How to Eat Red Meat

How to Eat Red Meat

We just finished dinner at the Leventhal household, and, yes -- we had red meat! Marinated grass-fed, honey mustard hamburgers wrapped in lettuce (gluten free buns for the kids), sprouted brown rice, and steamed broccoli.  I don’t expect that any of us will die anytime soon from the honey mustard hamburgers we made, but if you read too much into the latest research from the World Health Organization (WHO) regarding red meat consumption, you might think differently.
(For those of you who haven’t read the study, the WHO recently stated that eating red meat raises the risk of colon cancer.)
A few things you should know about the study:

  • The study was an epidemiology study, meaning it was done simply by observing people over a long period of time.  There was no medical testing done as part of the process.


  • The study resulted in a Group 2A classification of red meat (in general):  probably carcinogenic to humans.   Limited evidence showed positive associations between red meat and colorectal cancer.  Other realities such as chance, bias or other influencing factors could not be ruled out.


  • The study resulted in a Group 1 classification of processed red meat:  carcinogenic to humans.  In other words there was sufficient evidence to suggest that eating processed meat can cause colorectal cancer.


  • The study concluded that consuming processed red meat causes small increases in the risk of colorectal cancer.  According to the study, every 50 grams (about 1.8 oz.) of processed meat consumed, resulted in an 18% increase in the risk of colorectal cancer.


  • The study concluded that the association between red meat (un-processed) and colorectal cancer is not strong, however, if it was proven to be a causal relationship, the risk of colorectal cancer is about half of what it is with processed meat.

For a link to the WHO Q&A, click here.  

Having said all this, the link between red meat and cancer is nothing new.  Especially when it comes to red meat cooked over high heat or open flame, as well as processed and smoked red meat.  We already knew that beef subjected to certain conditions is more closely linked to cancer.
We can avoid the added carcinogens (cancer-causing agents) by preparing red meat in the oven at lower temperatures.  If we do want to grill or cook the meat on the stovetop in a skillet at high heat, we can marinate the beef with spices, or pair the meat with a cruciferous vegetable like broccoli or green beans.  The chemical make-up of cruciferous vegetables significantly reduces the carcinogens associated with cooking red meat.    
I want to be clear about my take on this entire “red meat thing”.  The amount of meat or protein (of any kind) necessary to maintain lean muscle mass is pretty small:  .8 – 1.8 grams per kg of body weight.  So, a 150-pound (68 kg) person could safely eat two to four ounces of grass-fed, unprocessed red meat or other protein and still maintain their lean muscle mass. This would be about as much as anyone would need who doesn’t want to put on additional muscle or who isn’t a doing some seriously heavy strength training.  Think offensive linemen in the NFL.   
What most of us think when we think of a Paleo diet (which is not exactly what I would recommend for everyone) is a protein-based nutrition plan.   The Fit Nutrition recommendations are based partly on ancestral eating, partly on the Paleo concept, partly on the latest credible science, and partly on my own years of experience (using myself as a laboratory).  Fit Nutrition is not purely “Paleo”. 
What I recommend is a primarily plant-based diet with more green leafy vegetables than protein.  As a matter of fact, on average, I believe you should limit protein to 10-15% of your total daily calorie intake.  Carbohydrates derived from vegetables and some fruit should make up 65-70% of your diet, and healthy fats should come in around 20-30%.  These numbers will differ for each person, depending on your personal body composition and DNA.
Back to the Leventhal meal from the opening:  we have six mouths to feed, and the breakdown was a total of about 1.5 lbs. of hamburger meat, two cups of sprouted rice (uncooked), and two heads of broccoli.  I tell you this, so you can see that sticking to the right amounts of grass-fed, organic, non-processed meats, along with vegetables, cooked properly, will not harm you, unless you have other complicating factors.
For those who read this email to learn what next week’s workouts will look like -- we will not be eating red meat in the gym.  I hope to see you there anyway!