How Much Meat Per Day Is Healthy?
Did you know that the average person eats more than 40 kilos of meat every year? So you can say that meat is a standard ingredient in World cooking. This is not without reason, because the meat is rich in proteins and other nutrients. Yet you regularly hear health organizations warn not to eat too much meat. What about that exactly? How much meat per day is a healthy amount, and can you eat too much or too little meat? We’ve listed it for you!
What kinds of meat are there?
The question “how much meat do you need per day” is actually a bit too simplistic. There is not just one type of meat. Exactly how much you want to eat depends on which meat you eat.
What kinds of meat are there exactly? In general, we can make three main types of distinction:
- Red vs. white meat. Red meat comes from cattle, pigs, sheep and goats. White meat is poultry, so for example chicken and turkey. Mind you, white meat is not always really white, and red meat is not always completely red! So the distinguishing factor is the animal it comes from.
- Fat vs. lean meat. Some meats are fattier than others. White meat is almost always lean meat. Red meat can contain more fat: this applies to bacon, minced meat and chops, for example. But steak and lean cuts of beef are red, and yet lean.
- Edited vs. unprocessed meat. Here the names speak for themselves. Processed meat is further processed between slaughter and packaging, for example by adding flavoring agents. Or by drying, smoking or salting it. Unprocessed meat has not undergone any further changes.
What are the benefits of meat?
As we mentioned above, meat is popular for a reason. For example, it contains a number of nutrients that you can use well.
- Protein. Meat is one of the highest protein foods. It contains a whopping 25 grams of protein per 100 grams (with variations depending on the type of meat). This can make a good contribution to your daily protein intake. How much protein you need per day is highly dependent on your physical build and goals.
- B vitamins. Especially vitamin B1, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12 you get a lot from meat. B12 is the most important here: this vitamin is only found in animal products. So you can get it from eggs and dairy, but otherwise only from meat and fish.
- Iron. This mineral is also mainly found in animal products. You need it, among other things, to make red blood cells, which transport oxygen throughout your body. Iron is therefore essential to provide you with sufficient energy.
- Zinc. This is a versatile material that keeps your immune system and eyes healthy, among other things. It is mainly in fish, dairy and eggs, but meat does also contain a good amount of zinc.
What are the drawbacks of meat?
Yet meat is not only good for you. Especially if you eat too much meat, it can even have quite unhealthy consequences. It is therefore important to properly coordinate your consumption with the rest of your diet.
What are the drawbacks of meat? The main risks:
- Saturated fats. Unfortunately, most people get too much of it – with cardiovascular disease as a result. And the fats in meat are almost all saturated. By way of illustration: whoever eats 2000 kcal daily should eat a maximum of 22 grams of saturated fat per day, according to the Nutrition Center. 100 grams of bacon already contains 14 grams!
- Increased risk of cancer. In addition to cardiovascular disease, high consumption of meat also seems to lead to more cancer. Every 50 grams of extra processed meat per day leads to about a 17% extra chance of developing cancer later in life.
- The environment. In addition to your personal health, the earth also suffers from high meat consumption. This is because meat production requires a lot of water and raw materials. Large animals in particular, which need a lot of food and water, lead to a lot of CO2 emissions. Poultry is a lot less stressful.
Is Meat Healthy?
In short, is meat healthy? In any case, too much meat is not. High consumption of meat is the cause of many “lifestyle diseases” that we encounter in the Netherlands. Think of heart problems, high blood pressure and therefore various forms of cancer.
A moderate meat consumption does not have these disadvantages. If you eat the right amount of meat, it is, therefore, a great source of protein, B vitamins and minerals.
It is still important that you choose the ‘right’ type of meat. In general, unprocessed meat is strongly preferred to processed meat. With unprocessed products you get a lot less salt, sugar and unnecessary junk.
But do you opt for unprocessed meat, especially lean, and not too much? Then the meat is a great healthy choice!
How much meat per day?
The question then remains of course: how much meat per day is not too much? For one thing, there isn’t really a minimum amount. You can build a healthy diet even without eating meat. You get your protein from eggs and dairy, legumes, soy and nuts and seeds.
So there is a maximum: too much meat is not a sensible idea. The Nutrition Center currently recommends the following maximums:
- No more than 500 grams of meat per week
- Maximum 300 grams of red meat per week
If you assume 125 grams of meat per serving, that means four servings of meat per week. If you eat smaller portions, you can of course opt for more eating moments with meat.
Alternatives to meat
There is a good chance that that ‘prescription’ does not make you so happy. If you are used to eating meat on a daily basis, 500 grams sounds like very little meat. Especially if you are an athlete, for example – how do you get your proteins?
Still, cutting back on meat is really important if you care about your health! Moreover, it can be done well with some minor adjustments. And yes, you can still get your protein perfectly. Consider, for example, the following meat alternatives:
- Fish. The advice is to eat fish once or twice a week. They do not count towards your 500 grams of meat!
- Eggs. In terms of nutritional value, you can compare an egg with 50 grams of meat. Delicious on a sandwich, but also great to use in a curry or a well-filled omelet.
- Soy. Tofu and tempeh require some skill with marinades and preparation methods. But once you’ve figured them out, they are an ideal protein-rich meat substitute.
- Legumes. For example, use lentils in a tomato sauce, chickpeas in a curry or beans in a chili sin carne.
- Nuts. Deliciously high in protein, and ideal for a bite in salads, yogurt and other dishes.
Not used to cooking with less meat? Then take a look at our recipes. You will also find all kinds of accessible, protein-rich recipes without meat. This makes it easier to eat a healthy amount of meat per day!