Red meat is a staple in the diets of many Americans. What is more American than a classic cheeseburger or a hot dog on a warm summer day? But, as is true with most other things, too much of a good thing can be bad for you. While it’s true that red meat is a source of high-quality protein and fuels your body with important nutrients like iron, zinc, and vitamin B12, eating too much of it has been linked to negative outcomes like increased risk of cancer and heart disease.
The World Cancer Research Fund and The American Institute for Cancer Research recommend limiting consumption of red meat to no more than three portions per week, or 12–18 ounces in total. Yet, according to the USDA, the average American consumed 222.4 pounds of red meat in 2018; that’s the equivalent of almost 10 meatballs A DAY (or roughly 10 ounces a day). A quarter of adults in this country are still eating more unprocessed red meat than the recommended level according to data published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in 2019.
Basically, we should limit our consumption of red meat, but there is no need to eliminate it entirely from our diet. Red meat can be combined with other nutrient-dense foods like vegetables and whole grains to create a well-balanced meal (get a list of important nutrients your quarantine diet may be missing). One simple way to reduce your red meat intake while still enjoying your favorite dishes is to blend equal portions of chopped mushrooms and ground beef in foods like burgers and meat sauces.
The best way to know whether you are eating too much red meat is to pay attention to your serving sizes and frequency of consumption. One serving of meat is equivalent to 3–4 ounces: this is approximately the size of a deck of cards or the palm of your hand. Here are 6 signs that may indicate that you should pump the breaks on your red meat consumption. And to get more food news straight to your inbox, sign up for our newsletter.