Is Too Much Red Meat Bad for You?

Is Too Much Red Meat Bad for You?

Red meat is the most affordable type of meat in the market. The meats categorized as red meat are lamb, pork, and beef. Whatever meal you’re preparing, adding any of these red meats will make it a feast suitable for a king. But what happens when you eat too much red meat? Also, how much red meat is too much in a day? 

Read on to find out. 

Red meat in your diet 

Red meat is a good source of protein. Our bodies need proteins to build and repair muscles. Also, proteins help in the building of hormones and amino acids. Red meat is an excellent source of zinc, iron, and Vitamin B12. The iron supply from meat is also good. 

Therefore, having meat in your diet is okay. The issue, however, is how much red meat is appropriate. 

The World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) recommends no more than three portions per week (about 350 to 500 grams) in cooked weight. Similarly, the UK-based NHS (National Health Service) recommends no more than 70g per day of red meat

You should consume very little processed meat. These are meats that have been transformed through salting, smoking, fermentation, or other processes to improve flavor or preservation [1]. Processed meats include:

The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies processed meats as Group 1 carcinogen, which means that there’s strong evidence linking them to cancer [2]. Processed meat contains pork or beef, but it can contain other meats, e.g., rabbit meat, poultry, offal, or the by-products of meat such as blood. 

Image: Sausages

What Happens when you eat too much red meat? 

Past research links too much intake of red meat with increased risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain cancers (Colon, pancreatic, prostate, and rectum cancers). These studies also revealed increased mortality risk due to red meat intake. Still, it is essential to note that most of these studies had some design flaws [3]. A recent study that was published in the nature medicine journal found that the consumption of red and processed meats only increased the risk of diabetes and cancer only slightly [4]. The same study showed that there was no association between the consumption of red meat with ischemic stroke and hemorrhagic stroke.

Observational studies link too much consumption of red meat with cardiovascular diseases, certain cancers, and diabetes. 

What are the safest ways to prepare meat?

Researchers and nutritionists agree that it’s best to moderate your red meat intake. You should go for lean meat instead of the beefy (rich in fat) kinds of meat. It is advisable that you go for healthier alternatives to red meat, such as eggs, nuts, peas, beans, fish, legumes, and whole grains. 

Image: Legumes-Alternative to Red meat

How you prepare your red meat is equally important. When you overcook the meat and prepare it using high-temperature methods like deep frying or grilling over an open flame, you increase your chances of getting certain cancers. Meat cooked at high temperatures (including white meat) or cooked for a long time tend to release toxins known as heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). These toxins alter your DNA, thus increasing the risk of cancer [5]. The National Institute of Cancer also warns against making gravy from meat drippings because of HCAs and PAH. 

The WHO recommends that you:

  • Avoid cooking the meat in high temperatures (avoid cooking meat in temperatures over 148°C or 300 Fahrenheit). 
  • Avoid direct contact with flame or a hot surface, e.g., barbecuing or pan-frying. 

Other nutritionists argue that using herbs such as mustard, garlic, pepper, basil, oregano, and rosemary or adding a condiment like mustard minimizes the toxicity effect [6]. 

Safest way to preserve red meat

How you preserve your red meat is equally important. You should refrigerate fresh meat for at most seven days. If you want the meat to stay longer, use vacuum food sealer bags. If you are preserving the meat for a shorter time, you should keep it ‘aired’ under a piece of cloth. In addition to this, you should keep it at the bottom of the fridge to avoid the risk of cross-contamination. 

When trying to figure out whether the meat is fresh or not, you should trust your nose more than any given ‘sell by’ date. 

Image: Red meat preserved in a vacuum bag

The healthiest way to cook red meat 

The best way to cook red meat is to bake, broil, stew, or roast. These methods are healthier compared to charring, grilling, or frying. Marinating the meat in mixtures containing fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices rich in antioxidants (e.g., allspice, oregano, rosemary) helps lower the formation of toxins. You should use healthy fat when cooking your meat, e.g., palm oil, coconut oil, lard, or olive oil.  

Vegetable or seed oils are prone to damage when exposed to high temperatures, as is the case when pan-frying or stir-frying [7]. Heating these oils also promotes the formation of potentially cancer-causing chemicals. 

Slow cooking, pressure cooking, or the sous vide technique are also safe ways of cooking meat. Slow cooking, however, results in the loss of vitamin B. 

To Conclude 

Red meat is an excellent source of protein and other vitamins like Zinc, Iron, and vitamin B. Many people love red meat, and there are many ways to prepare it. Having meat in your diet is essential. However, too much red meat puts your health at risk. Past studies show that too much red meat in your diet puts you at risk of developing certain types of cancers, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases. 

It is important for you to be mindful of how much red meat you eat in a day or a week. Also, you should opt for healthy ways of preparing the meat and ensure that you safely preserve your meat. Make sure you buy your meat from a trusted source as well. 

Are you a fan of red meat? How do you like your meat prepared? Kindly share your thoughts in the comments section. 


  1. World Cancer Research Fund International (WCRF). Limit red and processed meat. URL:
  2. World Health Organization (WHO). Cancer: Carcinogenicity of the consumption of red meat and processed meat. URL:
  3. NIH(National Institute of Health). Risk in Red Meat? URL:
  4. Lescinsky, H., Afshin, A., Ashbaugh, C. et al. Health effects associated with consumption of unprocessed red meat: a Burden of Proof study. Nat Med 28, 2075–2082 (2022).
  5. Cleveland Clinic. Are Your Burgers, Steaks and Meats Cooked Safely? A guide to cooking or ordering in a restaurant. URL:
  6. Dr. Eric Berg DC. Is Red Meat Good or Bad for you?

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Shukrani Maina

    What if you eat no or little red meat?

  2. Beverlyne Jesire

    too much of red meat is unhealthy

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