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

    • cant tllya

      oh why thank cow chips

    • canttellya

      maeat is so good!!!!!!

    • cant tllya

      you smell like the stuuf that comes from my bum

    • cant tllya

      Hey cattellya

    • canttellya

      hi people

    • cant tllya

      You smell like poo

    • Robin

      I eat a lot of lean meats like chicken every week and red meats about 2, maybe 3, times a month. Red meats are part of my diet more in the summer months than any other time during the year. Particularly during parties or while camping. And it’s mostly hot dogs because they’re easy to heat up over the open flames of a camp fire.

    • alimbo

      stopped reading after first sentence – beef and hot dogs are called red meat. thumb down

    • Billy Martin

      Where do veggies come into play for someone with less than 10 percent bodyfat and high metabolism? I have to eat around 10 ounces of meat per day or I get lethargic and unresponsive, I’ve tried eating more veggies than meat and even eaten just veggies for a few days I ended up face down on the floor at home from what my doctor said was malnutrition. I know the average person should eat more veggies but some people (like me) can’t, I don’t have any deficiencies my body just uses a lot of energy I consume an average of 8000 calories per day just so that I can do my daily activities. I am not anti veggies I am anti rufage I eat: spinach, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, onion, peppers (spicy and non spicy), cucumber, oranges, lemons, pamagranits, grapefruit, beef (alfalfa fed), chicken, tuna(not so good from possible mercury), tilapia, swai, and white breads. These are different from day to day and not every day for every one of them, I don’t eat citrus every day for dental reasons I don’t eat fish every day due to possibly consuming mercury in high quantities. I don’t eat refuse veggies such as lettuce, corn and other plants that have no nutritional value and I don’t use supplements because I like having liver function. I don’t like my food to have no nutritional value because I myself like living and living healthy, plus supplements contain chemicals that are fillers that are processed through the liver and having to process the toxic fillers damages the liver that’s why I don’t take any pills or supplement.

    • Amanda

      Blah Blah Blah. Who supported these studies? Foster Farms? YES, beef can be a good way to get protein. Has anyone ever heard of legumes? Edamame beans have as much protein as steak with absolutely NO risk of any cardiovascular diseases or cholesterol problems, and so do most legumes. People are just turned off by the whole idea because its a DRASTIC change in their lifestyle. “But what will I eat if I’m not eating meat?” People dont even know where to begin when they think of cooking a dinner WITHOUT meat. Americans go through life with blinders over their eyes and dont ever change. Were not cavemen. Time to EVOLVE.

      • Amanda

        And seriously the healthiest people out their are vegetarians or vegans. Or people that rarely eat meat. Look at the average american. They consume meat most often at every meal. And are they the picture of health? Nope. I’m vegetarian and most often vegan and I am a so healthy. I’m lean. I am right in my weight class for my height. How many meat&dairy eaters can say that? Not a very large percent.