Researchers Say Red Meat is Okay

Julie Shenkman
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Red meat has long been the pariah of health-conscious eaters. With its high levels of cholesterol and saturated fats, which are both associated with heart disease, many nutritionists and health care workers recommend avoiding or severely limiting red meat intake. But since 2010, researchers have been releasing studies contradicting those traditional guidelines. Although the subject is still controversial, nutritionists are started to look differently at red meat.

A 2012 study by researchers at Baylor College of Medicine found that those who eat red meat are more likely to have a healthy diet than those who avoid it. Study subjects with diets high in lean beef had intakes of vitamins, minerals and protein that were more in line with nutrition guidelines than were study subjects on a beef-free diet. This study closely replicated the results of an earlier study by the British Nutrition Foundation that showed that adding red meat to the diet was one of the quickest ways to improve poor nutrition in participants of all ages.

Red meats, such as beef, pork, lamb and game, are high in many nutrients that are necessary for good health. These meats contain high levels of iron in a form that is readily absorbed by the body. Anemia, caused by iron deficiency, is a common health problem among some populations. Red meat is also rich in vitamin D. Although vitamin D is produced in the skin from sunlight, many people with darker skin tones have trouble getting enough vitamin D in the winter months.

Another study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition from scientists at Pennsylvania State University found that lean beef in the diet was associated with low levels of LDL cholesterol, the type of cholesterol associated with heart disease. Adding lean white meat to the diet, such as poultry, did not result in a similar decrease in LDL cholesterol levels. This study implies that lean red meat might actually reduce the risk of heart disease. Nutrition research results in this area have not been consistent so more research is necessary to determine the exact role that red meat plays in heart health. Nutrition guidelines change frequently as new research results are published, and it is important for nutrition professionals to stay up-to-date on the latest research and official guidelines to make quality recommendations to their clients.

Current nutrition research shows that lean cuts of red meat add important nutrients to the diet and may lower LDL cholesterol for a reduced risk of heart disease. Red meat adds vitamins, minerals and protein to the diet to help prevent deficiencies in vulnerable groups including infants, young children, adolescents, pregnant women, the elderly and the impoverished. Stay current in nutrition trends to help your clients eat right.

(Photo courtesy of franky242 at


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