Is red meat bad for you or not?

Is red meat bad for you or not?
Is red meat bad for you or not?

In 2019, an international study came under scrutiny for suggesting that reducing how much red and processed meat you eat might not have the obvious health benefits that has long been thought.

But researchers from a 2020 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association again found that eating red meat does increase your risk of cardiovascular disease.

What are the facts?

Dr. Mahesh Raju, cardiologist at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital, identifies three things you should know about eating red and processed meats.

Eating red meat, processed meat or poultry increases risk of heart disease

“With the exception of fish, a high intake of red and processed meats and poultry is linked with higher risk for heart disease,” says Dr. Raju. “This means eating two or more servings a week of processed or unprocessed meat or poultry – which is high in fat and cholesterol – can lead to heart disease.”

The American Heart Association recommends a serving size of meat to be 3 ounces (roughly a deck of cards).

What is processed and unprocessed meat?

“Processed meat is in some way preserved,” says Dr. Raju. “This also includes flavoring through salting, curing, fermenting and smoking.”

An example of foods that are processed include:

  • Ham
  • Sausage
  • Hot dogs
  • Deli meats

Eating processed meats also increases your chances of colorectal cancer because of the chemicals used to preserve the meat.

Prioritize fruits and vegetables.

To reduce your risk of heart attack, eat fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds while limiting most meat, says Dr. Raju.

For healthier protein options, choose chicken or turkey breast that is baked, grilled or roasted and never smoked. Fish baked or grilled is a great option along with plant proteins like beans, legumes and soy.

In addition to limiting your intake of red meat, fried foods and sugar-sweetened beverages should also be restricted.

Know your risk of heart disease and stay proactive by taking a free heart health quiz.

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