When you’re planning your healthy diet this year, don’t forget the protein. However, if you’re following a low carbohydrate, paleo, or keto diet this year, be sure to plan your protein in a healthful way. Many people trying to cut carbs often just eat whatever protein they crave. This can sometimes mean lots of burgers, sausage, and bacon. This type of red meat is ok in moderation. But too much red meat can be harmful to heart health. Recent studies show that red meat can release a chemical in the body that can put you at greater risk for heart disease.
What is considered red meat?
Red meat is just as it sounds. A protein is considered red meat when it has red-colored flesh. The reddish color comes from the amount of the protein myoglobin found in the meat. This protein is purplish in color and is fixed in the tissue cells. When it is exposed to oxygen, it becomes oxymyoglobin and produces a bright red color. The protein hemoglobin found in small amounts in raw meat can also contribute to some of the red color of red meat.
Beef as well as lamb, pork, and veal are red meat animal proteins. Also, any processed products made from such meats count toward your red meat intake. These products can include bacon, sausage, hot dogs, and deli meats like roast beef, salami, and ham.
Red meat and heart health
For many years, health experts have been telling us to limit red meat in the diet. Red meat intake can lead to an increase in risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers. In fact, a 2017 report shows that the more processed red meat you consume, the greater risk you will be at developing colorectal cancer.
A more recent study looked at the effect of red meat intake on the health of healthy adults. For one month, these adults consumed either a diet providing protein from white meat, red meat, or non-meat sources. Those on the red meat diet were provided the equivalent of about eight ounces of red meat each day. Study results show that after one month, the blood levels of trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) in the blood of those on the red meat diet were about three times higher than those on the other diets.
During digestion, TMAO forms in the gut after intake of red meat. Researchers suggest that TMAO may increase heart disease risk. When researchers placed the adults on different levels of saturated fat within the groups, those consuming higher levels of saturated fat had similar TMAO levels. Therefore, this research suggests that saturated fat intake is not linked with the heart disease risk associated with TMAO.
When study subjects switched diets, those switched from a red meat diet to another diet were able to lower their TMAO levels after one month. This shows that it is never too late to make small changes to your diet to help improve your health and lower your heart disease risk.
Other ways to improve your diet this new year
Now that you know something that can increase your heart disease risk, let’s talk about how you can lower your risk. Here are few dietary and lifestyle changes you can make today to help lower your heart health risk this new year.
- Add more antioxidant fruits and vegetables to your diet. Not only will these foods add gut-friendly fiber to your diet, but the antioxidants can help reduce inflammation in your body. When you reduce inflammation, you lower chronic disease risk. So, load up at least half of your meal plates with these fiber-rich foods.
- Lower alcohol intake and stop smoking. These new year resolutions can also help your heart health. This is because smoking can constrict blood vessels and increase blood pressure. Also, drinking too much alcohol can lead to weight gain, increased blood pressure, and higher levels of blood fats. So try not to drink more than one standard drink a day for women and no more than two a day for men. A standard drink is either 12 ounces beer, 5 ounces wine, or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor.
- Add a heart health supplement each day. If you are deficient in vitamins and minerals, this can impact overall health. See your doctor on a regular basis to see if you are deficient in anything. If so, you may need to add in a supplement like iron, vitamin B12, or vitamin D to help you feel better. You could also add a heart specific supplement like Alestra by Vita Sciences. Alestra contain ingredients like plant sterols and niacin that help promote healthy cholesterol levels and improved heart health.
- Move more. This is a no-brainer. If you move more each day, at least thirty minutes a day most days, you can lower your heart disease risk. This thirty minutes can be split into two minute portions throughout the day or all together. It doesn’t matter when it comes to your health. The key is to move so you can strengthen your heart, lower your weight, and improve your overall health.
- Stress less. It may not seem like a key to weight loss or healthy lifestyle success, but you must manage stress. This is because stress can lead to less energy to exercise, more emotional eating, and higher blood pressure. All of these factors can lead to poor heart health and overall health. So find ways to stress less such as doing yoga, relaxation breathing, meditation, or talking to a counselor weekly.
American Institute for Cancer Research (September 20, 2017) “Processed Meats Increase Colorectal Cancer Risk, New Report.” http://www.aicr.org/cancer-research-update/2017/09_20/cru_processed-meats-increase-colorectal-cancer-risk-new-report.html
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (June 6-7, 2013) “Heart-Healthy Lifestyle Changes.” https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/heart-healthy-lifestyle-changes
NIH Research Matters (January 8, 2019) “Eating red meat daily triples heart disease-related chemical.” https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/eating-red-meat-daily-triples-heart-disease-related-chemical
NIH Research Matters (March 26, 2012) “Risk in Red Meat?” https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/risk-red-meat
United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service (August 6, 2013) “The Color of Meat and Poultry.”