red meat on parchment paper

Red meat garners much debate among healthcare professionals, nutritionists, and scientists. Because red meat can both positively and negatively affect your health, many argue over whether this food should be included in our diet.

Types of Red Meat

Which meats are actually considered red meat varies among professionals, but it usually refers to meat from mammalian muscle meat. This includes:

  • Beef
  • Pork
  • Lamb
  • Veal
  • Mutton
  • Goat
  • Horse

Some dieticians will include geese or duck as red meat, but this is controversial and not as common as the varieties listed above.

Red Meat: Is It Bad for You?

To decide whether red meat is good or bad for us largely depends on whether the pros outweigh the cons or vice versa.

Health Benefits of Red Meat

Red meat is very nutritious and often contains important minerals and vitamins, including protein, iron, and zinc, which are all necessary for the healthy functioning of the body. For example, specific nutrients like creatine and carnosine, which are found in red meat, are essential for proper muscle and brain function. Non-meat eaters are typically deficient in these nutrients and negatively affected by this deficiency.

Red meat is also an excellent source of dietary protein. A 3.5 ounce (100 grams) portion of red meat contains 20 grams of protein, which is about half the amount of protein needed a day for the average sedentary woman, and about one-third the amount needed a day for the average sedentary man.

If the red meat comes from a cow that’s been grass-fed (rather than grain-fed), then red meat can also be a vital source of omega-3 fatty acids, which promotes heart health.

Health Problems Associated with Red Meat Consumption

Perhaps the most debated aspect of red meat are the health problems or the negative impact red meat is believed to have. While most agree that red meat offers certain nutritious advantages, they tend to disagree on what the effect of red meat consumption is in regards to potential disease down the road.

Those who argue against red meat consumption believe that red meat is high in saturated fat, which can increase cholesterol levels and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Proponents of red meat consumption argue that lean red meat can be part of a heart-healthy diet.

Those against red meat consumption also argue that eating red meat has been linked to an increased risk of colorectal cancer. Proponents of red meat consumption argue that this kind of link is a result of observational studies that mix unprocessed meat and processed meat (i.e. bacon, sausage, etc.) together and, therefore, cannot be trusted like a randomized study that distinguishes between the two.

Among the debate that goes on about red meat consumption comes another argument: perhaps it’s not the red meat itself that is so detrimental but the way the red meat is prepared. Some stipulate that lean red meat itself may not be harmful, but when it’s cooked, certain compounds form that can be carcinogenic (cause cancer). This argument, however, hasn’t been well-researched and still needs further evidence.

So, Is Red Meat Good or Bad?

While certain health organizations argue that there is clear evidence for the detrimental health effects of red meat, many doctors and nutritionists argue that it shouldn’t be completely eliminated from one’s diet. Instead, they argue that lean red meat should be limited in the diet and processed meat be avoided.

After all, one serving of red meat can deliver 10 essential nutrients for the body, and contains only 180 calories. From a dietary standpoint, that is one food that packs a major health punch.


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Sifferlin, A. (2015, October 26). Cancer Meat: Which Processed, Red Meat Should You Avoid? Retrieved from
Born and raised in Southern California, Beeta has embraced a healthy lifestyle focused on farm-to-table cooking, natural products, and wellness routines. When she's not writing up recipes or discussing the latest natural living trends, Beeta enjoys spending time trying new restaurants, traveling with family and friends, and relaxing at home with her furry companion.