The Harsh Reality of Consuming Too Much Meat

Photo © Markus Spiske

From baked chicken breasts, seared steaks and grilled burgers to crispy bacon, breakfast sausage and sweet ham, meat can be a staple in many family's diets.

While it is imperative to include protein in your daily diet, is there a thing as too much meat in our diet?

A recent study from the World Health Organisation (WHO) states that processed meat such as bacon, sausage and ham can cause cancer. The study also indicates that red meats are "probably carcinogenic", but there is little evidence to support this statement. Does this mean that we need to cut meat out of our daily diet? Not necessarily. However, it is essential to focus on both the quality and quantity of the meat that you are eating to ensure a healthy lifestyle.

Health Benefits of Eating Meat

While there are many vegetarians and vegan in today's society, eating meat can have an ample amount of health benefits. For one, meat is an excellent source of protein.

According to WebMD, incorporating protein into your daily diet is important because protein is found in every cell in the body. Your body uses this protein to build and repair tissues, and it makes enzymes, hormones and other body chemicals. Protein is an important building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, hair, nails, skin and blood.

Along with fats and carbohydrates, protein is a "macronutrient", which means your body needs a large amount of it to function.

Meat is also beneficial to the body because it includes other vitamins and minerals such as iron, zinc and selenium. These nutrients all benefit the body in different ways.

Health Risks When Overeating Meat

We all know that we shouldn't be eating juicy burgers and hotdogs every single day because it can cause weight gain. However, there are more health risks than not being to fit into your favourite pair of jeans.

The American Heart Association states that red meats such as beef, pork and lamb have more cholesterol and saturated fats than lean meats such as chicken, fish and plant-based proteins. This higher level of cholesterol in the meat you eat both raise your blood pressure and increase the risk for heart disease.

According to a study conducted by UConn's Department of Nutritional Sciences, a high protein diet can cause kidneys to produce more concentrated urine, which can lead to dehydration. It is important to drink plenty of fluids if you incorporate a lot of meat into your daily diet.

In general, people who stay away from meat tend to be healthier individuals. However, well-done red meat and cancer have been linked together in studies. The frequent consumption of meat, mainly red meat, is associated with an increased risk of colon cancer, breast cancer and prostate cancer. It is because the total fat, saturated fat and refined sugars all heighten cancer risks.

How Much is Too Much Meat?

It can be difficult to determine an exact, daily ounce intake of meat because it is based on body weight, body goals and other health concerns. However, there are some general rules to follow that can balance your meat consumption. Because white meat such as chicken and turkey has not been linked to the negative health effects that red meat has been linked to, it can be consumed in one meal per day. The rest of your protein can be found in eggs, milk, fish and plant-based sources. Limit red meats such as pork and beef to once or twice a week.

Skip bacon, sausage and ham when you eat breakfast. Instead, incorporate another egg into your meal to get that extra protein. To put it into perspective, 50 grams of processed meat a day, which is equivalent to less than two slices of bacon, can increase the chance of developing colorectal cancer by 18 per cent. This does not mean that you can't ever have bacon again, be cautious about how much you eat.

Like we said earlier, this research does not mean that you need to cut meat out of your diet completely. It is all about eating a healthy and balanced diet.