Red meat is an excellent source of protein and iron for your body, but too much of it isn't good for you. Although you can safely eat two small servings of red meat daily, it's best to incorporate a variety of protein sources in your diet, keeping your red meat intake to a few days per week. That's because too much red meat has been linked to cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
Recommendations for Red Meat
The American Heart Association recommends that you eat not more than 6 ounces of meat-based protein each day. That's two servings of meat per day, which are each about the size of a deck of cards. Because red meat can cause health issues if eaten in large quantities, the American Institute for Cancer Research states that you shouldn't eat more than 18 ounces of red meat per week. This is about six servings, so you'll need to supplement your meals with other forms of protein in order to vary your diet.
Vary Your Proteins
When it comes to other protein sources, you have lots to choose from, including lean proteins like skinless chicken or heart-healthy proteins like fish, which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. In fact, the United States Department of Agriculture recommends eating fish as your primary source of protein at least twice a week, which means eating meat not more than five days a week at most. You can also opt for vegetarian protein sources including beans, peas, nuts and soy products.
Lean is Best
When choosing red meats to eat, stick to only lean cuts like round steaks or roasts, top sirloin and arm roasts. Choose ground beef that is at least 92 percent fat free and 8 percent fat. Be sure to trim excess fat away from your beef roasts before cooking them and pour off excess fat when cooking any type of red meat. When purchasing luncheon meats, read the nutrition labels and choose low-fat options for making sandwiches.
Meat Cooking Tips
For a more healthful approach, cook your meats on the grill or bake them rather than frying. Frying meats adds excess fat and calories to them. Also, don't char or blacken your red meats on the flames of a grill because this can form heterocyclic amines which may cause cancer when ingested in large amounts. Turning meats frequently on the grill or in a pan can keep them from becoming charred or blackened.
Meats to Avoid
Although you have the option of eating red meats daily, processed red meats should be avoided when possible. These processed meats include bacon, sausages, salami, ham and hot dogs. Processed meats contain lots of sodium, fat and unhealthy preservatives called nitrates. Eating processed meats can raise your risk of colon cancer and stomach cancer, so stick to choices like lean beef when putting together your weekly diet.
About the Author
Susan Paretts has contributed to a variety of publications about nutrition including Livestrong, Food & Nutrition, Healthfully, Real Simple, Our Everyday Life and the Houston Chronicle, among others. Her expertise is in healthy eating, vegan choices and organic foods.
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