, it naturally produces chemicals known as heterocyclic amines (also known as HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (also known as PAHs.) These compounds could potentially trigger changes in DNA that increase your risk of certain cancers. It’s widely accepted that smoked meats and well-done meats contain higher levels of these compounds. Because of this, it might be a good idea for you to avoid overcooking meats so you can skip all the smoke and minimize charring.
Putting it all together…
Red meat can definitely contribute valuable nutrients to your diet, but the more red meat you consume, the higher your risk of complex health problems.
To lower your risk of type 2 diabetes, heart problems, and cancer, which are often associated with a high intake of red meat, you should limit your intake of processed meats as much as possible and fill your plate with healthier foods such as fresh fruits, veggies, as well as other rich protein sources, such as chicken, fish, beans and lentils, nuts, and more.