Red Meat: Definition, Nutritional Value, Types, Side Effects, and Other


Red meat comes from mammals and is usually red when it’s raw. Scientists say eating some types of red meat can lead to long-term health problems like heart disease, and cancer. However, red meat also has important nutrients such as protein, vitamin B12, and zinc. For more research you can also visit Wikipedia. 

What is Red Meat?

In nutrition, red meat is any that has more of the protein myoglobin than white meat. White meat comes from fish or chicken, except for the leg or thigh, which is called dark meat. This slice of raw beef is red. Cooked roast beef turns a darker brown.

What are the Nutritional Values of Red Meat?

Red meat is rich in essential nutrients such as proteins, vitamins, B12, and zinc. For instance, a serving of 80% lean ground beef, which is about 4 ounces (oz.) or 113 grams (gm), offers a variety of these nutrients.

  • Calories: 287
  • Protein: 19 gm
  • Fat: 23 gm
  • Carbohydrates: 0 gm
  • Vitamin B12: 101% of DV
  • Zinc: 43% of the DV
  • Selenium: 31% of the DV
  • Niacin: 30% of the DV
  • Iron: 12% of the DV

Beef contains complete protein, meaning it has all essential amino acids necessary for human health. Protein is essential for muscle and tissue growth and repair. Beef is also rich in vitamin B12, which is crucial for the nervous system, and zinc, important for a healthy immune system. However, red meat is high in saturated fat. While saturated fat itself may not directly increase heart disease risk, it can raise levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol which is linked to heart disease. Highly processed meats like bacon and sausages often contain high amounts of salt and other preservatives. Excessive sodium intake can raise blood pressure and increase the risk of heart disease, particularly in individuals sensitive to salt. The nutritional composition of meat can vary depending on how the animals are raised. Grass-fed beef, for example, tends to have less total and saturated fat and more omega-3 fatty acids compared to grain-fed beef, although these differences are generally minor.

What are the Types of Red Meat?

Before talking about the health effects of red meat, it’s important to understand the different types of meat. Red meat comes from mammals and is called red because it is red when raw. Examples of red meat are beef, pork, lamb, venison, and boar. Chicken, turkey and other meats from birds are called white meat because they turn white when cooked. Meat can also be classified by how it’s raised and processed. Here are some important terms to know:

Conventional Meat:

This meat comes from animals usually raised in large, crowded farms known as concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) or factory farms. These animals are fed grain based diets. If beef is not labeled “organic” or “grass-fed”, it is likely conventional and comes from CAFO cows.

Grass Fed Meat:

This meat comes from cows that eat grass and other plants they find while grazing. These cows are not raised in crowded factory farms (CAFOs).

Organic Meat:

Meat with an organic label comes from animals fed 100% organic feed and forage. These animals are raised in conditions that allow for grazing and natural behaviors. They are not given antibiotics or hormones.

Processed Meats:

These products usually come from conventionally raised animals and undergo different processing methods like curing or smoking. Examples include sausages, hot dogs, and bacon.

Unprocessed Meats:

Meats that haven’t been cured, smoked, or heavily processed are usually called unprocessed. However, since all meat undergoes some processing, “unprocessed” typically means minimally processed meats, like ground beef or sirloin.

What are the Side Effects of Eating Red Meat?

The health effects of red meat have been extensively studied but many of these studies are observational. This means they can identify associations but cannot establish causation or cause and effect. Observational studies often have confounding variables, which are other factors besides the ones being studied that could be affecting the outcome. It’s difficult to account for all these factors and determine if red meat directly causes certain health outcomes. Considering this limitation is crucial when evaluating research on it and deciding whether to include it in your diet regularly.

Red Meat and Heart Disease:

Multiple observational studies indicate a link between red meat consumption and an increased risk of death particularly from heart disease. One study involving 43,272 men found that consuming more red meat, both processed and unprocessed, was linked to a higher risk of heart disease. Moreover, this study suggested that replacing red meat with plant-based protein sources like legumes, nuts, or soy might potentially lower the risk of heart disease. Other research indicates the risk may vary between processed or unprocessed meat.

Processed Meat:

Another extensive study involving 134,297 individuals discovered that consuming at least 5.3 ounces (150 grams) of processed meats per week was significantly linked to a higher risk of death and heart disease. One reason why processed meats might have a stronger association with heart disease risk is their high salt content. Excessive sodium intake has been correlated with high blood pressure.

Unprocessed Meat:

On the other hand the study involving over 130,000 participants found no connections between consumption of unprocessed red meat, even in quantities exceeding 8.8 ounces (250 grams) per week. Moreover, another review of controlled studies concluded that consuming half a serving (1.25 ounces or 35.4 grams) or more of unprocessed red meat daily doesn’t negatively impact heart disease risk factors such as blood lipids and blood pressure levels. These findings are further supported by randomized controlled trials, which are generally regarded as having higher quality than observational studies.

Red Meat and Cancers:

Observational studies indicate that both processed and unprocessed red meat consumption is linked to a higher risk of certain cancers, particularly colorectal and breast cancers. In 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) cancer agency classified red meat as “probably carcinogenic to humans” and processed meat as “carcinogenic to humans,” specifically noting its association with colorectal cancer. A review of studies found that individuals who consumed high amounts of processed and unprocessed meats had a 9% and 6% greater risk of developing breast cancer, respectively compared to those who consumed the lowest amounts. The mechanism through which red and processed meats increase cancer risk are not fully understood, but it’s believed that using nitrites for curing and smoking meats can produce cancer causing compounds. High-heat cooking methods, grilling may also create compounds that promote cancer formation. However, further research is necessary to fully understand the impact of processed and unprocessed red meat intake on cancer development.  

Red Meat and Type-2 Diabetes:

Some research indicates a potential between its consumption and a higher risk of type 2 diabetes. For instance, one study found that substituting one daily serving of red meat with eggs was associated with a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes, even after considering factors like body mass index and abdominal fat. Similarly, another study revealed that replacing it with another protein source was linked to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. This connection was observed for both processed and unprocessed red meat, though it was more pronounced with processed varieties. Additionally, a review of 15 studies reported that individuals who consumed the highest amounts of processed and unprocessed red meats had a 27% and 15% higher likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes respectively compared to those with the lowest intake. Nevertheless, more high-quality studies are necessary to assess the relationship between red meat consumption and type 2 diabetes risk and to determine if other factors may also play a crucial role.

How Different Cooking Methods Impact the Health Effects of Red Meat?

The red way meat is cooked can impact its effects on your health. Cooking meat at high temperature can create harmful compounds such as heterocyclic amines (HCAs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and advanced glycation end-products (AGEs). According to the National Cancer Institute, laboratory experiments suggest that these compounds have the potential to alter DNA and contribute to cancer development. However, further research is necessary to fully understand their impact. Here are some suggestion to reduce the formation of these substances when cooking it:

  • Opt for gentler cooking methods like stewing and steaming instead of grilling and frying.
  • Reduce consumption of charred and smoked food. If your meat is charred, trim away the burnt parts.
  • If you need to cook at high heat, flip your meat frequently to prevent burning.
  • Consider marinating your meat before cooking using ingredients like honey, and herbs. Marinating may help reduce the formation of HCAs.

Should You Eat Red Meat?

While it does provide important vitamins and minerals these nutrients can also be found in various other foods. However, recent studies increasingly suggest that consuming more red meat and processed meat may be linked to several chronic health conditions. As a result, many health organizations including the American Diabetes Association recommend limiting red meat intake. Nevertheless, there’s no need to completely eliminate red meat from your diet. It can still be enjoyed in moderation as part of a balanced diet. If you choose to include it in your diet, consider opting for unprocessed varieties and selecting lean cuts when possible. Additionally, enjoy red meat alongside a variety of other protein sources as part of a well-rounded diet.  


What are the 4 most common red meats?

Examples of it include beef, pork, lamb, venison, and boar. White meat includes chicken, turkey, and other meats from birds as these turn white after being cooked.

Is fish red meat?

In culinary terms, only the flesh from mammals or birds (not fish) is classified as red or white meat. In nutritional science, it is defined as any meat that contains more of the protein myoglobin than white meat.

Is red meat good for health?

Researchers state that it provides important nutrients, such as protein, vitamin B12, and iron. However, evidence suggests that consuming large amounts of red meat can increase the risk of certain cancers, heart disease, and other health issues.

Is turkey red meat?

Generally, meat from mammals such as cows, claves, sheep, lamb, and pigs is considered it. In contrast, rabbit, chicken, and turkey meat is considered white meat. This distinction is based on the level of myoglobin, an iron-containing protein in muscle that gives its red color.

What is the safest meat to eat?

Steaks, pork chops, and other whole-muscle meats are the safest options because cooking can easily kill bacteria on the meat’s surface. The inside of the meat is essentially sterile and protected from potential pathogens in theory.

What is the only meat diet?

The carnivore diet, which consists entirely of meat and animal products while excluding all other foods, may be unsafe for some people. It is claimed to help with weight loss, mood issues, and blood sugar regulation, among other health concerns. However, the diet is extremely restrictive and likely unhealthy in the long term.

What are the benefits of eating meat?

Meat and poultry are excellent sources of protein and also provide many other essential nutrients, such as iodine, iron, zinc, vitamins, (especially B12), and essential fatty acids. Including meat and poultry in your diet each week can help ensure you get these important nutrients as part of a balanced diet.

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