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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Is Red Meat Really Bad For You? - Think Again


You’ve heard it for years - red meat is bad for you!  Especially from the media, who takes every opportunity they can to sound alarms about red meat.  I then hear the aftermath of this from clients and others, some of whom unknowingly tout the fact that they don’t eat red meat like it’s a health badge of honor; unfortunately they have been woefully mislead. 

The reality is that red meat, when you look objectively at the evidence, is one of the healthiest things you can eat.  Now before you dismiss this reality as nonsense, and close this article, let me actually detail for you why much of what you hear about red meat is not accurate.

For one, most of the research done on red meat is observational in nature and is therefore, for a variety of reasons, unable to prove causation.  Basically, in this type of research there is no way even the most careful researcher can control for every possible factor that could have influenced an outcome.  For example (this is very simplified), when they say red meat causes colon cancer they are basing this on asking people to recall what they’ve eaten (dietary recall is notoriously inaccurate) over long periods of time and then concluding that the chances of getting colon cancer are higher for those eating red meat.  What they fail to mention directly, is that people who tend to avoid red meat also tend to do a number of things that actually do contribute to reducing risk of disease (regular exercise, eating less processed food, less sugar etc.).  While those who eat more red meat (which oftentimes includes all kinds of processed meat), tend to do things that increase risk of disease (e.g. smoke, not exercise, don’t manage stress).  Therefore, based on these realities, drawing such conclusions and blaming red meat is not only baseless but also intellectually dishonest, bad science.  Bottom line is…correlation isn’t causation.


The reality is, as with other issues, the media, medical community and others have an agenda and it’s rife with propaganda that is fueled by researcher bias and media incompetence.  This is intentional, if you believe otherwise then you are honestly ignorant at best and obstinately ignorant at worst.  It’s all about driving the profits of a corrupt pharmaceutical industry that controls the mainstream medicine.

As for the whole saturated fat (of which red meat has it’s fair share) raises cholesterol and causes heart disease message that you’ve heard over and over again by the media and medical establishment, it simply has no solid evidence to back it up.  There are many books and articles written on this that I would encourage you to read.  Here is a great place to start…


Now on to the benefits that make red meat one of the healthiest food choices you can make. 

  • Red meat is a great source of Vitamin B12 (which is an essential nutrient that many people are deficient in) as well as a host of other b vitamins
  • Red meat is a significant source of dietary Vitamin D, and the form it contains is much more absorbable in people than that from dairy
  • Red meat contains heme iron which is absorbed and utilized better than the plant-based non-heme form…this is important for most of the population and particularly for women looking to have children as it’s important for fetal development
  •  Red meat is a great source of a highly available form of Zinc and numerous other minerals that are critical for health and optimal functioning

Red meat has much more zinc and b12 than white meat and even more importantly its fat profile contains more saturated and monounsaturated fats than pork and poultry (if you aren’t buying pastured meats).  Just another reason to nix the boring, bland boneless skinless chicken breasts that stores gouge you for.  This is one of the benefits of knowing the facts about meat…you actually save money because the store knows that everyone thinks low fat, lean everything is healthiest so they charge more for those items.

The above is true of red meat regardless of whether you are buying grass or grain fed…though you should always buy the highest quality you can afford.  Typically this means avoiding cheap supermarket meat, which is most of the meat in traditional grocery stores.  If you live in California it’s relatively easy to find grass fed beef, though in some states back east it’s not so easy.  Also don’t rely on the people in the meat department to tell you what’s best (they’ve likely never been trained) as most don’t really know.  Case and point…I was about to buy some 100% grass fed beef at Safeway and the gentleman from the meat department, who was trying to be helpful, said oh here we have grass fed beef on sale and I said oh that’s not the same.  What he didn’t realize is that unless it says 100% grass fed they can and do give those animals grain and thus it’s not the same.

One factor, when it comes to red meat, which is largely ignored by many, is the fact that the quality of the meat matters.  Eating a processed fast food burger along with the sugars and bad fats you get from all the extras (bun, fries, soda) is much different than a grass fed steak with butter, fresh organic vegetables and some olive oil.  In case you are wondering here are just a few of the highlights of grass fed beef (btw grass is what cattle naturally eat, not refined corn).


  • Grass fed beef has between 2-5 times more omega 3’s than grain fed beef (think less inflammation, reduced risk of heart disease etc.). 
  • Grass fed beef also contains a higher proportion of stearic acid (which doesn’t raise cholesterol) than grain fed beef. 
  • Grass fed beef has 2-3 times more CLA (of which beef is one of the best dietary sources), which is a potent antioxidant. 
  • Grass fed beef also contains significantly more antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.

I always find it funny when passing various steakhouse chains that they highlight that they serve “Midwest corn-fed beef” as if that’s what you should want.

This hopefully clears up much of the misperception and panic you may have had surrounding red meat.  I also hope you’ve decided, if you haven’t done so before, to look beyond the headlines and be a more critical consumer of information before taking media sound bytes as fact; as they are not.

And just so you know I eat red meat almost daily, sometimes several pounds.

Let me know your thoughts on why you do or don’t eat red meat regularly.

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