Eating Red Meat – How Much is Too Much?

how much red meat is safeLet’s face it, as much as we may rebel against guidelines, people still like them in a way. As a dietitian, it’s not unusual to get questions about eating red meat, eggs, sugar and how much is too much… Remember the old recommendation to never eat more than two eggs per week if you had high cholesterol?

In Googling around today, I found a recommendation for no more than four yolks per week, another study showing increased mortality (all causes, not just heart disease) for men eating more than seven per week, and – if you want to follow the Dietary Guidelines for Americans – one egg provides 200 mg of cholesterol, where the daily recommendation for cholesterol is to keep it under 300 mg/day. An excerpt from the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans about cholesterol:

Independent of other dietary factors, evidence suggests that one egg (i.e., egg yolk) per day does not result in increased blood cholesterol levels, nor does it increase the risk of cardiovascular disease in healthy people. Consuming less than 300 mg per day of cholesterol can help maintain normal blood cholesterol levels. Consuming less than 200 mg per day can further help individuals at high risk of cardiovascular disease.”

Unfortunately it’s never that simple to just say beef three times a week or seven eggs a week is the limit for everyone. It’s really more about dietary patterns as a whole. For example, I eat minimal amounts of animal foods (mainly fish and local eggs), and as a result, I eat less saturated fat than the average American. Because of this I’m able to eat eggs very often (8 to 10/week) and my cholesterol levels are very good.

If I were eating cheese each day, poultry and beef, then maybe I couldn’t get away with this. Add to this complicated picture that cholesterol levels are not the only indicators of increased risk for cardiovascular disease and you can see how hard it becomes to establish the right amount of food for an individual to consume each week to reduce their risk of chronic diseases.

How often do you eat red meat and/or eggs? Do you notice a difference in your cholesterol levels when you reduce your intake of  these items?

Photo by WordRidden

4 Responses (Add Yours)

  • Harriet Krivit says:

    Thanks particularly re: eggs…we love ‘em but have ltd. them because of the chol scare. Gratefully don’t have a heart prob. Dr. says helps that I’m on my outdoor bike so much.Welcome back an egg a day YES!

  • Roxanne says:

    Interesting subject – and still so much confusion over beef and eggs. I think both are fine to eat in moderation each week. I will eat eggs (usually 20 from 2x to 4x per week. Beef will really vary since I normally cook extra and have it again the next day. So usually I’ll have it 4x per month – not more. But I try to eat a good variety of healthy foods and I choose ethically raised meat. May this is why have never had a problem with cholesterol.

  • An2172 says:

    I eat a lot of eggs (2-3 per day) and I’ve been successfully losing weight (steady weight loss of 2 pounds per week since I changed my diet) while doing so. I had long since been told the cholesterol in egg yolks does good things for our blood / body – here’s a quick recap

    My dietician has no issue with the volume of eggs I eat and this is my main daily protein. I don’t eat wheat and other gluten-containing foods, dairy or sugar. Cutting those three has made a huge difference in weight loss, sleep, energy, and disposition. I eat lots of veggies, a healthy dose of fruit, fish and a bit of chicken.

    My cholesterol levels are normal and my blood pressure is ideal.

    If you like eggs, they are a great (nutritious, cheap, tasty) way to get in protein and they can be prepared so many ways. I like making omelettes in the summer with all the fresh veggies from the garden / local market.

  • robyn563 says:

    Harriet, I’m happy to help, enjoy those eggs! Roxanne, that is the same frequency that we serve red meat at Green Mountain, 4 times a month. I agree with you that the way the animals were raised makes a big difference in how often I feel comfortable eating a animal-based product. Thanks for the link An2172, I’m glad you are feeling well with the way you are eating now. It’s tough work to cut out gluten, dairy and sugar, so I’m happy you are getting good results.

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