Series: The best 3 animal products to cut out of your diet. 2 – red meat

This series is about which animal products are best to cut out of your diet for health and environmental reasons.

Part 1 was on processed meats and can be found here.

Part Two: RED MEAT

i.e. beef, veal, pork, lamb, mutton, horse and goat



Similarly to processed meat, red meat was assessed by the World Health Organisation and is now considered as a class 2a carcinogen, meaning it is probably carcinogenic. The strongest evidence is for bowel (or colorectal) cancer, but also pancreatic and prostate.

In a 2012 Harvard study, researchers observed over 120,000 participants who were free of cancer and cardiovascular disease (CVD) at the start of the study. Their diets were assessed every four years and by the end of the study over 15,000 deaths had occurred from CVD and cancer. They found that regular consumption of red and processed meat was associated with increased mortality. Replacing servings of red meat with healthy protein sources such as whole grains, legumes and nuts were associated with a decreased mortality risk. (They controlled for all other potential factors such as smoking, age, alcohol, family history, calorie intake etc).

Meat has also been linked to type 2 diabetes: 

Also there are potential issues with ‘heme iron’ (mainly found in meat, plants have mostly non-heme iron):



As I discussed in my post on processed meat, more and more information is being shared about the environmental impact of meat consumption. Red meat, particularly beef, is associated with the biggest land and energy use and the largest potential for global warming. When looking at carbon footprints of different diets, it is clear that meat plays a big role in this:

co2 footprintsThe above infographic was created from the findings of a UK study of dietary greenhouse gas emissions which can be found here.

If cutting all meat from your diet seems like too much of a hurdle, cutting out just red meat (and replacing it with healthy plant proteins) will still have a positive impact on your health and the environment.

Even supermarkets are getting involved with trying to reduce meat consumption for health and environment. This article from The Guardian cites a study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in the US, which concluded that eating less meat could reduce global mortality by 6-10% and cut greenhouse gas emissions by 30-70%. Supermarket chiefs (with Sainsbury’s leading) are going to work with Oxford University scientists to make changes to supermarkets layout to increase fruit and vegetable purchases whilst reducing meat purchases.

What to eat instead?

Mince is a popular and versatile red meat product used in many recipes from bolognese, to lasagne, cottage pie and moussaka. Supermarkets now offer mince alternatives such as soya mince or Quorn. If you want focus on whole plant foods instead you can use green lentils, finely chopped mushrooms, cauliflower or crumbled baked tofu.

Beef burgers can be swapped for veggie burgers. Some types will give you the texture of a meat burger such as Linda McCartney vegetarian burgers. Others will be more soft and don’t try to imitate meat burgers.

Focus on healthy proteins such as beans, chickpeas, nuts, whole grains, lentils, peas etc. The reality is there is protein in everything so as long as you eat enough good quality calories, your protein needs will be met (recommended protein intake is 0.8g per kg of weight).

Protein infographic


Stay tuned for the final part of the series next week!


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