Red meat: Not so bad after all?

A lot of people I know have cut back on meat–specifically red meat–in an effort to make their diets healthier.  I think there are lots of good reasons to eat less meat. But regular readers of this blog will know that I’ve long been suspicious of this idea that “red” meat is any worse for you than “white” meat.

See also: Meat and mortality: What’s color got to do with it?

This idea that red meat is unhealthy is self-reinforcing. Because we’ve all convinced ourselves that this is true, studies which find a link between red meat and some sort of disease are much more likely to be published and get a lot more press than studies which find no such link.  Never mind that what we categorize as “red” and “white” makes absolutely no sense, either nutritionally or zoologically.

So I consider it my duty to point out that a recent meta-analysis published in the Nutrition Journal found no association between eating red meat and risk of prostate cancer.  And while I’m at it, I’ll remind you that a widely-cited report linking red meat and cancer risk was later found to contain significant errors and omissions. The authors later acknowledged that they had overstated the risks. Of course, the retraction got way less press than the error.

A more rational approach

If you want to make your diet healthier, I suggest a color-blind approach to meat. Don’t worry about whether it came from a cow or a chicken. Instead:

  • choose meat that is raised on healthy feed and without hormones or antibiotics
  • right-size portions: a 3 ounce serving is the size of a deck of cards
  • avoid fried or charred meats (See also: Tips for healthier cookouts)
  • avoid processed meats with added salt and/or nitrates
  • add lots of vegetables

Your thoughts?

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