As usual, the media has gone crazy with the latest “research study” about red meat saying that eating it is basically lethal. In a recent study published by the Archives of Internal Medicine called “Red Meat Consumption and Mortality,” researchers made the case that eating red meat is associated with increased risk of heart disease, cancer and total mortality. Their solution to avoid an earlier demise is to replace red meat with healthier foods like nuts, chicken and whole grains.
Their findings showed that a single daily serving of processed red meat was associated with a 20% increased risk of death while unprocessed red meat was associated with a 13% risk. So in turn, they made the conclusion that the lives of some of their study participants could have been saved if they’d only eating under ½ a serving per day. But this study is somewhat flawed and is in turn, scaring every person that hears about it!
Red Meat Study Insight
Before you carnivores start crying in a corner somewhere, let’s take a closer look at the study that spurred this latest mass media scare from “the researchers.” The type of study that was conducted was an “observational” one – that means it was not a controlled experiment. In an experiment, the participants have to alter something very specific they are doing in order to make it possible to determine cause and effect. In this case, the study was only observing the participants over time but without controls or manipulated variables – both which are necessary for confirmation a CAUSE.
If you’re looking for a reason not to eat red meat, I will give you some – but this is not it. This study that scared the nation was based on information gathered from over 120,000 women and men from the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study through a series of food frequency questionnaires that they filled out once every four years lifestyle and medical questionnaires they filled out every two years from the 1980s to 2006. (If you want to see this questionnaire, click here). Since most people would be embarrassed of sharing their true dietary habits (i.e. high-fat dairy product eating, processed foods, etc.), then I am pretty sure it is difficult to find a straight tying link between unprocessed meats and death without considering the inaccuracy of the participant’s answers.
This study basically says that eating processed meats like bacon, hot dogs, sausages, salami, bologna and others similar is pretty much the worst thing you could put into your body. It also implies that unprocessed red meat, including hamburger, beef, pork and lamb are less toxic – even those made from the ammonia-treated pink slime we’ve been hearing so much about lately. This study must make Mc “Unhealthy” Donalds and others alike leap for joy that they aren’t the Perpetrator of Death this time.
I urge you to be somewhat careful when it comes to taking studies reported in the mass media to heart. As is my view with commercials on television, look for what company or organization is behind the message or scary “news” story. Look a little deeper into these things and make an educated decision about what you choose to believe.
What the Reality Is:
Eating an overabundance of animal protein is unwise and unhealthy for you long-term. It is very difficult for most people to access clean sources of animal protein. Although it is very important to our diet, we have to keep in mind what else the meal contains and if the benefits are outweighed by the negatives that have been induced to the food source – it most certainly is not the animals fault. Ask an Italian villager about his cows in his backyard! My philosophy about nutrition is that it all comes back to the source and quality of the food, what time you eat it and of course, the quantity you consume. With red meat, this is no different!
How to Eat Red Meat the Healthy Way
I encourage you to avoid eating processed red meat at all costs. In an ideal dietary world, you’d only eat unprocessed, 100% grass-fed meats so you can be sure they aren’t treated with some crazy chemical that your body would have to try to digest. The next best choice is partially grass-fed meat you can buy at your local Whole Foods or places like that. If you live in a rural area and have access to a local farmer, look into options of buying direct from the farm!
For a healthy lifestyle, I recommend eating 100% grass-fed unprocessed red meat, 1-2 times per week in a 4-8oz portion. It is best to pair this meat with non-starchy veggies to keep your body more balanced and alkaline – literally, half of your plate should consist of them. There is a wide variety of non-starchy veggies to choose from such as asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, green beans, etc. Be creative!
You see, the old American standard of “meat and potatoes” is actually a really bad idea. The combination of a heavy protein like red meat and the starch of a potato is an even more acidic combination and therefore, harder for your body to break down and process the food efficiently.
You have a choice every time you eat – so be smart about what you put in your body. Again, when it comes to red meat, AVOID processed altogether. If you want meat, take the extra steps to be aware of where your unprocessed meat came from and go for the grass-fed.