A research review released this week may have some people wondering if they should be ignoring previous guidelines on how much red or unprocessed meat is healthy to eat.
The study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, recommends adults continue with current meat consumption rates for both red and processed meats, because there isn’t strong enough evidence of health benefits from reducing intake.
This advice is contrary to dietary guidelines around the world recommending limits on how much we eat, particularly processed meat. So, what does this mean for meat lovers out there? Can we now all rest easy, eating as much meat as we like without it increasing our risk of heart disease, diabetes or cancer?
At Healthy Food Guide we stress the importance of looking at the entire body of evidence rather than jumping on the latest bit of research and upturning everything that has come before, as a result.
Expert reaction to the research has been varied but there are a few common threads:
- The researchers’ recommendations for meat intake are not actually that different from what is currently recommended in most guidelines, with most countries studied consuming around three or four portions a week.
- Most experts, and the researchers themselves, highlight the study ignores issues of animal welfare and sustainability. These are considerations worth including in guidelines for meat consumption because human health is directly linked to the health of our planet.
- The conclusions drawn by the researchers are likely to cause confusion, and confusion around nutrition advice can cause harm.
With that last point in mind, here’s what Healthy Food Guide recommends when it comes to red and processed meat consumption:
- Red meat is a great source of iron, protein and other important nutrients and can be a part of a healthy plant-based diet.
- To reduce risk of developing colorectal cancer it’s recommended we stick to no more than 700g-750g (500g cooked) of red meat a week. If you use HFG recipes that would mean about 4-6 meat meals a week.
- We all know the more plant foods we eat the better. Because we can only eat so much at a time, it’s important to make sure you focus on filling half your plate up with non-starchy vegetables, one quarter protein and one quarter carbohydrate. That way it’s easy to get the amount and variety of plant-foods we need for optimum health.