Red Meat: How Much Should I Be Eating?

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For many of us, meat is a big part of our diet, included in almost every meal we eat. In the UK, we consume around 226g of meat every day. But according to research, eating this amount daily can severely affect our health. (https://www.vivahealth.org.uk/resources/meat-truth/uk-meat-consumption-%E2%80%93-going-down-online#:~:text=UK%20meat%20consumption%20%E2%80%93%20going%20down!,per%20day%20for%20the%20UK.

Red Meat 

Red meats like beef and lamb contain high amounts of iron, which is used to make red blood cells. They contain a variety of vitamins which are essential to good heart health. Unfortunately, red meats are often high in saturated fats, which raise cholesterol levels. Trimming any excess fat off before eating will lower the amount of saturated fat you're consuming, but not by much.

The NHS currently recommends keeping red and processed meat intake below 70g a day. This is roughly equal to one burger or three rashers of bacon. (https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/meat-nutrition/)

Processed Meat

Any meat that's been salted, smoked, cured or processed with additives to make it last longer is considered processed meat. This includes ham, sausages and bacon. Eating these products once or twice a week probably won't cause your health to suffer. However, indulging in a bacon sandwich daily could increase your risk of developing bowel cancer. Processed meats are often extremely high in saturated fats – these are known to raise blood cholesterol levels. (https://www.diabetes.org.uk/guide-to-diabetes/enjoy-food/eating-with-diabetes/what-is-a-healthy-balanced-diet/processed-and-red-meat#:~:text=Processed%20meat%20is%20meat%20that's,unless%20it%20is%20modified%20further.)

Some processed meats, like hot dogs, are even considered highly carcinogenic (cancer-causing) by the World Health Organisation. This is partly down to preservatives which are added to products to extend their shelf life. (https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/q-a-on-the-carcinogenicity-of-the-consumption-of-red-meat-and-processed-meat)

The Bottom Line 

If you want to take care of your heart, cut down on processed meats in your diet or avoid them completely. Swap bacon and ham for 'healthier' meats like chicken and turkey, which contain less saturated fat. You can still eat processed meat and stay heart-healthy, as long as they're not a regular part of your diet. Save them for a treat and only eat them as infrequently as possible.

The occasional steak or sausage roll probably won't damage your health. Try to reduce your red and processed meat intake to 70g daily by reducing portion sizes and swapping out meat for other proteins like fish, beans and tofu.

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