If and how much animal protein we should eat are pretty hotly contested topics these days. In the case of red meat — which includes beef, pork, lamb, veal, and mutton — you’ve heard it all. It’s good for you. It’s bad for you. It will kill you. So what can you believe? Whether you’re a seasoned meat eater or a long-time vegetarian, there may be some things you still need to learn. For those of you who value both your time and your health, our list of pros and cons is a must.
1. Pro: Boosts energy levels
There’s a reason a lot of young kids are told eating their meat will make them grow up big and strong. Red meat is a great source of iron, which is a needed to make hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying protein found in red blood cells. Without enough iron, this whole process slows down. This means iron plays an essential role in maintaining a person’s energy levels. According to a health guide from The New York Times, a person with iron deficiency can expect to feel a lack of energy, shortness of breath, and headache.
2. Con: May increase the risk of certain types of cancer
Red meat has long been considered a possible cancer contributor. In particular, there’s been a link between red meat and colorectal cancer. Research suggests consuming red and processed meat increases a person’s risk for colorectal cancer by 20% to 30%. And interestingly enough, more than half of colorectal cancer cases occur in developed countries, where red meat tends to be a big part of the diet. Coincidence? Maybe not.
Additionally, red meat has also been linked to pancreatic, breast, and prostate cancers, giving you more than enough reason to limit your intake.
3. Pro: Supports a strong immune system
A good immune system is essential for a healthy lifestyle, particularly during cold and flu season. One way to make sure it’s functioning as well as possible is to make sure you’re getting enough zinc. According to Runner’s World, a 3.5-ounce serving of beef delivers 34% of the daily recommended zinc dosage. And while you can get zinc from other foods, such as grains, it’s better absorbed when it comes from meat. Additionally, Rikki Keen, R.D., told the publication meats, such as steak and pork, can also help repair small muscle tears thanks to their amino acids.
4. Con: May lead to diabetes
Red meat can take an unhealthy toll on your body, and too much of it may even lead to type-2 diabetes. According to research from Harvard School of Public Health, people who upped their red meat intake by 3.5 servings a week had an increased risk of developing the disease. A 50% increased risk over the next four years, to be exact.
5. Pro: Supports metabolism
We’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn’t want a good metabolism. But for many, it can drastically slow down over the years. This means finding foods that are high in vitamin B12, which helps boost metabolism, is key. It’s also good news for meat-lovers because red meat, beef in particular, is a great source.
6. Con: Could lead to heart disease and stroke
It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that red meat isn’t necessarily all that good for heart health. According to SFGate, red meat adds cholesterol and saturated fats to your diet. Not only can this increase your risk of heart disease and stroke, but it can also lead to weight gain, which contributes to high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. One way or another, it seems your heart can suffer.
7. Pro: Boosts brain health
Everyone wants to stay as sharp as possible for as long as possible, and one way to do just that is by upping your daily dose of omega-3 fatty acids. According to CNN, an analysis of 67 studies compared organic and non-organic meats, including beef, chicken, pork, lamb, and goat. Now, we all know going organic is undoubtedly the better option when it comes to certain foods, particularly for meat. The research found organic meats had 47% more omega-3s than the non-organic versions. This is great news when you consider some medical professionals think omega-3s could help fend off cognitive decline.
8. Con: It’s been linked to an early death
A wide variety of factors can contribute to an early death. In fact, a large study conducted by a team of Harvard researchers found a link between red meat and cause of death. In addition to dying younger, people who ate the most red meat died more often from cardiovascular disease and cancer. While the study did show a link between meat consumption and death, other factors were present in the group as well. For example, these people weighed more, exercised less, smoked tobacco, and drank more alcohol.
Of course, picking your favorite pros and cons from this list exclusive of all the others won’t really benefit you. So, it’s important to keep all factors in mind. Just remember, all things in moderation.