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The Truth About Red Meat

WebMD examines the health dangers and benefits of eating red meat.
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4. Is pork a red meat or a white meat?

A: It’s a red meat, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The amount of myoglobin, a protein in meat that holds oxygen in the muscle, determines the color of meat. Pork is considered a red meat because it contains more myoglobin than chicken or fish.

5. How much red meat should I eat?

A: Opinions differ here, too. Most of the nutritionists that WebMD contacted suggested focusing on sensible portion sizes and lean red meat cuts, for those who choose to eat it.

Ask yourself these questions, recommends Alice Lichtenstein, DSc, professor of nutrition at the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University.

  • Are you taking in more calories than you’re burning off?
  • Is red meat crowding out foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains?

“People don’t need to give up red meat,” says Christine Rosenbloom, PhD, RD, a nutrition professor at Georgia State University. “They need to make better selections in the type of meat they eat and the portions.”

Government guidelines in MyPyramid suggest 5 to 6 1/2 ounces daily of protein from a variety of sources, including lean meats, nuts, and seafood. So if you’re planning on eating a burger for dinner, it should be a 3-ounce hamburger patty, about the size of a standard McDonald’s burger.

The American Institute for Cancer Research, a nonprofit that focuses on cancer prevention through diet and physical activity, advises no more than 18 ounces of cooked red meat a week. The group recommends avoiding all processed meats, such as sausage, deli meats, ham, bacon, hot dogs, and sausages, citing research that shows an increased risk of colon cancer.

6. What are some of the leanest cuts of red meat?

A: For the best red meat cuts, look for those with “loin” in the name: Sirloin tip steak, top sirloin, pork tenderloin, lamb loin chops.

  • Beef: Also look for round steaks and roasts, such as eye round and bottom round; chuck shoulder steaks; filet mignon; flank steak; and arm roasts. Choose ground beef labeled at least 95% lean. Frozen burger patties may contain as much as 50% fat; check the nutrition facts box. Some grilling favorites are high in fat: hot dogs, rib eyes, flat iron steaks, and some parts of the brisket (the flat half is considered lean).
  • Pork: Lean cuts include loin roasts, loin chops, and bone-in rib chops.

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