How Much Red Meat Should We Eat to Be Healthy ?

What is red meat?

Beef, veal, pork and lamb.

Does eating red meat causes cancer and cardiovascular disease?

For cardiovascular disease, the answer is obvious. Some red meats are high in saturated fats, which raise blood cholesterol levels. High levels of bad cholesterol increase the chances of cardiovascular disease.

With regards to cancer and other causes of death Dr. Walter Willett, chair of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, found that the quantity of meat is directly associated to an increased chance of premature death. The study was published after following over 100,000 people for 20 years.

“We looked at total mortality. And it wasn’t too surprising that we did see a linear, step-wise increase in risk of dying prematurely with higher red meat consumption. We went another step, and we compared one serving of red meat to other major protein sources, like poultry and fish and legumes. In every instance there was an advantage to consuming something else instead of red meat.”

What are the benefits of consuming red meat?

  • Red meat has lots of iron, something many women lack. The body assimilates heme iron quickly. (Green leafy vegetables or legumes are excellent sources of Iron, to improve iron absorption eat them together with fruits rich in vitamin C)
  • Red meat supplies vit. B12, which will help make DNA and maintain nerve and red blood cells healthy. (Fish is a good source of vitamin B12 too)
  • Red meat supplies proteins, which will help build muscle mass. (What are good sources of proteins?)

How much red meat should you eat?

Bear in mind that experts suggest people shouldn’t eat more red or processed meat than approximately 2.5oz (70g) per day, which is about 17oz (500g) per week.

500 (gr). per week means:

  • 1 x 8 oz (227g) steak
  • 1 x 4 oz (113g) pork chop
  • 2 x pork sausages 1.7oz (50g) each = 3.5oz (100g)
  • 1 x portion Bolognese sauce = containing 2.1oz (60g) of beef

In my experience it’s too much. Mediterraneans eat red meat 2-3 times a month e.g. holidays, special events or use meat to flavor recipes.

When portioning your meal evaluate your plate to see if red meat is crowding out foods like fresh fruits, greens, and whole grains. There’s no need to give up red meat. You need to make smarter choices in the variety of meat you consume and the servings.

It is best to avoid all processed meats, like sausages, deli meats, ham, bacon, and hotdogs and focus on lean cuts e.g. If you’re planning on eating a burger for dinner, it needs to be a 3 oz . burger patty, about the size of a typical McDonald’s hamburger. (Frozen hamburger patties may have 50% fat; read their nutritional facts first.)

To find the best cuts, try to get those with the term “loin”: Sirloin tip steak, pork tenderloin, top sirloin, lamb loin chops.

What about grass-fed beef?

Grass-fed beef is leaner. Grass-fed beef also has more omega-3 essential fatty acids. However, the total amount of omega-3s in both types of beef is lower than fish or seeds.

What’s the best way to cook red meat?

High temperature cooking of red meat can produce substances that may increase cancer risk. They’re known as heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).

  • When grilling, cook over medium or indirect heat.
  • Limit frying and broiling.
  • Turn meat frequently. Don’t press hamburgers with a spatula to release juices.
  • Trim fat from meat before cooking.

How to reduce red meat in the diet without feeling deprived?

You could eat fish (e.g. grilled salmon), make some bean patties, veggie burgers, Italian sausage, tuna salad, or make some sandwiches with tuna, chicken or turkey.


“Red Meat Consumption and Mortality,” An Pan, Qi Sun, Adam M. Bernstein, Matthias B. Schulze, JoAnn E. Manson, Meir J. Stampfer, Walter C. Willett, Frank B. Hu, Archives of Internal Medicine, online March 12, 2012 (News Source)