Red meat can be a killer, according to new, large-scale study by the National Cancer Institute just published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. The study, which followed a half-million people for 10 years linked red meat and processed meat consumption (and that includes pork, even though it’s marketed as “the other white meat”) with higher overall death rates, including deaths from heart disease and cancer.
When I saw this, I thought, wow those people must have been eating a lot of steaks.
Uh, not really.
Turns out, people with the highest intakes were eating just over 2 ounces of red meat per day, per 1,000 calories (or about 4 1/2 ounces for an average 2,000-calorie diet). They had an 11% (for men) and 16% (for women) higher death rate than those who averaged just 1/3 ounce of red meat per day per 1,000 calories. The findings were similar with processed meat.
Researchers are still parsing why red meat is linked with more deaths. It might be due to the saturated fat content or carcinogens that form when meat is cooked at high heat.
On the flip side, eating more white meat, like chicken, was associated with lower death rates.
So does this mean you give up burgers and steaks in favor of grilled skinless chicken breast? No, but I do think this study points to importance of variety and smart portions. Don’t eat red meat or pork every day but as part of a rotation with other lean sources of protein, including chicken, fish, and beans and legumes. Keep portion sizes small (4 ounces, raw, or less), and choose lean cuts. That’s how you can have your steak, and enjoy it, too.
Beef: flank, round, tenderloin, top sirloin, chuck shoulder, 95% lean ground
Pork: tenderloin, boneless loin roast, boneless loin chops
In other words, “loin” in the name=lean.