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Health Benefits of Red Meat: Understanding Its Nutritional Value and Impact on the Body

contains many nutrients, such as protein and iron. However, eating an excessive amount of red meat may increase a person's risk of some health conditions.

Specialists usually classify red meat as muscle meat from beef, pork, lamb, goat, or other land mammals.

On one hand, red meat is a good source of certain nutrients, especially vitamin B-12 and iron. The human body needs these nutrients to produce new red blood cells.

Red meat is also high in protein, which is necessary for building muscle, bone, other tissues, and enzymes.

However, some research has linked regular consumption of red meat to a number of health problems, such as heart disease, some cancers, kidney problems, digestive issues, and mortality.

To further complicate the issue, some studies suggest that the type of red meat a person eats makes the most difference.

Leaner cuts of unprocessed red meat, such as sirloin steaks or pork tenderloin, may be more healthful than other types. This is because they are unprocessed and do not contain excess , fat, or preservatives.

Processed red meats — including bacon, hot dogs, sausage, bologna, salami, and similar meats — appear to carry the highest risk of health problems.

What is red meat?

Red meat is generally meat derived from farm reared mammals, such as:

  • Pork, ham and other cuts from pigs
  • Lamb
  • Beef

Red meat is a popular food amongst those following a paleo diet, in which food choices are guided by judging which foods would have been available to our ancient ancestors.

Followers of a paleo diet will often try to seek food that is unprocessed and where the animals have been fed a natural diet.

Recommended intake of red meat

The Department of Health advises people to consume 90g or less of red meat per day. A thin slice of pork, lamb or beef the size of half a slice of bread provides about 30g of meat.

Red meat health benefits

Red meat is a rich source of protein, saturated fat, iro, zinc and B vitamins.

Iron is needed to help red blood cells transport oxygen. Iron deficiencies are more likely to occur in children, elderly people and pregnant women.

Iron is also available dark green leafy plants, beans and grains but is best absorbed by the body from red meat.

Zinc is required by the body for DNA synthesis and helps the immune system to function effectively.

As well being found in red meat, zinc is also found in fish, grains, eggs and beans.

However, zinc is best absorbed from meat and fish sources.

Amongst the B vitamins found abundantly in red meat are vitamin B6 and vitamin12. Vitamin B6 is beneficial for the immune system and vitamin B12 beneficial for the nervous system. People taking the diabetes drug metformin have an increased risk of having lower levels of vitamin B12.

Dangers of red meat

Consumption of red meat has been linked with increased incidences of heart disease, colorectal cancer and type 2 diabetes. The extent of the associations have found to be higher for processed red meat.

In 2011, a study by Harvard University made news headlines when it published a study which suggested that eating unprocessed meat was associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

The risk of diabetes was 20% higher in those that ate over 110g of unprocessed red meat a day. However, the research attracted some criticism for including hamburgers within the unprocessed foods list. Of those that ate a serving of processed meat, the risk of type 2 diabetes grew 50% higher

Processed red meat includes meat products that have been cured, pre-cooked, comminuted or had preservatives and binding ingredients added.

Examples of processed meat include:

  • Hotdogs
  • Sausages
  • Burgers
  • Corned beef
  • Salami
  • Jerky

Many hams found in the supermarkets will have been treated with preservatives (such as nitrites) and may also be made from comminuted (ground) meat.

Red meat and food hygiene

Raw red meat can carry dangerous bacteria so it is important that red meat is stored, cooked and handled appropriately. Wash your hands after handling raw meat and wash any utensils and crockery that have been used for raw meat.

Red meat should not be reheated more than once to prevent food poisoning from occurring. When cooking red meat, heat it all the way through to ensure bacteria inside the meat is killed.



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