Red Meat; Is it Good or Bad?

Among Hari Raya celebrated by Muslim all over the world is Hari Raya Aidiladha. There are various reasons behind this celebration, but most importantly, during this celebration Muslims all over the world slaughter animals as to share this meat with those unfortunate. Since it is nearing the celebration of Hari Raya Aidiladha, let us share with you regarding the consumption of red meat, is it healthy? And is it true that people with hypertension cannot consume meat?


Meat refers to the muscle or organs of an animal consumed as food. In most parts of the world, it comes from animals raised on large industrial farms. As for red meat, it is referring to meat from the source of pork, ham, cuts from pig, lamb, and beef. Red meat is particularly said to have link with various kind of disease such as heart disease and cancer, the question is, is this true?


Well, this statement is partially true. First, there are various kind of red meats on the market. There is lean meat (meat without its fat), meat (meat with its fat), and processed meat. Processed meat refers to a processed where meat has undergone such as salting, curing, fermenting, smoking and other processes to enhance flavor or improve preservation. Processed meat include ham, salami, bacon, and sausages such as frankfurters and chorizo. Certain minced meat on the market, also undergo this kind of processed which makes it processed food as well.


Meat itself, referring to the lean meat, is a healthy food. It is a good protein source, it contains micronutrient such as zinc, vitamin B12 and iron. Iron that is in meat is easier to absorb or in another word has higher bioavailability as compared to iron from plant-based food. Lean meat also, is part of food that is recommended to be eaten in the Malaysian Food Pyramid.



Recommended intake of meat


As stated in the fish, poultry, meat, and legumes section on the food pyramid, it is recommended to eat 1 to 2 serving of either poultry, meat, or legumes but and 1 serving of fish every day. This is because in the Malaysia Dietary Guideline (MDG), the key message is to consume balance, moderate and variety of food. Thus, it is recommended to consume from different source, such as protein-based food, it can be from fish, meat, poultry, and eggs. Thus, if you already got your protein that day from fish source for your lunch then for your dinner your protein source must be from meat, poultry, or eggs. Now another question pops up, how much is one serving?



Example of serving size of protein, but this portion is for healthy male and female only, not for individual with health problem.


Serving is loosely translated into ‘sajian’ or ‘hidangan’ in Bahasa Malaysia, thus picture above shows how much per serving of protein is. As for meat, 1 serving of meat is about 2 matchboxes size of meat. For fish, medium size of fish is equivalent to 1 serving, while for chicken one part of chicken such as drumstick is considered 1 serving of chicken. As for egg, 1 egg are considered 1 serving of protein.


As mentioned earlier, it is not advisable to consume protein from the same source, thus it is also not advisable to consume meat every day, since we have protein-based food from variety of source which will give different kind of nutrient as well, such as ‘tauhu’, ‘tempeh’, eggs, seafood and many more.



Picture below show the easy way of knowing how much you should consume, carbohydrates, vegetables, fruits and protein just by using your hands!



Good and bad things about meat


Study mostly found out that, lean meat has various positive outcome on individual health, especially for those with strength training exercise like athletes, as compared to if they consumed food from carbohydrates source like pasta or rice, their muscle growth is much less and slower. Another meta- analysis study which search on the consumption of lean red meat less than 0.5 servings per day noted that, the consumption of lean red meat does not negatively affect blood lipid and blood pressure. Which means the consumption of lean red meat does not impose risk to heart problem, provided if it is consume within the recommended intake.


However, there are also study indicates that the consumption of red meat can impose health problem such as, its saturated fat can lead to colon and breast cancer, the higher the cooking temperature for meat can make it carcinogenic, and heme that is found in meat when cooking, can produce compound that can damage the cells and leading to cancer.


Which is why, when it comes to food there is just no healthy food and unhealthy food, it is more than that. It is depending on the health status of the individual consuming it, it is depending on the cooking method and various other factors.


In conclusion, limit red meat and processed meat to not more than 70g per day or 2 servings per day is the best. Consume protein – based food from the other sources of protein as well not only red meat and processed meat just as per recommended by Malaysia Dietary Guideline (MDG).



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  5. National Health Service (NHS) UK. Red Meat and The risk of Bowel Cancer (2018). (Accessed on August 4, 2020).
  6. Ministry of Health Malaysia. Malaysia Food Pyramid. (Accessed on August 4, 2020)