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Is Red Meat Really Bad For You?

Don’t fall into the common trap of thinking of foods as “good” or “bad.” How to interpret the latest nutrition studies.

By
Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS
March 28, 2012
Episode #182

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A couple of months ago, I did a series on the three most common nutrition traps—mistakes that even health savvy people make. Today, I want to add a fourth one to the list.

As one of my clever readers once quipped:

“There are two types of people in the world: Those who divide everything into two groups, and those who do not.”

I’ve noticed that people often feel a powerful urge to think of foods as being either “good” or “bad.” I guess it’s a way to make this complicated business of food and nutrition a little simpler. But this is just silly.

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Obviously, something that is good for you in small quantities can be harmful in large quantities. I have some examples of that phenomenon in my episode on Quality vs. Quantity. And something that is bad for you in large quantities can be perfectly harmless—even beneficial—in small quantities.

Is Red Meat Really Bad For You?

Last week, for example, the Harvard School of Public Health announced the latest in a series of studies finding that people who eat large amounts of red meat have increased risk of heart disease, cancer, and a shorter life expectancy overall. This unleashed a predictable media storm about red meat being “bad” for you.

See also: Red Meat and Colon Cancer: Beyond the Headlines

Completely lost in the shuffle was the part about the quantities involved. The increased disease risk was seen in people who ate two or more servings of red meat every single day. That’s a lot of beef! Researchers found no increased risk in people who ate red meat two or three times a week. So is red meat really “bad” for you—or should we simply avoid eating it twice a day?

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