By Elisa Zied, R.D.
A new study from researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health suggests consuming a higher amount of red meat can increase death risk from all causes and from cardiovascular disease and cancer.
This study adds to a growing body of research that suggests red meat consumption may be associated with health risks. It’s particularly significant because it’s long-term and includes so many people – 120,000 men and women. Yet if you eat meat daily, don’t panic. Simply reduce your daily red meat consumption while increasing the amount of fish and beans you eat. That’s the kind of protein and nutrients – omega-3 fatty acids and fiber -- we’re not getting enough of.
This kind of swap could save calories by reducing total fat and saturated fat intake. That’s not only protective for our health, it can be good news to our waistlines.
Compared to non-meat eaters, subjects who ate only a half-serving (about 1.5 ounces) of red meat daily had a 6 percent increased risk of death. And the more meat that was consumed, the more the risk increased.
But if the participants replaced one daily serving (3 ounces) of red meat with one serving of fish, poultry, nuts, legumes, low-fat dairy products, or whole grains, they had a lower risk of death, heart disease or cancer.
If you enjoy meat, you don’t need to give it up. There are way you can enjoy its nutritional perks -- high-quality protein, selenium, zinc, B vitamins -- while minimizing potential health risks.
Opt for lean meats such as round steaks and roasts (eye of round, top round, bottom round, and round tip), top loin or sirloin, and chuck shoulder and arm roasts. Lean pork options include pork loin, tenderloin, center loin and ham.
Emphasize unprocessed meats (including beef, pork and lamb) over processed meats (including hot dogs, salami, bologna or sausage).
Instead of frying meats (high cooking temperatures can create cancer-causing compounds), broil, boil, bake, grill, steam or lightly sauté them.
Aim for five to six 1-ounce equivalents each day of a variety of protein foods -- the current recommendation for most adults.
A one ounce-equivalent of protein equals:
- 1-ounce cooked lean beef, pork or ham; 1-ounce cooked chicken or turkey (skinless)
- 1 egg
- 1-ounce fish or seafood
- ½ ounce nuts (12 almonds, 24 pistachios, 7 walnut halves)
- ½ ounce seeds (pumpkin, sunflower or squash seeds, hulled, roasted)
- 1 Tablespoon peanut butter or almond butter
- ¼ cup cooked beans (such as black, kidney, pinto, or white beans) or peas (such as chickpeas, cowpeas, lentils, or split peas)
- ¼ cup baked or refried beans
- ¼ cup (about 2 ounces) tofu
- 1 ounce cooked tempeh
- ¼ cup roasted soybeans
- 2 Tablespoons hummus