Given that particular types of red meat have been associated with chronic diseases including cancer and heart disease, there are a variety of competing theories regarding the possible negative effects of red meat on health. But essential elements like zinc, vitamin B12, and protein are also present in red meat.

Crimson meat, which is often red when uncooked, is the meat of non-bird animals.

This article examines the research on the health consequences of red meat, discussing both the advantages and disadvantages of include it in your daily diet.

Types of red meat

It’s vital to make a distinction between various types of meat before talking about the health impacts of red meat.

Red meat is known as such because it is red when it is uncooked and comes from non-fowl mammals.

Red meats include beef, hog, lamb, venison, and wild boar. Because they turn white when cooked, chicken, turkey, and other meats from fowl (birds) are considered white meat.

Meat can be recognized from one type of meat from another by how it was grown and prepared. These are some crucial words to understand:

  • Conventional meat: Traditional meats come from animals that are typically maintained in “factories” or CAFOs, which are facilities where animals are confined and fed a diet of grains. Non-organic or grass-fed beef is probably conventional and comes from CAFO cows.

  • Grass-fed meat: This meat originates from cows who forage for food while grazing on grass. They don’t grow up in a CAFO.

  • Organic meat:  Meat must come from animals that receive 100% organic feed and forage, be kept in a way that allows for grazing and other natural activities, and bear the organic label. Additionally, they do not get hormones or antibiotics.

  • Processed meats: These products are typically from conventionally raised animals and go through various processing methods, such as curing or smoking. Examples include sausages, hot dogs, and bacon.

  • Unprocessed meats: Unprocessed meats are those that haven’t been severely processed, such as cured, smoked, or smoked. Since every meat is processed to some degree, however, the word “unprocessed” typically refers to meats that have undergone minimal processing, like ground beef or sirloin.

Is red meat nutritious?

Iron, vitamin B-12, and zinc are among the healthy components found in red meat.

The primary nutritional sources of vitamin B-12 are animal-based foods like meat and dairy. Because of this, individuals who consume a vegetarian or vegan diet may need to supplement their B-12 to avoid developing B-12 deficiency anemia.

The following ingredients are found in one 3.5-ounce (oz) or 100-gram (g) portion of raw ground beef, per the United States Department of Agriculture:

  • 247 calories

  • 19.07 g of fat

  • 17.44 g of protein

  • 1.97 milligrams (mg) of iron

  • 274 mg of potassium

  • 4.23 mg of zinc

  • 2.15 micrograms of vitamin B-12

A piece of meat’s nutritional value might vary depending on a variety of circumstances. For instance, the calorie and fat content of cuts from various animal sections varies. The nutritional value of the meat can also be influenced by the way the animal was grown, its food, age, and sex.

Some varieties of red meat are recommended as good sources of heme iron by the National Institutes of Health (NIH)Trusted Source. The only foods that contain heme iron are meat, poultry, and shellfish. Plants and meals enriched with iron, such as cereals and plant milks, contain nonheme iron.

The NIH state that heme iron is more bioavailableTrusted Source, which means that the body can use it more easily. Although many people get enough iron from their diets, the NIH say that certain people are at risk of iron deficiency, including:

  • infants

  • young children

  • people with heavy periods

  • pregnant women


How often should you eat red meat?

Dr. Hu advises those who are susceptible to heart failure or stroke to seriously restrict their consumption of red meat. The majority, if not all, red meat consumption should be avoided by people with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or a family history of cardiovascular disease.

A diet that prioritizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, chicken, fish, and nuts while limiting processed red meat and sugary drinks is advised by the American Heart Association. A recent study found that substituting plant-based sources of protein for some of the red meat Americans consume can lower the country’s heart disease incidence.

6- to 8-ounce amounts, once or twice per week, are advised for persons who want to include red meat in their diet. “Don’t fall for ‘the other white meat”s tricks. For dietary purposes, pork is likewise categorized as a red meat, according to Dr. Hu.

The type of meat is also crucial. Dr. Hu suggests hormone-free, organic, or free-range portions of lean meat that have not been processed. On the box, look for cuts that indicate “round,” “loin,” or “sirloin.”

“You don’t really know which part of the animal you are eating when you eat processed meat, which is heavy in nitrates and sodium.”


How does red meat affect health?

Despite extensive research on the health benefits of red meat, the majority of these studies are observational, which means they are intended to identify correlations but not causality (cause and effect).

Confounding variables, or elements that might be influencing the result variable but are not being studied, are common in observational research.

All of these variables must be taken into account in order to establish if red meat is a “cause” of any health consequence. When studying the studies and deciding whether or not you want to include red meat in your usual diet, it’s crucial to keep that limitation in mind.

Cancer and mortality

According to certain recent studies, consistently consuming red meat may raise your risk of developing cancer or passing away. However, the outcomes of particular studies can differ.

According to a 2015 study, processed meat is “carcinogenic to people,” while red meat is “probably carcinogenic to humans.” This is congruent with the categories listed under “Trusted Source” by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The paper specifically claims that persons who ate more red meat were more likely to acquire colon cancer based on multiple major studies. Both red meat and processed meat carried a higher risk, though processed meat appeared to have a higher risk.

The study also discovered a link between red meat consumption and an increased risk of pancreatic and prostate cancer. Finally, stomach cancer was more likely in people who consumed more processed meat.

According to the authors, procedures used to treat meat, such as smoking and curing, can produce chemicals that cause cancer. This may be the reason why studies have found that eating processed meat poses higher health hazards than eating unprocessed beef.


Heart disease and trimethylamine N-oxide

In addition to the controversy over saturated fats, several studies claim that eating red meat may also increase your risk of developing heart disease.

According to a recent study, those who regularly consume red meat had greater amounts of the metabolite trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO). TMAO is produced by gut bacteria as a result of digesting. It is a poison that scientists have connected to a higher chance of dying from heart disease.

According to this study, those who consumed red meat had TMAO levels that were three times higher than those who consumed white meat or plant-based proteins. However, 4 weeks after quitting red meat, their TMAO levels were back to normal.


Heart disease and saturated fat

Numerous studies have revealed that routinely consuming red meat may increase the chance of developing heart disease. For many years, doctors have held that the saturated fat in red meat is to blame for the association between eating it and heart disease.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), a reputable source, red meat often contains more saturated fat than other protein sources like chicken, fish, or lentils.

They contend that consuming a lot of saturated fat and any amount of trans fat can elevate cholesterol levels and raise one’s chance of developing heart disease. Therefore, they advise consumers to minimize their consumption of red meat and to choose for lean cuts of meat.

That being said, red meat is not the primary source of trans fats in the Western diet. Packaged, processed, and fried foods tend to contain the most.


How different cooking methods impact the health effects of red meat

Red meat’s impact on your health depends on how it is prepared. High-temperature cooking of meat can result in the formation of dangerous chemicals. These include advanced glycation end-products, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and heterocyclic amines (HCAs) (AGEs). Laboratory tests, according to the National Cancer Institute, indicate that these substances might modify DNA and encourage the growth of cancer. However, more study is required.

Here are some tips to minimize the formation of these substances when cooking red meat:

-Instead of grilling and frying, choose kinder cooking techniques like stewing and steaming.

-Avoid cooking meat at high temperatures, and keep it away from flames.

-Eat less food that has been smoked or burned. Cut away the charred fragments of burned meat.

-If you must cook your food at a high temperature, turn the meat over regularly to keep it from burning.

-Cook your meat in a marinade, such as one made with honey and herbs, before cooking. HCA formation may be reduced by marinating.


How much red meat is too much?

The recommended intake of red meat varies depending on the organization.

According to the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), eating red meat should be limited to three servings per week. This translates to roughly 12 to 18 ounces every week. They advise against consuming much, “if any,” processed meat.

They clarify that, while meat can be a valuable source of nutrients, people do not necessarily need to eat any type of meat to be healthy. People can actually get enough protein from a combination of pulses (legumes) and cereals (grains), according to this statement.

The AHA offers less specific advice when it comes to meatTrusted Source. They recommend limiting meat consumption to “once in a while,” lean cuts, and serving sizes of no more than 6 ounces.

However, not everyone concurs that red meat should be avoided or consumed in moderation.

An “overzealous focus” on restricting red meat, according to one article, can cause consumers to consume fewer nutrient-dense items like highly processed junk food. Additionally, this may not be a good trade-off because studies have associated highly processed meals with a number of health issues.


It is challenging to connect a specific food or food group to health issues. This is due to the fact that a variety of additional factors, such as genetics, environment, health history, stress levels, sleep quality, lifestyle, and additional nutritional components, may affect a person’s propensity to acquire a given ailment or disease.

However, there is mounting proof that consuming large amounts of red meat, particularly processed meat, may be unhealthy.

Major health groups advise eating more plants and less meat to prevent disease, including the AICR and the AHATrusted Source.

For this reason, people may choose to consume less red and processed meat and instead concentrate on foods like fruits and vegetables that are high in antioxidants and nutrients that can help prevent health issues.

It is crucial to keep in mind that red meat might affect insulin sensitivity, triglyceride levels, and general health when substituted for processed, poor-quality carbs.