Reducing Consumption of Red Meat

I’m not one of those who believes red meat is evil. There are many benefits to the meat. It is high in iron and fortunately, the heme iron in red meat is easily absorbed by the body. Red meat also supplies vitamin B12, which helps make DNA and keeps nerve and red blood cells healthy, and zinc, which keeps the immune system working properly. Additionally, red meat provides protein, which helps build bones and muscles.

However, as many are aware, there are some dangers associated with eating too much red meat, particularly processed red meats such as bacon, sausage or processed deli meats. In a new study, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) have found that eating processed meat was associated with a 42% higher risk of heart disease and a 19% higher risk of type 2 diabetes.

Steak - Andy Chilton

Because some red meats are high in saturated fat, which raises blood cholesterol, which in turn leads to higher levels of LDL cholesterol, they increase the risk of heart disease. With respect to cancer, there is a belief among some researchers that red meat does increase the risk for cancer, particularly colorectal cancer.

A recent National Institutes of Health-AARP study of more than a half-million older Americans concluded that people who ate the most red meat and processed meat over a 10-year-period were likely to die sooner than those who ate smaller amounts. Those who ate about four ounces of red meat a day were more likely to die of cancer or heart disease than those who ate the least, about a half-ounce a day. Epidemiologists classified the increased risk as “modest” in the study.

After a systemic review of scientific studies, an expert panel of the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research concluded in 2007 that “red or processed meats are convincing or probable sources of some cancers.” Their report says evidence is convincing for a link between red meat, processed meat, and colorectal cancer, and limited but suggestive for links to lung, esophageal, stomach, pancreatic, and endometrial cancers.

Spinach Salad

While I briefly thought about giving up red meat, I have decided instead to reduce my consumption – no more than two servings a week – greatly reduce my consumption of processed red meats (bye bye bacon), and to limit that consumption to lean cuts of red meat. Generally, the leanest cuts of red meat are those which contain ‘loin’ in the name. Examples include: top sirloin, sirloin tip steak, pork tenderloin, and lamb loin chops.

Less of the red meat and more of the green, orange, purple, red and yellow fruits and vegetables.

Fruits and Vegetables

So what are some other sources of needed protein? Chicken, eggs, tofu, cottage cheese, pumpkin seeds, salmon and almonds to name a few. How about iron? Soy beans, clams, spinach, mussels, ginger, lentils and oysters do the trick.

As with most things, I believe the key is thoughtful moderation and attention to detail. Eat well and stay healthy!


Blogger-in-Chief here at RetirementSavvy and author of Sin City Greed, Cream City Hustle and RENDEZVOUS WITH RETIREMENT: A Guide to Getting Fiscally Fit.


  1. Nice post James. After spending 45-odd years eating and drinking pretty well anything I wanted I got told by the doctor that my cholesterol was too high, and I started getting gout of all things. The past 5 years have seen a significant reduction of most of the things I really enjoyed (sad face). There comes’s a time in our lives where we have to realise that we’re not bulletproof any more. For some, that’s younger and others, older, but it will catch up eventually.

    There’s no point working all of your life to retirement and then dropping dead a couple of years later from a heart attack. That’s the extreme but how many people out there have their quality of life limited by their poor diet choices years earlier such as Type 2 diabetes?

    I’m with you. Start consciously considering everything that I eat or drink now. And exercise. I am a believer now that exercise is probably the one thing that WILL make the difference between having a great quality of life when I’m older or not.

    • “There’s no point working all of your life to retirement and then dropping dead a couple of years later from a heart attack. That’s the extreme but how many people out there have their quality of life limited… .” Exactly. For a number of years our household conversations revolved primarily around saving and investing. However, as our retirement plan – from a financial perspective – is rock solid and on track, our attention and conversations have turned more to diet and exercise. We have every intention of being in the best shape possible to make the most of the 20 -35 years we are likely to spend in retirement. Moreover, the healthier you are in retirement, the less money you’ll spend on healthcare related expenses. Being active and saving money … a win-win!

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts and story. Be well, my friend.

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