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.

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Is red meat good for you?

What you’ve heard

Burgers, steaks, hot dogs — red meat is a North 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 those who ate three ounces of red meat every day were about 13 per cent more likely to die before the study ended — often from heart disease or cancer — than those who didn’t eat meat. And daily servings of processed meat such as bacon raised the risk of early death by 20 per cent. Saturated fat and cholesterol are only the start of meat’s diet dangers. Overloads of iron can threaten the hearts of meat eaters. Then there’s the sodium and nitrates in processed meat that make it even worse for you. 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 per cent of the nation’s protein but only about 4 per cent 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 meat into a healthy diet. Choose lean cuts and avoid processed meats (bacon, sausage, bologna—anything preserved with salt, curing, or chemicals). With fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to round out your eating, enjoying a steak isn’t a high-stakes gamble.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest