New research papers on red meat consumption have stirred up controversy lately.1 The papers, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, say that the average adult can continue to eat both red and processed meat at typical levels.2 This runs contrary to current recommendations to limit intake of meat.3 So does that mean that a diet low in meat is no longer the gold standard? Not exactly.
Current guidelines say that our diets should be high in plant-based foods and low in red and processed meats. This is based on evidence from several randomized, controlled studies that have found that consuming red and processed meat increases the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and premature death. The new papers, which were based on a new review of existing studies and said that there is not enough evidence to prove these links, are highly controversial. Several health organizations are protesting these findings and pointing out numerous issues, including the omittance of studies that would have supported the recommendations to reduce meat intake, and one of the author’s past ties to the meat industry.4
Because these recommendations run contrary to current guidelines, it’s a wise idea to continue to cut down on red and processed meat. In fact, studies have found that people on a vegetarian diet have a lower risk of obesity, hypertension, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.5 While a plant-based diet may be ideal, the truth is that cutting out meat completely can be difficult for social and emotional reasons. If that is the case for you, you can still get many of these health benefits by following current guidelines. A common recommendation is to eat three or less portions of red meat a week. When it comes to processed meat (like sausage, bacon and salami) it is best to consume as little as possible.6
But instead of focusing on what not to eat, aim for eating mostly plant-based, minimally-processed food. You will find that you enjoy your food more when you focus on what to add instead of what to reduce. Eat a great variety of fruit and vegetables so that you can get all the vitamins and minerals your body needs. Whole grains and legumes provide many health benefits, including fiber. If you eat animal protein, choose small amounts of organic, unprocessed meat. Vegetarians should keep in mind that some meat substitute products also can be highly processed.
At Karuna, our goal is to help you supplement your diet naturally, without the need for synthetic vitamins and minerals that don’t provide the same benefits as whole foods. Our plant-based drinks provide nutrients from real food, especially prebiotic fiber and antioxidants. If you avoid eating meat, our Empower whole plant smoothie, which is high in protein, and our Synergy coffee blend, which provides a high amount of vitamin B6, can be extra beneficial.