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Is Red Meat Bad for Your Heart?

You tuck into that juicy burger, but somewhere in the back of your mind, you remember that you should watch what you eat when it comes to red meat. 

The link between red and processed meats and negative effects on your heart health has been firmly established as a general rule of thumb, but what does that mean for your particular situation?

At James Kim Cardiology, our team understands that every person is different and has unique needs when it comes to their cardiovascular health. That said, if you really want to support your health, it pays to understand that you really are what you eat.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at exactly what we’re taking in when it comes to red and processed meats.

The beef with red meat

Innumerable studies have linked red meat to an increased risk for heart disease, though the mechanisms are fairly complex. To begin with, red and processed meats contain abundant amounts of saturated fats, which have been shown to lead to cardiovascular disease because these fats can build up in your blood vessels.

Second, red and processed meats contain high levels of cholesterol, which is also firmly linked to heart disease.

Recently, more research has revealed another culprit linked to red meat — trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO), which is a byproduct of the bacteria in your gut. 

Red and processed meats create high TMAO levels in your body, which can encourage cholesterol buildup in your blood vessels and interfere with platelet function, when well-functioning platelets are key to avoiding strokes. This study ultimately concluded that eating red meat every day triples TMAO levels, increasing your risks for heart disease.

The good news is that these levels can be quickly brought down by avoiding red meat.

Everything in moderation

Switching over to some of the benefits of red meat, this food is a great source of protein, iron, zinc, and vitamin B. We would like to point out, however, that red meat isn’t the only source of these vitamins and nutrients, and you’d be better off turning to lean proteins instead, such as beans, fish, and poultry.

This is not to say that you can’t enjoy a good steak every once in a while, but you should limit the serving to 2-3 ounces (about the size of a deck of cards).

The American Heart Association points out that red meats with the words “round,” “sirloin,” or “loin,” are best (more lean), and you’d do well to trim off any excess fat before preparing.

Tailor your diet to your health

While it may be OK to indulge in some red or processed meats from time to time, your dietary choices really depend upon your unique situation. If we’ve already diagnosed you with a heart-related condition, such as hypertension or high cholesterol, we highly recommend that you steer clear of red and processed meats altogether. 

If you’d like to learn whether red or processed meats can (or should) be a part of your diet, contact one of our offices in National City or Chula Vista, California, to set up an appointment.

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