You may associate red meat with a food that is off limits. Red meats, such as beef, pork, lamb, veal and mutton, have been discouraged because many cuts are high in cholesterol and saturated fat. However, red meat can have a place in a healthy diet as long as you are mindful of the type and portion size. Eye round roast and steak, round steak, sirloin tip roast and 95 percent ground meat all offer healthy options. You can also choose bison for lean red meat. Adding one or two servings of fresh or organic lean red meat to your weekly diet will supply your body with many vital nutrients.
A 3-oz. serving of red meat supplies about half the protein an average adult needs in a daily diet. The protein you get from red meat contains all the amino acids necessary to build muscle and repair tissue. Muscle mass is essential because it gives you the ability to be physically active, but it also produces enzymes and hormones that help prevent illness. Protein has also been linked to weight loss, since it satisfies hunger and keeps your satisfied for hours following your meal.
The Oregon State University's Linus Pauling Institute recommends women consume 18 milligrams (mg) of iron each day and men consume 8 mg. Lean red meat supplies a good amount of iron, depending on the cut of the meat, and contains a form of iron more easily absorbed than the iron in plant-based foods. Adding red meat to your diet one or two times a week can help you consume the amount of iron your body needs for your red blood cells to transport enough oxygen to all the other parts of your body. Iron deficiencies can contribute to learning problems, low energy and behavioral issues. A 3-oz. serving of lean ground beef supplies 2.4 mg, and a serving of lean pot roast supplies 2.6 mg.
Another benefit of adding lean red meat to your diet is that it supplies a good dose of zinc. You need zinc from foods because it helps build muscle mass, strengthens your immune system and helps promote a healthy brain. The average person needs 8-11 mg of zinc each day. A 3-oz. portion of lean ground beef contains 5.3 mg of zinc, and a serving of beef chuck supplies 7 mg.
Provides B Vitamins
Lean red meat is a natural source of many B vitamins. Eating foods that contain naturally occurring B vitamins is important because it helps promote a healthy body. Lean red meat contains B-12 for a healthy nervous system and B-6 for a strong immune system. Red meat also contains niacin, a B vitamin that support digestion, and riboflavin, another B vitamin that promotes healthy skin and eyes.
Although red meat has many health benefits, it is often high in cholesterol and saturated fat. When consuming red meat, be aware of how much you are consuming based on recommended serving sizes. One 3-oz. serving is about the size of the palm of your hand. Limit your consumption to three or less servings each week. You can also reduce fat intake by choosing ground meat with a lower fat content or trimming visible fat from cuts of meat before cooking.
Not all red meat is created equal. Some meat is processed with specific cooking techniques or chemical additives to preserve flavors. Frequent consumption of processed meat is associated with an increased risk of developing chronic disease such as diabetes, cancer and heart conditions. Bacon, deli meats, ham, hot dogs and sausages are some common examples of processed meat. These foods should be eaten rarely, or avoided altogether.
- Cattleman's Beef Board and National Cattleman's Beef Association: Don't Miss Out on the Benefits of Naturally Nutrient-Rich Lean Beef
- Cattleman's Beef Board and National Cattleman's Beef Association: Twenty-Nine Ways to Love Lean Beef
- Linus Pauling Institute: Iron
- U.S. Department of Health & Human Services: Serving and Portion Sizes: How Much Should I Eat?
- World Cancer Research Fund: Limit red and processed meat
- Journal of Internal Medicine: Potential health hazards of eating red meat