Red meat is everywhere - in burgers, on pizzas, in steaks - but the negative effects that red meat has on our health and the planet is reason enough to give it up forever.
The allure of red meat is undeniable, as nearly everything we consider delicious has red meat in it - pepperoni pizza, cheeseburgers, hot dogs, steaks, and more. It's an integral part of our lives, appearing in nearly every meal from breakfast to dinner, and making its way into our mid-meal snacks. The thought of giving up red meat is far from our minds.
Despite the prevalence of red meat in our diets, there are few foods so strongly ingrained in our diets that have a worse effect on our health than red meat. So many people eschew red meat, turning to vegetarianism and veganism, or seeking fish out as a primary source of protein because of its deleterious effects on the human body.
In fact, you might be interested to know that the World Health Organization (WHO) recently declared red meat probably carcinogenic to humans, with processed meat being labeled a carcinogen. It's no wonder that processed meat has achieved this status, given how much it changes the composition of meat through salting, curing, fermenting, and smoking processes.
If you're not convinced, read on to discover the deleterious effects of red meat and processed meats:
Red meat generally refers to meat sourced from four-legged animals like cows, pigs, sheep, and goats, among other sources. Red meat includes fresh pork, beef, mutton, and veal, and can also include game meat in countries that consume the meat of deer and other animals.
Processed meats are derived from red meat, and can be minced to make it easier to process. Processed meats typically go through one of many processes, including salting, fermentation, curing, smoking, and the addition of various preservatives to keep the meat from spoiling.
There is a long list of processed meats that you probably use on a regular basis, including ham, corned beef, canned meat, pepperoni, sausages, beef jerky, salami, bologna, pastrami, ad hot dogs. Knowing what constitutes processed meats can help you make healthier dietary choices.
You'd be surprised to know that red meat can be some of the most nutrient-rich foods out there, providing loads of protein, heme iron that is readily absorbed by the body, vitamin B12 that is used to keep red blood cells and nerve cells healthy as well as in the production of DNA, and zinc that is important for immune function.
Unfortunately, red meat is also high in saturated fats that increase blood cholesterol levels and affect heart health and are strongly linked to the development of certain kinds of colorectal cancers. These alone make red meat a risky addition to the diet. However, this isn't all that red meat can do to your body.
A study conducted over the course of ten years found that people who consumed large amounts of red meat on a daily basis had higher rates of mortality from cancer and heart disease among other causes than people who ate smaller amounts of red meat.
Another study conducted over a longer period of 18 years on over 72,000 women discovered that women who had a diet that constituted red and processed meats were more likely to develop cardiovascular disease and cancer, and had higher rates of mortality from various other causes.
Red meat and processed meats have been strongly linked to the development of colorectal cancer, with people who consume these meats being at increased risk for this kind of cancer. There are also tentative links that have been drawn between red and processed meats and stomach, lung, gullet, pancreatic, and endometrial cancers.
The heme iron found in red meat can easily be broken down in the body to become certain carcinogenic compounds called N-nitroso compounds, which cause colorectal cancer. The saturated fats present in red meat as well as the hormones pumped into the animals before they are slaughtered can contribute to breast cancer.
Red meat consumption has been linked to the onset of type 2 diabetes through certain preservatives used in the manufacturing of processed meats called nitrosamines. These compounds are harmful to the cells in your pancreas that produce insulin, which can lead to decreased insulin production.
Another harmful effect of red meat is when it has been cooked or processed it undergoes certain chemical changes that affect your cells and tissues, eventually causing them to become resistant to insulin, making it harder to metabolize carbohydrates. The link between saturated fats and type 2 diabetes is still being explored, with a possibility that they contribute to the disease.
Carnitine is a compound found in red meat that leads to the clogging or hardening of the arteries, a process known as atherosclerosis. There is evidence to show that carnitine is broken down by intestinal bacteria into trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO), a compound that is harmful to the heart.
Red meat and processed meats are high in saturated fats that greatly up the risk for cardiovascular disease and strokes. They increase the level of LDLs (low-density lipids) in the blood that sticks to the walls of your arteries, raising your risk of having a heart attack. They can also cause weight gain, which leads to high blood pressure.