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Rebecca V Cripe
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Rebecca V Cripe

Recently, a group of researchers from seven countries looked at the link between red and processed meats and the risks of heart disease, diabetes and some cancers. They published their conclusion in the Annals of Internal Medicine, stating that consumption in relation to health risks are low to very low and that there is no need to cut back on red and processed meats.

Now, I know what you're thinking: "I thought researchers said we shouldn't be eating red or processed meat?" When it comes to nutrition-related research, it's common to get headline whiplash. I know I did when I saw this in the news.

How to balance your red meat consumption

To clarify, processed red meat includes any beef, pork, lamb or veal that is salted, smoked or cured. Not all researchers in the health field agree with this new information; many argue that the current recommendation to reduce consumption of red and processed meats is an important piece to the puzzle to help reduce health related issue with heart disease, type II diabetes and cancer (such as colon cancer). Yet the important lesson to learn here is that health is not affected by one food choice such as not eating red meat or eating all the red meat you want. It's multifaceted.

Therefore, if you want to continue eating your processed red meat, make sure you focus on the recommended portion but also incorporate other healthy habits that improve health outcomes.

Here are a few tips:

  • A serving of any meat is 3-6 ounces, about the size of a deck of cards. It varies depending on age, gender and activity. Check your typical portions to see if it's within this ounce range.
  • Have a variety of meat options in your diet. Other leaner, less processed meats are non-breaded, non-fried chicken or turkey (both should be skinless) or fish.
  • Try to incorporate plant-based protein sources such as nuts, seeds, beans/legumes and unprocessed soy (such as edamame). Besides having great health benefits, they tend to be less expensive than animal sources of protein.
  • Daily exercise is important to reduce risk of, or help to manage heart disease, Type II diabetes and some cancers. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate cardio daily such as a brisk walk or swimming laps daily.
  • Make sure to eat a variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. All three of these food groups have strong evidence that regular consumption helps reduce risk of developing, or help to manage various health conditions. Variety is key. Not one type of fruit or vegetable is better for you then another, it's having a plethora of different types of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, to name a few.

Even if recommendations for one food choice are conflicting in research, the takeaway is that health is a matter of looking at the bigger picture and striving for consistency with exercise and a balanced diet. So, don't get too caught up in the details!

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