You may have concerns over how the consumption of red meat affects your health, and your concerns are not unfounded. A 2007 study in “PLoS Medicine,” a journal published by the Public Library of Science, found that meat consumption was associated with a 24 percent increased risk of colorectal cancer. However, new research is emerging which suggests that the risk is more in the type of red meat you consume, and the lack of red meat in your diet can bring its own health consequences.
You may find that eliminating your consumption of red meats puts you at risk for vitamin deficiencies, especially if you are a vegetarian. Dietary vitamin B12 is found primarily in animal sources such as red meat, poultry and eggs. This vitamin is essential for red blood cell formation and a healthy metabolism. If you don’t get adequate amounts, you may fatigue easily and develop anemia, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements from the National Institutes of Health.
Another diet concern involves protein intake. Not all proteins are created equal. Animal proteins like red meat are considered complete proteins which contain all of the essential amino acids, explains the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Plant sources do contain protein, but you will need to eat a variety of foods in order to make sure you are getting all of the building blocks of protein. An adult woman requires 46 g of protein each day.
The effects of a no red meat diet may result from the consequences of nutritional deficiencies. You may experience weight loss or muscle wasting if your diet does not contain enough protein. While reducing fat in your diet can be healthy, you still need to consume no less than 20 percent of your calories from healthy fat sources such as lean red meat. Otherwise, you may increase your risk of other dietary deficiencies such as vitamin E, warns the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
One concern some people may have with red meat consumption is its effects on health risk factors. A 2010 study published in the journal “Circulation” found that red meat consumption did not increase the risk of developing coronary heart disease or diabetes mellitus. Rather it was the consumption of processed meats which showed a higher incidence of these health conditions. If you’ve given up meat for health reasons, you may be depriving yourself of a highly nutritious food.
To gain the health benefit of red meat consumption, you can simply limit your intake of red meat to just a few times a month. You can also choose lean sources rather than full-fat red meats. Switching from regular ground beef to extra lean will reduce your fat intake by over one-half, explains the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. If you choose to give up red meat, you will need to make other dietary changes in order to avoid the consequences of nutritional deficiencies, such as including other protein sources like tofu, beans and nuts.
- PubMed Central: Meat Consumption and Cancer Risk
- “Circulation”; Red and Processed Meat Consumption and Risk of Incident Coronary Heart Disease, Stroke, and Diabetes Mellitus; R. Micha, RD, PhD et al; May 2010
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Vitamin B12
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Protein
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005: Chapter 6