Red meat is essential in a balanced diet because it is a great source of protein, iron and other trace minerals. Meats such as beef, pork and lamb have a high nutrient density, which means that even a small portion already contains a wide variety of nutrients needed by the body. Red meat is an important source of B vitamins as well, such as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and vitamins B6 and B12, which cannot be naturally obtained from eating vegetables and fruits alone.
Aside from its nutritional value, red meat is a vital part of most people's diets simply because it tastes good. However, too much of anything is always bad. Over the years, nutritionists have gathered ample evidence about the potential health risks involved in consuming too much red meat. Below are some of the most significant health hazards brought about by eating too much red meat.
Relevant studies have shown that excessive red meat in the diet is one of the factors in developing heart disease and atherosclerosis, a condition in which fatty deposits build up along the walls of the arteries. This is because red meat is high in saturated animal fat, which is known to increase cholesterol levels in the blood. High blood cholesterol leads to plaque buildup and narrowing of the arterial walls, which increases the likelihood of a heart attack.
Red meat is also attributed to an increase in the risk of developing certain kinds of cancer, such as breast cancer, stomach cancer, bladder cancer, prostate cancer and colon cancer. Beef, pork and lamb contain molecules that produce carcinogens during the process of digestion. Even the common cooking process of red meat, such as grilling and roasting, can trigger the production of carcinogenic compounds.
Researchers believe that the high collagen content in red meat may provoke an inflammatory immune response in individuals, leading to the production of anti-collagen antibodies. This can lead to the development of rheumatoid arthritis. In fact, studies have revealed that eating lots of red meat may double the risk of acquiring this condition.
Some studies show that a high intake of red meat contributes to the development of high blood pressure. This is because red meat is a rich source of haem iron, a kind of iron which is easily absorbed by the body and is directly associated with elevated blood pressure. If left uncontrolled, hypertension can lead to stroke, kidney failure, heart failure or heart attack.
The Right Amount of Red Meat Consumption
Despite all the risks involved in eating too much red meat, it is also not recommended to eliminate it altogether, since it clearly has important nutritive values to an individual's diet. The call is to recognize the proper amount that should be consumed and to stick to the recommended portion sizes. Researchers encourage people to consume no more than 500 grams of red meat per week. It's all about proper portioning and moderation for red meat to factor positively in a person's diet.