David Katz, M.D. of the Huffington Post reports today that the online journal Circulation published a study about red and processed meat consumption. The result? While red meat may not increase the risk of heart disease, processed meat apparently does.
According to the Huffington Post, “each daily serving of processed meat raised the apparent risk of heart disease by a relative 40 percent. Each serving of total meat per day was linked to a 12 percent rise in the apparent relative risk of diabetes.”
One factor contributing to the results is that processed meats–in general–have more saturated fat and less protein than pure red meats. But they’re also higher in sodium. (Read my blog post, “Pass the Salt, Please” for my view on the sodium issue.) And they can contain nitrates and nitrites , which are linked to vascular injury and atherosclerosis. (So when you’re craving bacon, get the nitrite-free stuff.)
While the article acknowledges that eating grassfed cattle is more nutritious than grain-fed cattle (hence, my argument for staying a carnivore), it also notes that people who eat more meat are likely not eating enough of the other food categories, which are good for your health: fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and fish. (I’m still questioning the fish topic, however, due to the toxins found in many fish, as well as the bycatch dilemma.)
Katz’s conclusion? “Processed meats — sausage, bacon, and the like — are almost certainly harmful in ways that simple, unprocessed red meats are not. But however you choose to digest the news about meat, chew on this: Red meats are, at best, less harmful; there is nothing to suggest they actually promote health. Plant foods do — for people and planet alike.”
I agree. If you can’t go vegetarian, a simple alternative would be to eat smaller meat portions (of happy, grassfed meat) when you’re feeling carnivorous, and make vegetarian dinners every other night. For example, share a grassfed steak with your spouse or kids and try a frittata for dinner one night!