To come out and say that one should eliminate all red meat from their diet might sound rash; a part of some great overly zealous vegetarian (down with the man, up with the green juice, etc…). However, any and all ulterior motives aside, red meat is not good for you and that’s phrasing it nicely.
A study from Harvard published in the Archives of Internal Medicine (2012) found that red meat is associated with an increased risk of Cardiovascular Disease and cancer related deaths. The study also found that switching to other healthy protein options helps lower CVD and cancer risks (fish by 7%, poultry 14%, nuts 19%, legumes 10%, low-fat dairy products 10% and whole grains by 14%). Based on the research it was estimated that 9.3% of deaths in men and 7.6% in women could have been prevented if all the participants had consumed less than 0.5 servings per day of red meat.
A serving size of red meat is considered to be about 3oz, which would make half a serving size 1.5 oz. Not sure what 3oz of red meat looks like? It’s about the size of your standard deck of playing cards. So if you are trying to eat heart (and body) healthy – I hope you have the appetite of Tiny Tim – otherwise 1.5oz of red meat might not cut it for you. However, many dietitians recommend for optimal health that you try and eat no more than 4oz of red meat per week. It should also be noted that the type of red meat you eat also plays a role in your risk. A daily, 3oz serving of unprocessed red meat was associated with a 13% increased risk of mortality, while a daily serving of processed red meat (one hot dog or two slices of bacon) was as associated with a 20% increased risk of mortality.
Part of the reason red meat is so detrimental is because it contains large amounts of saturated fats and cholesterol. Lean red meat does contain a lot less cholesterol and saturated fats than red meat however, it has cancer causing compounds that form when cooked at high temperatures. And of course don’t forget your processed meats (hot dogs anyone?) which are chock full of nitrates, saturated fats, cholesterol and sodium. 6 slices of bacon a day (9 oz) can increase your mortality rate by 60%. This is why the American Institute of Cancer Research suggests not eating processed meat at all.
While red meat isn’t good for anyone, especially those with hypertension, high cholesterol, heart disease, or a family history of any or all of those problems, red meat is also bad for those with chronic inflammation and women with pelvic problems such as endometriosis. A study conducted in Milan published in the Journal of Human Reproduction (2004) found that women who ate red meat on a daily basis were 80 -100 times more likely to have endometriosis.
Red meat contains prostaglandins, as do our bodies. Prostaglandins are hormone messengers that relay pain messages. There are good prostaglandins and bad ones. The bad ones rely hormone signals which lead to inflammation, blood clotting, fever and pain. Despite the ‘bad’ connotation these are necessary because they alert our bodies to problems. If you had a serious infection without a fever, you might not know and then you wouldn’t be able to treat it. For women with endometriosis excess prostaglandins are bad because they can attribute to more pain and inflammation. Red meat contains these prostaglandins and is believed to therefore increase pelvic inflammation and pain.
This spring clean out your internal closet and make a resolution to treat your body better. The best way to stay healthy is to make healthy choices in your every day life and there is no easier way to do that, than by making smart decisions about the food you eat.
Jordan Davidson is a Freelance Health and Nutrition Writer based out of New York City. She is also the proud parent of a new blog Hersterical – Healthy Living for the Less Healthy. You can contact her with any inquiries at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow her on twitter at: @JA_Davids.