If you’ve been cutting red meat from your diet in an attempt to live a healthier lifestyle, you’re not alone. Studies have linked the consumption of red meat to diseases like cancer, type two-diabetes and heart disease. This has led organizations such as the World Cancer Research Fund to recommend serving up red meat no more than three times a week.

But despite this, a recent study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine has brought red meat back to the forefront of the ongoing discussion around nutrition.

The study says there is little evidence linking red meat consumption to poor health. The leading researchers at Dalhousie and McMaster universities, along with their international panel of scientists claim there is not enough knowledge on the subject to recommend reducing our consumption.

Some are praising the challenge to commonly accepted nutrition knowledge, including Alberta Premier Jason Kenney.

Kenney retweeted this article by the National Post, along with the caption; “this series of new scientific studies underscores why governments should have a bit of humility before telling people what to eat.”

However these findings have also received some backlash from organizations such as the Harvard School of Public Health.

Lynne Lafave, a health and physical education professor at Mount Royal University, says there are limitations to the study, including the fact that many of the trails it analyzed only looked at reducing red meat intake by one to three servings a week.

“If you’re eating red meat two times a day, 14 times a week and you are only reducing it by three times, [this] might not be where we would see a difference happening.”

Despite its limitations, Lafave says the study serves as a good reminder not to completely condemn certain foods.

While the study is one of the latest and most sensational developments in the research of red meat, it isn’t the first to challenge our anti-meat mindset. Ultimately, the conclusion is that the area needs further research.

Studies like this one argue that although the saturated fat content of red meat can be singled out as a cause of cardiovascular diseases, the nutrient-rich nature of the food actually helps to fight against disease.

As new evidence is discovered, experts continue to debate the role of red meat in a modern diet.

What are the alternatives?

Apart from having a bad rap when it comes to health, red meat is further criticized for being bad for the environment and animal welfare. This has fuelled the shift towards plant-based alternatives, with one of the most notable being the ‘Beyond Meat’ burger.

No animals are harmed in the making of this burger, as it’s mainly composed of pea protein and canola oil. It also claims to have a lower environmental impact than its bovine counterpart.

Although the jury is still out on whether or not these red meat replacements are better or worse for your health, the fact is they contain a long list of ingredients, many of which don’t sound too natural.

Lafave says these products can be useful for people actively choosing not to eat meat, although they go against the advice to eat unprocessed, whole foods.

“[They are] heavily processed, have about the same saturated fat and an equal amount of calories as a regular burger, so where would the benefit come from?”

Lafave reminds people that good health comes from a focus on whole foods and harm reduction — not hard limits on meat consumption.

“If we think more about what we should do, rather than what we shouldn’t do, we could eat a lot healthier.”

Lafave says the best way to reduce our harm in the long run, is by focusing on consuming more whole grains, fruits, vegetables and plant-based foods.

 Editor: Alaina Shirt | ashirt@cjournal.ca

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