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The long-term effects of eating red meat are not in our favor

Nothing beats a good burger… unless you bite the dust for eating too many.

According to a new study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, eating processed and unprocessed red meat is linked to a higher risk for death.

Swedish researchers looked at nearly 75,000 people to see if there was a link between eating red meat and mortality. The scientists looked at people’s eating habits, exercise regimen, booze consumption, smoking intake and other lifestyle factors. They asked participants about different types of red meat and had patients note how frequently they consumed the meats. They then followed up 15 years later.

During the 15-year span, they noted that about 20 percent of the people died. Compared to those who never ate red meat, those who had about 10.5 ounces of processed and unprocessed meat or so a day had a shorter lifespan by about two years. Processed meat was the worst — those who had about 3.5 ounces of it a day had a shorter survival of about nine months. High and moderate intake of unprocessed meat was linked to shorter lifespans only when the people also ate a lot of processed meats.

“It is reasonable to assume that processed and nonprocessed meat might have different biological mechanisms, resulting in different effects on mortality,” the authors said in their report. “Red meat is a rich source of zinc and dietary protein, which might be responsible for the positive effect of red meat consumption. On the other hand, meat processing involves different potentially adverse components that could counteract the positive effects of the beneficial nutrients in meat.”

“The consumption of nonprocessed meat alone was not associated with shorter survival,” the researchers reported.

Thinking of becoming a vegetarian? You don’t have to go to extremes; you can phase out red meats in order to improve your health. And seeking out organic choices is another option to make meat-eating a bit better for you.

Popular processed meats to avoid include:

  • Sausages
  • Hot dogs
  • Salami
  • Cold cuts

Unprocessed meats, which you also might want to limit, include fresh and minced pork, beef and veal.

Can’t give up your occasional burger? Why not start with Meatless Mondays and see how it goes?

“Just give up meat one day a week. All you’ve got to do is eat a meat-free dish, which can be simple and easy, such as veggie lasagna, bean tacos, beans and rice, or a veggie burger,” says Sharon Palmer, a dietitian and author of Plant-Powered for Life: Eat Your Way to Lasting Health With 52 Simple Steps & 125 Delicious Recipes.

Palmer shared some other tips for eating less of or eliminating red meat intake:

  • Once you’ve got Meatless Monday under control, try another few nights eating meat-free by trying some new recipes featuring beans, tofu, nuts, whole grains and veggies. Some of my favorites are tofu veggie stir-fry with brown rice, meatless chili with cornbread, and lentil curry with whole grains.
  • Try ethnic food for inspiration, many cultures around the world, such as Asia, India, Greece, and even Africa, have many delicious plant-based foods, such as Indian cal with basmatic rice, tabouleh (Greece), seitan noodle dishes (Asia), and yam vegetable stews (Ethiopia).
  • Borrow another trick from ethnic cultures and use one portion of meat for an entire family sized dish, such as a pasta dish with chopped chicken, shrimp in a vegetable stir-fry, or turkey in a potato casserole.
  • Extend your meat with veggies. For example, use half beef and half mushrooms in tacos, use half meat in your lasagna and load up the veggies, and use half of the meat in your beef stew and load up on the veggies.
  • Breakfast is easy to go meat-free, just do whole grain porridges, veggie bean breakfast burritos, and whole grain fruit and nut waffles.

More delicious meat-free recipes

Homemade soy chorizo and lentil lettuce wraps with cilantro cream
Baked sweet potato and leek latkes
Loaded vegan tacos

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