It seems that no one can agree on red meat. Some studies suggest it may contribute to disease, while proponents insist red meat should be a part of any healthy diet. According to Jodi Baretz, LCSW, CHHC, of The Center for Health and Healing in Mount Kisco, the answer is complicated.
“The truth to whether red meat is good or harmful for you depends on the type and quality of the meat,” she says. “Our ancestors have been consuming red meat for many years with good health. However, the meat we eat today is very different from the wild cow on a field 10,000 years ago roaming free and eating grass.”
Baretz notes that some modern meat, such as hot dogs and bacon, is heavily processed and can be filled with hormones, antibiotics, and nitrates. “This is very different than grass-fed, organic beef with cows that are naturally fed without drugs and hormones,” she adds. “So quality really matters.”
According to Baretz, the way you cook meat can also be a factor in whether or not it is healthy. “High-heat, charred, or well-done meat can produce harmful compounds that may raise your cancer risk, so the gentler the cooking method the better,” she explains. “Observational studies have been done linking red meat to cancer and heart disease, but do not take into consideration quality of meat, cooking methods, or other lifestyle factors.”
So, why should you reach for a hamburger every now and then? “Believe it or not, red meat is loaded with tons of vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants, and various other beneficial nutrients,” explains Baretz. These include B3, B12, and B6, as well as Iron, Zinc, and Selenium. “It is also rich in protein, and other nutrients such as Creatine and Carnosine, which improve muscle and brain function,” adds Baretz.
Above all, the type of meat and moderation in consumption are key. “Red meat can be part of a healthy diet, as long as you chose your meat wisely and don’t overcook it,” says Baretz. “There are many benefits to red meat, and studies have shown better weight loss and health outcomes for those on low carb diets rather than low fat diets. My recommendation is to eat red meat in moderation, and be a food snob like me, rejecting low quality meats. Your body, the cows, and the planet will thank you for it.”