February 01, 2020

Red meat still best minimized, if eaten at all

Is a diet high in red meat really so bad? You may have seen stories online and on TV asking this question or a version of it. Recent media reports were sparked by a paper in the October 2019 Annals of Internal Medicine. The paper questioned long-standing advice — including from Mayo Clinic experts — that diets including only small amounts of red meat or even no red meat are best to promote overall health and reduce risk of serious diseases.

It's confusing — especially since the study included no new research, and the researchers didn't conclude that red meat is good for your health. They simply questioned the research methods used in previous studies.

Mayo Clinic experts still recommend minimizing or eliminating from your diet red meat, which includes beef, lamb, goat, pork, venison, dark-meat poultry and any skin-on poultry. Red meat typically contains more artery-clogging saturated fat than does skinless, white-meat poultry or fish. Further, processed meat — which is often red meat, but includes any meat that has been salted, cured, fermented or smoked — is a known cause of cancer, particularly colon cancer. Frequent consumption of unprocessed red meat is probably a risk factor of cancer, as well.

Mayo Clinic doctors continue to recommend a diet where most of your calories come from plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains. It's okay to eat some red meat, but try mostly to eat healthier protein sources such as skinless chicken breast, fish, beans, soy and nuts.