Who’s Right: Is Meat Good or Bad for You?

Fortified with vitamins or cause of cancer: Here's a lean lowdown on the latest studies to help you determine whether red meat is bad for you to eat.

By Chris Woolston from Reader's Digest Magazine | July/August 2012
Who’s Right: Is Meat Good or Bad for You?Andrew Scrivani/Getty Images

What You’ve Heard

Burgers, steaks, hot dogs—red meat is an American diet staple, but our carnivore cravings may be killing us. After tracking food choices of more than 121,000 adults for up to 28 years, Harvard researchers found that people who ate three ounces of red meat every day were about 13 percent more likely to die—often from heart disease or cancer—before the study ended than people who didn’t eat meat. And daily servings of processed meat such as bacon raised the risk of early death by 20 percent. Saturated fat and cholesterol are only the start of meat’s diet dangers. Overloads of iron can threaten the hearts of meat eaters; sodium and nitrates make processed meat even worse. It’s no wonder that many experts recommend reducing or eliminating red meat from your diet.

But Wait …

A 2012 report found that Americans who regularly eat lean beef get more protein, zinc, potassium, and B vitamins than people who don’t. And a 2010 report estimated that lean beef accounts for about 15 percent of the nation’s protein but only about 4 percent of total fat. “Lean meat is a healthy thing,” says Carol O’Neil, PhD, a coauthor of both reports and a professor of human nutrition and food at Louisiana State University.

So What Should You Do?

You can still fit a daily serving of red meat into a healthy diet. Choose lean cuts (see what the hosts of The Doctors TV suggest) and avoid processed meats (bacon, sausage, bologna—anything preserved with salt, curing, or chemicals). With fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to round things out, enjoying a steak isn’t a high-stakes gamble.

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  • Your Comments

    • rick

      Does the author not know that the meat industry sponsors studies and that these studies always result in meat consumption coming our favorably?

    • Neo

      I don’t believe one bit of it… Since cutting out meat (I still get some dairy and eggs every now and then) I have found myself in the best shape ever. I’m not tired after meals, I’m mentally alert and not drained like I felt before. And I necessarily don’t think meat is bad, but it’s like a drug, it’s only good when done in moderation. You think we eat meat in moderation these days? Heck no… It’s the staple of nearly every served meal in America. Just look at some of the top athletes in MMA and bodybuilding that are vegans. And you can get just as much health eating fruits and vegetables as you can meat, plus it digests so much easier. Meat takes a significant amount of energy just for the body to process. It is environmentally more hazardous and take one trip to any non-true organic farm and just take a look how what your food is made. I’m sorry, that was my turning point because they are mostly just flat our cruel in every sense of the way. If you want good meat cause you can’t stop (which is that same chemical in your brain as if you were on cocaine), take a look around for real organic farms (not just the ones that claim organic because they are sometimes just as bad and buy most their products from the bad meat companies themselves) and eat quality meat and in moderation. Meat really does contribute to a majority of health issues. Don’t base your FACTS on an article like this. Research yourself. Just look at the time during the world war when Hitler took all the livestock from Norway (or some similar country nearby) and look how when those people were FORCED to eating only vegetables, the people actually got less sick, had a significant drop in heart problems and much more. It was a true accidental experiment that everyone can learn from.

      • rick

        Great for Norway that Germany lost and left their country. Bad for Norway in that they eventually continued eating their old diet of meat and dairy with the resulting increase of heart disease and cancer.

        • Kyle

          And maybe they also picked back up their diet of refined sugar and white flour?!

    • Emma

      I don’t eat slaughtered loving beings, sorry world. I’m keeping my vegan diet.

      • The Denver Diamond

        I am a meat eater but I respect vegan diets when one does it well. No one wants you to apologize or change that:)

      • rick

        I would guess that the vast majority of people would not eat animals if they were aware of the treatment they receive in our factory farms. I occasionally wonder what it would be like to face a just God after a lifetime of participating in the factory farm phenomena by eating what they produce.

      • Bob

        Plants have been shown to have an intelligence as well. You should stop eating plants.

        • Moshe Gutierrez

          How about fishing your own fish in a beautiful lake, all humane and dandy?

    • veganguy

      If you have to eat it in moderation, it’s probably not good for you. Has anyone credible ever recommended that we eat our veggies and fruit in moderation?….J/s

      • The Denver Diamond

        Everything you eat has to be eaten in moderation……..

        • Tracy

          WRONG!!! Where you get your information? Drug abusers? You can eat as much vegetables and fruits as you want and not have any risk of side effects. Side effects of too much veggies and fruits in a vegan diet may include clear thinking, abundant energy, less risk of heart disease and other ailments, less doctor visits, cancer-free and excellent health. If there is any risk, it’s because of genetically modified foods such as Monsanto foods and/or pesticides. But least you can grow your own, but not if the govt has their way. People need to wake the f up on this subject.

          • The Denver Diamond

            Lets see you live on a diet of nothing but say…… Oranges and then come back to me on that one. Veggies there are lots of fruits and veggies and vegans are suppose to eat a variety not just one that is their favorite.

            • Informed Vegetarian

              Please show me where she said you can live on just one fruit or veggie. Idiot.

            • The Denver Diamond

              She was saying that I was wrong that things need to be eaten in moseration. I used that as an example to show why I was not wrong.

          • Youme

            If you take in too many calories than you can burn, be it vegetables, fruit, or anything else, it will be unhealthy. You will gain weight. You will become unfit and all the baggage that comes along with it.

            Eating needs to be done in moderation no matter what diet you choose.

            • Moshe Gutierrez

              Eat 1,000 vegetables in 1 day and trust me, you’ll end up in the hospital.

      • Moshe Gutierrez

        Eating too much can kill you.. You must eat in moderation, right? But according to your logic, since it can kill you one way, you shouldn’t eat anyway!

    • Kaitie

      All red meat is unhealthy. I have switched to just a fish and chicken diet. Saying beef has vitamins and is can do good for your body is a big lie. Modern medicine and doctors have proved the fact that meat can cause many diseases. I may even become a vegetarian, even though it would difficult to maintain the right amount of protein in my diet. I have a good friend who says since she’s become a vegetarian she feels much healthier and her doctor says she is. Her heart rate was increasing and she could have had a heart attack at the age of 27. Luckily, her doctor recommended to her a non-meat based diet. Now she’s healthier than ever! I’d love to live 10 more years, so I may follow in her footsteps.

      • rick

        It is easy to get enough protein in your diet even on a vegan diet, much less on a vegetarian diet. If you eat a reasonalbly varied diet of fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans and grains you will get all the protein your body needs. Although not necessary, if you want to get more protein, eat soy, quinoa, beans and nuts.

      • Captain Obvious

        Can you refer to any actual science to support your astoundingly broad claim that “all red meat is unhealthy” because I’d like to go read it?

    • Olivia

      That’s ridiculous to even consider meat being good for you! All of the nutrition in every sort of meat is contained in so many different types of foods. Don’t take the risks, and become a vegetarian! For you and for the animals. That way everyone is happy.

      • rick

        Knowing that the U.S.D.A. and the F.D.A. are corrupted by the meat, dairy and pharmaceutical industries, I am somewhat surprised at the number of people who know what science has clearly shown us over the last 20 years.
        If everyone understood what a whole foods plant based diet would do for our health, ecology and reduction of animal suffering, the world would change for the better.

      • veggiedude

        To recommend eating meat in moderation is like telling a drug abuser its okay to keep taking their poison, as long as it is in moderation. Actually, we do this all the time. How many adverts of alcohol have you seen asking you to drink in moderation? It’s absurd.

        • Kyle

          We have been eating wild meat for millions of years. Alcohol, like red wine, in moderation is actually healthy.

      • Captain Obvious

        It is ridiculous not to consider meat being good for you. Unless you have a very closed mind. Besides, meat is yummy. As for the ‘risks’ of eating meat, vegetables can be corrupted by poor farming practices too. Salmonella and other dangerous bacteria are spread by veggies as well as meat.

    • Minecraftpronvm

      yes it is

    • Jnuvoloni

      Ye sit is

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/PSRWOF5RIKQTPSNRSVX3AUYHKA Jon

      Why do all the Independent studies show meat increases risk of dying, yet industry funded always give a different result? I’m sick of lobbyists and advertisers being the driving force being public information.

      • rick

        A few years ago, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine sued the U.S.D.A for publication of the financial ties of the eleven person committee of the U.S.D.A. that is responsible for creating our food recommendations. Six of the eleven had ties to Dairy.

    • Bonerface2000

      @ Ijazzzz…

      Well, cows are actually herbivores and should not eat grains, they’re bad for them. In fact in order to remain alive on a grain diet they have to be pumped full of anti-biotics (also bad for them) otherwise they’ll die almost immediately.

      Second, grains aren’t exactly all that good for humans either, so we would be wise to do as cows do and eat leafy greens.

      Best to eat grass fed beef.

      • ShawnSzentmiklosy