How much is too much red meat?

April 25, 2012 BY: LISA

It’s a fact that when we eat out we order by the type of meat (protein), rather than vegetables, and most people are impressed when they see a piece of meat that touches the sides of their plate. But how much is too much red meat?

Research has linked high consumption of red meat convincingly with increased risk of colorectal cancer and there is suggestive
evidence of links with other types of cancers. Due to the higher levels of saturated fat associated with meat there is an increased risk of high cholesterol and therefore heart disease. Large serves of red meat may also mean less room for vegetables on the plate; vegetables are known to be protective against many cancers and cardiovascular disease.

It is recommended that we eat red meat 3-4 times per week at a serve size of ~100grams. The upper limit for red meat consumption is 455grams per week (NH&MRC).

Red meat provides an excellent source of highly digestible protein, iron and zinc; it contains Vitamin B12 and small amounts of omega 3 fatty acids all of which are very beneficial to the body. Protein is also very good at improving satiety levels and as such is an important macronutrient in maintaining weight – however as with most food messages – portion size is king.

The recommended daily intake (RDI) for protein is 0.75grams per kg of body weight. Using average figures the 1995 National Nutrition survey found that men and women get almost double the amount of protein that is required, so decreasing our consumption of red meat is not going to compromise our protein status.

There are other types of foods that will pack a protein punch and provide other health benefits. Try to incorporate these foods into
your diet each week:

  • Legumes: split peas, lentils, chick peas, baked beans etc. Aim for 2 serves (1 serve=1/2 cup) each week to provide not
    only protein but iron and soluble dietary fibre in a low GI package.
  • Fish: A 150gram serve twice per week will give you most of the omega 3 fatty acids you require plus provide iodine and vitamin B12.
  • Nuts: A serve of nuts (15grams = enough to make a small palm full) each day or a 30gram serve 3-4 per week makes a great snack and can really chase away the hunger pangs in the middle of the afternoon.
  • Eggs: The National Heart Foundation has stated eating up to 6 eggs per week will not have a detrimental effect on your cholesterol levels. Eggs make a great meal or snack and because they are high in protein can make a salad for lunch see your hunger levels through until dinner- adding some tinned tuna/salmon makes it even better.

Lisa Renn

Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD)

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