Risky Red Meats: How They Can Shorten Your Lifespan
By Brad Ter Haar
From the A Longer Life Blog Series
A new study shows that a diet high in red meat increases the risk of heart disease and cancer, thereby lowering life expectancy. This is old news you might say, but what distinguishes this study from past findings, is that researchers this time around studied the effects of different types of red meats, noting the differences, for example, between pork and hot dogs.
The researchers found that, for every 3-ounces of unprocessed red meat (e.g., fresh pork or beef) consumed daily, the risk of cardiovascular death increased by 16%, while the risk of dying from cancer increased by 10%. An easy way of visualizing a 3-ounce serving of meat is to picture a deck of playing cards.
Processed red meat, such as hot dogs or bacon, yielded even more alarming results, as a single serving of processed red meat raised the risk of dying from cancer to 16%, while death from heart disease rose to 21%.
These results are striking, and should make you reconsider just how much red meat to include in your diet. When you do choose to eat red meat, which is loaded with cholesterol and saturated fat, it is better to consume unprocessed, rather than processed red meat. So the next time you have an intense craving for red meat, purchase lean ground beef, and avoid processed hot dogs, bacon and sausage.
Ann Pan, Ph.D., a research fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health, suggests limiting your consumption of red meat to two to three servings per week, and avoiding processed red meat altogether, if possible. The researchers estimated that, had the 120,000 people included in the study reduced their daily intake of red meat to half a serving, nearly 9% of deaths in the group could have been prevented.
Additionally, the study estimates that replacing red meat with leaner foods like chicken, fish, whole grains, nuts, or beans, may reduce the risk of early death by 7% to 19%.
Replacing Red Meat with Protein and Iron-Rich Foods
Unless you plan on discovering the Fountain of Youth, you probably are like me, in that you try to exercise and eat right as much as possible, so that you can live a long and healthy life. I’m sure you have heard many of the health risks posed by consuming large, frequent servings of red meats, long before reading this article. (Don’t worry, I will spare you of any witty quote about moderation). You may have also heard that red meats such as beef and pork are excellent sources of iron and protein.
So if you cut back on your intake of red meat in order avoid an early death, how can you still provide your body with healthy levels of iron and protein?
Here are some foods high in iron:
- Dried Herbs: Packed with nutrients, herbs are a great way to increase your iron intake. Dried thyme, for instance, contains 124mg of iron per 100g serving. Other herbs high in iron include thyme, parsley, cumin seed, oregano, bay leaf, and rosemary.
- Shellfish: Clams, mussels, and oysters each provide your body with iron, whether served steamed, baked, or raw. Ten small clams contain 150% of the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of iron.
- Sun Dried Tomatoes: 2 cups of sun dried tomatoes provides over half of the RDA for iron, and are a delicious addition to a sandwich or pasta dish.
- Dried Apricots: A colorful snack or salad topping, dried apricots provide nearly one-third of the RDA for iron, based on a serving of about 20 dried apricots.
- Sunflower Seeds, and Roasted Pumpkin and Squash Seeds: The sunflower seed is known as a good source of Vitamin E, but it also contains high amounts of iron, though not as much as pumpkin and squash seeds.
Eat more of these high-protein foods, in place of red meats:
- Cheese: Although you should limit how much cheese you eat since it is high in fat, it is a good source of protein, with cheeses like Swiss, Parmesan, and Mozzarella providing the most protein per serving, while cream cheeses and spreadable cheeses provide the least amount of protein.
- Seafood: Tuna provides the greatest amount of protein per serving among fish, at grams per ounce. Other protein-rich fish include anchovies, salmon, snapper, and tilapia. Lobster and crab are other options for protein, as crab contains 19 grams of protein per 100g serving, with lobster providing 27 grams of protein.
- Lentils and Nuts: With .2 grams of protein per peanut, this snack can provide your body with protein in a hurry! Lentils are another option, but contain the most protein when consumed raw, rather than cooked. Pecans and almonds are other easy snacks that contain high levels of protein.
- Tofu: While people seem to either love or hate this popular Asian cuisine, it contains about 5 grams of protein per ounce
- Skim Milk: An 8-ounce glass of skim milk contains 8g of protein.
Most of us will not ever give-up red meat entirely, but cutting back on your consumption of it is beneficial to your health. Remember too, when you do eat red meat, try to go for the fresh, unprocessed types of red meat, and if you cut back on your consumption, be sure to replace red meat with foods rich in protein and iron.