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[A Longer Life] Risky Red Meats: How They Can Shorten Your Lifespan

By — One of many Food blogs on

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:

Eat more of these high-protein foods, in place of red meats:

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.

Photo Credit: artizone, star5112 and pamlau


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