Why you might not need to give up red meat

red meat

It is unlikely that we can find a person these days, who has never heard (or, as an option, read) that red meat is a huge danger for both human health and the state of the planet. As for the latter, everything is really more than unambiguous, since the harmful effects of greenhouse gases from livestock production for the atmosphere are no longer questioned. In this regard, even the #NoRedOctober action was launched, in which people are advised not to consume red meat for at least one month.

As for the consequences of red meat consumption, things are not that unambiguous. Of course, if you eat it all the time, problems are possible.

But they can are also possible with an excessive consumption of foods, which are not linked in our minds with prohibitive slogans, like:

  • cheese,
  • avocado,
  • bananas.

So, is it true that red meat is harmful to humans? Let’s try to understand.


On the one hand, numerous studies on the issue, held in recent years have shown that red meat, be it grilled beef, sausages or bacon, is really not our body’s best friend. Such meat is almost always rich in fats and cholesterol, which is directly associated with an increasing risk of heart disease and diabetes. Other studies show that regular consumption of red meat also affects the risk of developing colorectal cancer.

The truth is that people have been eating red meat for a very, very long time. Popular Science reminds that the fossil remains of animals, which have traces of the first butchers activity, indicate that human being started eating red meat about 2.5 million years ago. Our ancestors knew what they were doing, since red meat contains a lot of nutrients, including a healthy dose of:



vitamin B12



“Zinc, magnesium and B vitamins are not unique to red meat, but they are certainly its main components,” said sports nutritionist Leslie Bonci in an interview with Popular Science. “If you refuse meat, then you have to work on your menu. That is, go in search of products that can make up for the difference.”

Still, can a man who has never eaten red meat, but was vigilant to his nutrition, remain 100% healthy? Bonci says that this is possible in theory, if this person is committed to constantly monitor the nutritional value of the menu. “Iron will be the main problem for you, since red meat is a simple, understandable and easily accessible source of a large amount of iron,” the expert adds.


In fact, iron, which is found in red meat, has certain advantages by itself. Known as heme iron, it is much more easily absorbed by the walls of the intestine, compared to iron, which can be found in plant foods. Scientists explain why this happens:

vegetable iron, also called “iron without iron”, requires a certain level of acid for an effective absorption by the body.

So take note: apples, spinach, pumpkin seeds and other iron-containing products of plant origin are best consumed with citrus or a small amount of vinegar.

At the same time, red meat contains iron in a ready for absorption form, which does not require any additional tricks. For this reason, by the way, beef is often recommended for people with iron deficiency anemia as a quick way to increase iron stores in the body.

There are groups of people prone to iron deficiency, whom doctors do not advise to give up red meat. These include:

  • women with severe menstrual cycles,
  • pregnant and breastfeeding women,
  • people with gastrointestinal disorders such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

A number of studies also suggest that some drugs that suppress acidity can lead to a risk of iron deficiency, but this issue should be discussed with your attending physician, since every case is unique.