Facts vs Fiction: Is eating red meat bad for your health?

By Stephanie McClelland
April 30, 2020

There has been a lot of speculation that eating meat is bad for your health which has been largely accepted by many people. However, on the opposite end of the spectrum, there are a large amount of advocates arguing that eating meat improves your health. 

So who’s right? The answer is both. There are some true statements made on both sides of the battle, but as many truths that lie in each argument, there are just as many lies. So which facts are true and which are just guesses?

False: Red meat improves your health

Studies show that red meat does heighten your risks of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and premature death, when there is too much consumption. However, this doesn’t mean that meat is particularly bad for you either. The World Cancer Research Fund suggests to only limit your consumption of red meat to about three servings per week.

 So red meat is not particularly bad for you, but it also will not make improvements on your health. 

Fact: Beef production is devastating the environment

According to a study done by Joseph Poore, Department of Zoology at the University of Oxford in ScienceMag, animal products are one of the biggest contributors to the world’s carbon footprint.

The impacts of animal products can markedly exceed those of vegetable substitutes to such a degree that meat, aquaculture, eggs, and dairy use 83% of the world’s farmland and contribute 56 to 58% of food’s different emissions, despite providing only 37% of our protein and 18% of our calories,” Poore said.

Photo taken by Nanxi Wei

False: Focus on a plant-based diet

Plant-based diets have become known as being the “healthier” option when it comes to eating meat and other animal products but the truth is, not all animal products are bad for you. 

While there are many benefits of a plant-based diet, that doesn’t mean that there are not dietary benefits in meat and other animal products as well. It all depends on what you’re eating and how often. 

It has been shown that sticking to a plant-based diet can help prevent diseases such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes – all risks that can increase through red meat consumption – which is a large reason many people think that this is the healthier alternative.

While it is still true that red meat can increase your chances of heart disease, certain cancers and other health complications, that is only true when eaten out of moderation because too much of anything is a bad thing.

Fact: Processes meats are bad for health

Processed meats are meats such as, bacon, sausage, salami and other preserved meats. The reason that processed meat is so harmful is because they are linked with chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, heart disease, different kinds of cancer and other health related problems. 

The other major reason that processed meats are bad for you is because they contain nitrites. According to this article, “Nitrates are relatively inert, which means they’re stable and unlikely to change and cause harm. However, bacteria in the mouth or enzymes in the body can convert them into nitrites, and these may be harmful.” 

The reason that these compounds are added into these processed meats is to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria while also improving the taste and look of the meat. These compounds are not meant to be harmful, but a large consumption of them is when health risks start to rise because you are consuming so much of these compounds.

So no matter which side of the meat argument you’re on, there are definitely lies within the truths that have been speculated to be real. The fact is, as long as you’re consuming a healthy amount of products of any sort, you’ll be okay.


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Stephanie McClelland

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