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Eat less red meat and live longer

Michele Borboa, MS is a freelance writer and editor specializing in health, fitness, food, lifestyle, and pets. Michele is a health and wellness expert, personal chef, cookbook author, and pet-lover based in Bozeman, Montana. She is also...

Are you a meat eater?

Did you know meat eaters not only tend to weigh more than vegetarians (and flexitarians), meat eaters also tend to gain the most dangerous type of fat? Visceral fat, located deep in the abdominal region, is considered a significant risk factor for both heart disease and cancer. Further, a study published in the March 2009 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine - considered the largest study of its kind - links meat consumption to an increased risk of death. Keep reading - you may decide those weekly half-pound burgers aren't so tasty after all.

Woman Saying No to Burger

Saturated fat is only part of the problem

Saturated fat is the type of fat found primarily in animal-based foods, such as red meat, butter and cream, and some plant oils, like cocoa butter and palm oil.A diet high in saturated fat is associated with increased cholesterol levels and heart disease. And according to Dr Stuart Fischer, best known for his book The Park Avenue Diet, the saturated fat found in red meat is a factor in almost all chronic diseases in America. However, he says that is only part of the problem."The principal issue, as is true with every other type of food, is the caloric content — the caloric content of fat is almost twice that of protein and carbs, and most people don't exercise enough to burn off the extra calories," the medical expert explains.

Too much meat raises health risks

Dr Fischer, ironically, worked with Dr Atkins — the creator of the famous low-carb Atkins Diet, which promotes meat consumption — for nine years and decided to become a vegetarian as an experiment. Dr Fischer, who has been vegetarian for six years now, says he quickly dropped six pounds, felt better, and never went back to eating meat again.According to Dr Fischer, red meats are higher in saturated fats than even butter or cream cheese and that it is almost impossible to achieve ideal body weight with meat in the diet more than once or twice a week.He warns, "Weight gain promotes the development of [dangerous] visceral fat, linked to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and asthma, among many other illnesses."

What are meat eaters to do?

Despite the scientific evidence linking red meat to an increase in weight and risk of chronic disease, not everyone wants to become a vegetarian.Dr Fischer says adamant meat eaters can reduce their risk of heart disease, cancer and other diseases by keeping their weight as close to ideal as possible…"something only achievable with regular intense exercise — both cardio and strength-training."In addition to reducing meat in the diet, Dr Fischer also recommends getting protein from fish, eggs (six to eight per week), whey and soy.Another guideline to follow is from the American Heart Association: Limit your intake of saturated fat to no more than seven percent of your total calories each day. That means reading labels and decreasing your consumption of foods high in saturated fat.You don't have to completely give up meat to improve your health and lose weight — but you do need to be more diligent about exercise and strive for a healthier diet overall.

Find an effective approach to lose weight

There is no one diet that will work long-term for every person, but that doesn't mean you won't be able to find a diet that works for you. The key is to do your research and be honest with yourself about what you can realistically live with — and live without.You can consume more plant-based meals while reducing your meat intake with a flexitarian approach. Decrease your weight and risk of disease with an anticancer diet, anti-inflammatory diet, or DASH diet. Or you can simply start with small changes in your exercise and eating habits.Dr Fischer believes a comprehensive lifestyle approach is key to successful weight loss. His Park Avenue Diet is a six-week program that helps people not just eat better and exercise more, but ultimately re-invent themselves with the help of seven top health and beauty experts. The Park Avenue Diet addresses beauty, etiquette, poise, body image, mental health, fitness, food and fashionDr Fisher says, "My approach to successful weight loss is to motivate people through guidance in multiple areas so they will see improvement in numerous ways, not merely on the bathroom scale." Visit ParkAvenueDiet.com for more information.

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