Decoding the Truth About Red Meat

photo 1Another one of your friend’s gloats about her new Paleo diet, and you begin to wonder whether eating red meat is truly as detrimental as some people claim. Over the past decade or so, there has been a drastic transition in the American Western diet with red meat consumption decreasing. This is in response to the fact that many studies show limiting red meat consumption to twice per week can help protect against heart disease and certain cancers..  This does not mean, however, that you should never eat red meat. The recommendation is to limit, not eliminate! In fact, you can still eat a variety of red meats without keeling over at the dinner table.

Surprisingly enough, eating a three ounce portion of red meat twice a week is considered healthy. In moderation, a three ounce serving offers 25 grams of protein and is an excellent source of vitamin B6, B12, zinc and iron. Erase from your mind the stigma that red meat only causes cancer and adds inches to your waist. As a matter of fact, the fat content of beef has decreased by 44% over the last century. Moderation, purchasing the healthiest cuts, and using healthier cooking methods are the key to enjoying meat.

When purchasing red meat, The American Heart Association (AHA) advises lean cuts of beef (round, sirloin, chuck, loin) and choosing “choice” or “select” grade rather than “prime.” However, for special occasions, eating a “prime” steak is perfectly fine. Furthermore, for Taco Tuesdays, AHA suggests buying lean or extra lean ground beef that contains no more than 15% fat. Finally, when buying ham or pork, purchase the tenderloin or loin chop.

Once you’ve purchased the meats, you’ll obviously want to cook them! Thankfully, The American Cancer Society offers some cooking guidelines  that will leave your waistline and arteries happy. First, they encourage trimming all visible fat before cooking. This decreases your chances of developing certain cancers and limits excess weight. In terms of cooking, it is suggested to use low-fat cooking methods like roasting, baking, broiling, steaming and poaching.

While eating red meat in moderation isn’t the worst thing to eat,  just like many other animal proteins, eating too much can be harmful to yourself and the environment. Did you know it takes 53 gallons of water, 6.7 lbs. of grains and 74.5 square feet of land to make a quarter pound burger? This greatly increases the carbon footprint and truly wreaks havoc on the environment.  Moreover, eating red meat more than twice per week increases risk for certain types of cancers, obesity and heart disease. Ultimately, it is a personal choice and it is not necessary to ban red meat. Simply put, moderation is key.

The reality is, eating red meat can offer health benefits. A great source of protein with various vitamins and minerals, meat provides a scrumptious meal a couple times a week and can add variety. To make your steak dinner even healthier, spruce it up with vegetables like asparagus or broccoli and add quinoa or couscous for a healthy grain. Consider thinking of meat as the side and the vegetables as the main course for better portion control. Finally, stick to the guidelines about purchasing and cooking red meat.

Photo Credit: Jennifer Collins

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