Health Benefits of Red Meat

The red meat is currently one of the elements that divide opinions when it comes to healthy eating. There are many currents that seek to ban their consumption, claiming, among other things, that they increase the risk of various types of cancer and cardiovascular disease.

However, most nutritionists claim that red meat, the specific subject of this text, has very important properties and benefits, without which many functions of our body cannot be adequately fulfilled, compromising our health. The secret would be in her more balanced contribution with vegetables; however, it is not impossible for those who adopt a vegetarian or vegan diet to obtain these same nutrients.

Here, we will see what the function of meat is, properties of red meat and its health benefits and harms. But to start with, we’ll look at the difference between red meat and white meat, another issue that can be confusing. Keep reading!


What gives the well-known red or white color of meat is the amount of iron concentrated in it – the redder, the more iron it contains (remember: iron is also responsible for the red color of our blood). Older animals have redder meat as they have had more time to accumulate the substance.

For the gastronomic world and the population in general, the types of red meat are, for example: beef, sheep, equine, goat, buffalo, among others. And white meats are: pork, veal, rabbit, poultry (chicken, turkey, duck, goose) and fish, among others.

But it is not with this division that the WHO (World Health Organization) works in its research and press releases. They classify as red meat all types of meat that come from the muscular tissues of mammals. Thus, in the scheme presented above, pork and rabbit fall into the red meat category. And, with regard to white meat, only chicken meat is considered.

In fact, the WHO only appeals to this nomenclature to make the language of its communications easier, as, in everyday life, it only considers each meat according to the animal it comes from, without generalizing in that way.

In this text, we will adopt the WHO view of red meat types. Although many people automatically associate red meat with beef.


Now let’s talk about the functions and properties of red meat for our body. Stay Connected!


You already know: food can be divided according to the action of its nutrients in our body: builders, energy and regulators. Builders help make up the tissues that make up the organs; energy drinks contribute to the combustion energy of your metabolism; and regulators are the great suppliers of the most diverse vitamins for our body, helping in the balanced performance of numerous functions.

In this division, meats are mainly used as builders, although they also contribute to increasing our energy.

If they are builders, it means that their main component is protein, which is the raw material for building or regenerating our body’s bones, muscles and cartilage, as well as other tissues. In other words, it is initially responsible for the development of the organism and for its maintenance in its best state.

Meat is nothing more than the muscular part of the animal, and this part of it is the same as ours: the muscles are together with the fat, which fill the space between them and are energy reserves. Thus, they naturally have everything we need for our bodies. This is important because it explains why certain vitamins and proteins are better processed by the body when they are of animal origin.

Now let’s see what these proteins and vitamins are.


  • High biological value protein. Only animal products contain all the amino acids that form it. It is responsible for a large part of our weight, that is, it is essential for those who are growing up.
  • L-carnitine: this amino acid is responsible for taking fats to be burned in our mitochondria, which are the central part of our cells. It is considered non-essential because our body, despite not producing it, has a reserve of it, synthesized in the liver. It also attenuates hypertension, oxidative stress and inflammation in the organs of the cardiovascular system, can improve blood glucose and cholesterol levels in type 2 diabetics and act on weight loss.
  • Glutathione: it is the main natural antioxidant, “built” by our body with the amino acids present in red meat, mainly beef. Thus, it helps cell regeneration, delays aging and prevents diseases, contributing to increased longevity. Its lack increases oxidative stress and general inflammation.
  • Carnosine: with glutathione, it works to prevent the body’s aging and to prevent diseases.
  • Creatine: improves mood and endurance for exercise, and increases muscle mass.


  • B12 (cobalamin): what is the most important vitamin in meat for our body? It’s this one! Despite this, it is not produced by the human body. Some of its functions are to form hemoglobin, which is the substance in the blood that transports oxygen from it to cells and to protect the myelin sheath, a kind of cap that surrounds each of our neurons . Its absence can cause anemia, fatigue, mental illnesses such as depression and amnesia, or damage to nervous systems that are still developing.
  • Iron: divided into heme iron and non-heme iron. It is also important for the formation of red blood cells and hemoglobins.
  • B6: also responsible for cell renewal.
  • E: vitamin responsible for skin regeneration.
  • Zinc: protects against diseases such as Alzheimer’s and depression, is also responsible for cell regeneration, and is important in pregnancy.
  • Potassium: makes bones stronger and improves the nervous system, among other functions.
  • Selenium: antioxidant functions.
  • Magnesium: acts on the functioning of more than 300 types of enzymes.


So, let’s list the properties of red meat here:

  • Proteins increase muscle mass and generate a feeling of satiety, decreasing food intake;
  • Skin improvements;
  • Tissue formation and regeneration;
  • Nervous system regeneration;
  • Improved sleep;
  • Keeps the mood positive;
  • For diabetics: increases cell sensitivity to insulin and appears to promote fat loss;
  • Antioxidant properties.


Despite all this, red meat can also be harmful. This happens if it is consumed in excess too often, with too much fat or even burned.

Health agencies recommend 300 to 500g a week, which in practice is equivalent to a small steak (70g of red meat; up to 100g if white meat) three to five times a week. In other words, ideally, it should be no more than a quarter of the plate, which should also be divided with carbohydrates, fats, vegetables and vegetables. Don’t make it the main component of two or more meals a day.

It also doesn’t need to be consumed every day: foods like white meat, beans, spinach and kale are also sources of iron, while milk and eggs provide protein. But beware: these foods have lower iron and protein content, it may be necessary to eat them in more quantities to reach the absorbed nutrient levels achieved by red meat. The ideal is to always be varying.

With regard to fat: if possible, prefer cuts with less fat and more meat for your day, such as tenderloin, duckling and lizard. The fattest cuts, such as picanha, can be reserved for special occasions.

When preparing, separate the visible fat and the cover or skin from the meat itself. It is better to cook, bake or grill than fry. In any of these options, do not use oil, olive oil or butter, so as not to increase fat. And try not to let it burn too long, that is, too long on high heat, because the black crust that forms, if consumed too often, can cause cancer.

Among the harms of over-consumption of red meat are:

  • Increased risk of developing different types of cancer: esophagus, breast, colon, rectum, among others.
  • Increased risk of cardiovascular disease due to increased HDL cholesterol, which is bad cholesterol. So if you have a problem with cholesterol, see a doctor to find out how much meat you can eat.
  • Increased inflammation if there are too many saturated fats. One of the most worrying ones today is diverticulitis, inflammation of the lining of the intestinal lining.
  • Depending on the origin, the meat can be contaminated with excess hormones and antibiotics, which are also carcinogens.
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Robert Asprin, APD is a non-dieting Accredited Practicing Dietitian passionate about inspiring positive changes in eating and lifestyle behaviors to help improve health while nurturing relationships with food and body.

Robert Asprin

Robert Asprin, APD is a non-dieting Accredited Practicing Dietitian passionate about inspiring positive changes in eating and lifestyle behaviors to help improve health while nurturing relationships with food and body.

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