There are many opinions when it comes to red meat consumption. While devoted carnivores stock up on beef, lamb, and pork, others won’t go near it because they’ve been told it may take a negative toll on their health. But even if these products do offer some substantial benefits, such as high amounts of protein and various essential nutrients, is it worth eating every day? Or are there more negative effects that you should be wary of?
According to the World Cancer Research Fund, you should not be eating more than three servings of red meat a week, which is about 12 to 18 ounces when cooked. If you devour any more than that, you might experience some negative side effects. We reached out to two registered dietitian experts to discover what the ugly side effects of eating red meat every day might be. For more on protein, check out The #1 Best Meat For Your Health, New Study Suggests.
One of the most common side effects you may hear when eating red meat is that your heart gets the brunt of it. According to Lisa Young, PhD, RDN, author of Finally Full, Finally Slim and The Portion Teller Plan, that’s the truth.
It can take a toll on your heart.
A recent study suggested that eating about 1.1 servings per day of red meat, including beef, pork, bison, and venison, was connected to a 22% higher chance of atherosclerotic CVD.
Saturated fats are found in most animal products. And yes, that includes red meat.
“Most red meat contains high amounts of saturated fats,” says Sydney Greene, MS, RD. “For example, a three-ounce piece of ribeye steak contains roughly eight grams of saturated fat which is about 40% of the suggested daily intake. Saturated fat intake raises the amount of LDL cholesterol in the body which is associated with a higher risk of heart disease.”
You’ll consume a high amount of saturated fat.
To further add to the issue, Dr. Young advises that high saturated fat levels may contribute to atherosclerosis, which is a “build-up of cholesterol plaque in the walls of arteries obstructing blood flow,” according to the Mayo Clinic.
Aside from the fact that saturated fat can take a serious toll on your health by messing with cholesterol levels, it can also contribute to more calories, leading to weight gain, Dr. Young advises.
You’ll ingest a higher amount of calories.
One 8-ounce steak is 614 calories with a total fat count of 46 grams—that’s 66% of your daily value based on a 2,000-calorie diet.
“Diets high in animal products, especially red meat, may contribute to the increased incidence of obesity,” Dr. Young says. “Obesity in and of itself is a risk factor for CVD, diabetes, and cancer.”
Saturated fat in red meat can negatively affect both your heart and your gut microbiome—the community of microorganisms that live in your gut and have an effect on your immunity, cognition, digestion, and more.
“In addition to saturated fats contributing to an increased risk for heart disease, emerging research is examining how red meat affects bacteria in the gut,” explains Greene. And red meat’s effect on your gut can, in turn, impact your heart. “During digestion and absorption, it appears that a metabolite produced by gut microbes is associated with cardiovascular disease,” Greene says.
“Although the exact reasons are hard to pin down, intake of red meat is also associated with inflammatory biomarkers that can end up increasing the risk of developing chronic disease,” says Greene.
The Cleveland Clinic notes that red meat may contribute to inflammation thanks to its saturated fat content. Furthermore, Dr. Young suggests red meat can also lead to certain cancers, which have been previously related to inflammation.