Red meat: a raw deal

Meat eaters might want to think twice about eating that burger after a major study released linked the consumption of red meat to increasing the risk of early death.

In the Archives of Internal Medicine, where the study was published, researchers at the Harvard Public School of Health stated that a high red meat intake can lead to an increased risk of chronic diseases and a higher mortality rate. A daily three-ounce serving of unprocessed red meat, equivalent to the size of a deck of cards, was associated with increasing the chance of death by 13 percent, according to the Los Angeles Times. Researchers also discovered that a daily serving of processed meat, especially bacon and hot dogs, was associated with an increased risk of premature death up to 20 percent.

There has been a rise in students going toward chicken, pork and steak, according to Tamara Cunningham, manager of Cooper Dining Center. The most popular items are bacon, hamburgers and chicken tenders.

Students should be eating a good mix of carbs, fats, protein, fruits and vegetables, health promotion coordinator Michelle Sloan said. Based on previous survey data, students do not eat many fruits and vegetables. Students tend to go toward burgers since they are easy and quick, but that does not equal healthy.

“If students want to eat less healthy food, they should not make it a regular thing,” Sloan said.

Red meat is considered a primary source of protein and fat in most diets where the MyPlate suggests consuming only five to six ounces of protein per day.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the saturated fats and heme iron contained in red meats such as beef, pork and lamb are what makes it unhealthy. These culprits damage cells, elevate the risk of cancers and contribute to fatal heart diseases. Processed red meat contains high sodium levels, which contributes to high blood pressure and preservatives such as nitrates that have previously been linked to people contracting diabetes.

A healthier option to red meat is choosing leaner cuts of meat. Items like ground turkey breast, strip steak and 90 to 95 percent ground beef are better choices, said registered dietician Sarah Formoza. The dining halls offer a variety of healthier proteins ranging from London broil to low-fat chicken options such as boneless/skinless chicken breast.

Most cuts of meats often contain marbling, which is fat that adds flavor and tenderness to the cooked product.

“The more marbling, the worse it is,” Formoza said. Stores are now required to label nutrition facts on meats in which leaner meats are signified by its low calorie and fat content. Flavor and tenderness can be added to lean meat by cooking it for a longer time in a crockpot with a little bit of water and seasoning, Formoza suggested.

“Anything in your diet, you want to have variety,” Formoza said. “I am not against red meat since it does have a place in the diet, it just shouldn’t be eaten everyday.” As stated by one of the researchers of the study in the Los Angeles Times, if one wants to eat red meat, unprocessed is preferred and the servings should be limited to two or three times a week.

The researchers also found that replacing one serving of red meat with an alternative protein source was associated with lowering the chance of death by seven to 19 percent. These choices include fish, poultry, legumes, low-fat dairy products, nuts or whole grains.

“If people are careful in the choices they make, they should be fine,” Sloan said. “Things aren’t bad in moderation.”

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