Is Eating Red Meat Really Bad For You? We Investigate
By now you’ve probably heard of the Netflix documentary What the Health, the movie that looks to convince you there’s only one way to eat for overall health – going vegan.
What The Health, like many documentaries that came before it, does make some truthful points, but offers a narrow view of the science with cherry-picked studies to support the views of filmmaker Kip Anderson, who is not a scientist. But he did seek out a slew of vegan-friendly health professionals to reinforce the film’s claims.
Of course, there’s no doubt we are in the midst of a health epidemic. As men, we have never been fatter and lacking in testosterone. And, yes, most of us could stand to eat more fruits and vegetables and less processed meat and dairy. But scare tactics documentaries like this portray do more harm than good.
Let’s look at the facts:
A Calorie Deficit Matters Most
First, if you’re overeating and sedentary, no diet will save you.
If you’re overweight, focus on losing weight first and foremost, and that starts and ends with eating less than you need to maintain your body weight.
Case in point: Mark Haub, a professor of nutrition at Kansas State University, proved that calories-in versus calories-out is what matters first when seeking weight loss. Haub limited himself to 1,800 calories a day, eating Twinkies or another treat every three hours instead of actual meals, while also consuming a protein shake and some vegetables over the course of the diet.
Haub not only lost weight but improved all biomarkers of health along with it. His LDL, considered the bad cholesterol, decreased, while his HDL, or good cholesterol, increased by 30%. And he reduced his triglycerides by 39%.
Need a place to start? I offer a free Mansformation Cheat Sheet that includes nutrition plan (yes, it recommends red meat) and lose as much as 10 pounds.
Will Bacon Kill You?
Know this: Eating bacon on Saturday mornings will not cause you to instantly drop dead, face down in your frying pan.
The dose makes the poison.
If you make a habit of eating bacon for breakfast, chargrilled BBQ hot dogs for lunch, and processed deli meats for dinner, day in and out, yes, you may, in fact, be increasing your risk for colorectal cancer. But regularly swapping those processed meats for grass-fed beef, wild caught fish and lean chicken is a completely different story.
It’s the processed kind that are more likely to cause colorectal cancer, according to the World Health Organization’s 2015 review of the link between processed meat and cancer. What The Health conveniently ignores this fact.
You’d be doing yourself a disservice by eliminating red meat entirely – it’s one of the most nutrient dense foods out there (organ meats like liver are even better), packed full of fat soluble vitamins and protein to positively impact your hormonal profile (think testosterone), build muscle and boost mental clarity.
Red meat supplies vitamin B12, which helps DNA synthesis and keeps nerve and red blood cells healthy, and zinc, which keeps the immune system working properly, as well as protein to build and repair muscle.
Further still, a meta-analysis, reported on by Examine.com, based on 24 randomized controlled trials in adults, compared red meat eaters to those who didn’t consume red meat. Compared with eating less than an ounce of red meat per day, consuming more meat does not appear to have a significant influence on blood cholesterol, triglycerides, or blood pressure, according to the research.
The study also noted that red meat is likely to be more harmful when prepared in certain ways. Harsher cooking methods such as frying, broiling, BBQ grilling, and roasting consistently led to higher levels of toxic compounds than gentler cooking methods such as boiling, poaching, stewing, and steaming.
It would be quite the stretch to state that a charbroiled burger patty, bacon or sausage are the same as a medium-rare sirloin steak or ground grass-fed beef.
Is Eating Eggs Everyday As Bad As Smoking Five Cigarettes?
This other claim from WTH reflects an out-of-date understanding of cholesterol’s role in health. According to Vox.com, two in three long-term smokers will die as a result of their habit. The same just isn’t true for egg eaters.
Cholesterol was wrongly considered a scapegoat for decades, and the scientific community has moved on since evidence has piled up showing that eating more cholesterol isn’t necessarily associated with higher levels in the blood or an increased risk of heart disease. That’s why it’s been declassified as a “nutrient of concern” in the American diet.
What Everyone Can Agree On
There is no best diet universally. You need to determine the diet best suited to you. The nutrition community has generally moved away from prescribing particular diets or vilifying foods.
For example, a recent consensus statement reported on by Vox.com from a diverse group of nutrition researchers came to these conclusions:
A healthy dietary pattern is higher in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low- or non-fat dairy, seafood, legumes, and nuts; moderate in alcohol (among adults); lower in red and processed meats; and low in sugar-sweetened foods and drinks and refined grains.
Additional strong evidence shows that it is not necessary to eliminate food groups or conform to a single dietary pattern to achieve healthy dietary patterns. Rather, individuals can combine foods in a variety of flexible ways to achieve healthy dietary patterns, and these strategies should be tailored to meet the individual’s health needs, dietary preferences and cultural traditions.
There’s a lot of evidence that plant-based diets can be a truly effective strategy for many people. Also, there’s the whole animal rights movement to veganism, which is a valid reason to switch.
But when it comes to dieting for weight loss or general health, there is simply no one-size-fits-all solution. Anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to sell you something or blind to the facts.
Mitch Calvert is a certified personal trainer and fat-loss coach – who works specifically with men like his former self who have weight to lose and confidence to gain. Get his Mansformation fat loss cheat sheet here and get a proven fat loss formula to help you lose up to 10 pounds fast.