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6 Subtle Signs You're Eating Too Much Red Meat

Here's how your body may be telling you to balance out your nutrients.

Red meat is a staple in the diets of many Americans. What is more American than a classic cheeseburger or a hot dog on a warm summer day? But, as is true with most other things, too much of a good thing can be bad for you. While it's true that red meat is a source of high-quality protein and fuels your body with important nutrients like iron, zinc, and vitamin B12, eating too much of it has been linked to negative outcomes like increased risk of cancer and heart disease.

The World Cancer Research Fund and The American Institute for Cancer Research recommend limiting consumption of red meat to no more than three portions per week, or 12–18 ounces in total. Yet, according to the USDA, the average American consumed 222.4 pounds of red meat in 2018; that's the equivalent of almost 10 meatballs A DAY (or roughly 10 ounces a day). A quarter of adults in this country are still eating more unprocessed red meat than the recommended level according to data published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in 2019.

Basically, we should limit our consumption of red meat, but there is no need to eliminate it entirely from our diet. Red meat can be combined with other nutrient-dense foods like vegetables and whole grains to create a well-balanced meal (get a list of important nutrients your quarantine diet may be missing). One simple way to reduce your red meat intake while still enjoying your favorite dishes is to blend equal portions of chopped mushrooms and ground beef in foods like burgers and meat sauces.

The best way to know whether you are eating too much red meat is to pay attention to your serving sizes and frequency of consumption. One serving of meat is equivalent to 3–4 ounces: this is approximately the size of a deck of cards or the palm of your hand. Here are 6 signs that may indicate that you should pump the breaks on your red meat consumption. And to get more food news straight to your inbox, sign up for our newsletter.

You are noticing weight gain

gaining weight

We love to celebrate with beef, but when we too often consume oversized steaks and double-meat cheeseburgers, we pack in the calories. Choosing sensible servings of 3–4 ounces of beef and leaner cuts like sirloin, flank steak, strip loin, and 90-percent lean or leaner ground beef can help with your weight goals without cutting meat altogether. Here are some great weight loss tips by a nutritionist who lost 100 pounds.

You have offensive breath

bad breath

If you find yourself needing to pop a piece of gum to combat stinky breath more often than usual, you may be eating too much meat. When you digest meat, your body produces ammonia as a byproduct. The smell of ammonia can sneak up into your mouth and cause a foul-smelling odor. Here are some other foods that give you bad breath.

Your cholesterol is creeping up

high cholesterol

Consuming too much saturated fat can raise blood cholesterol, so if you are eating large amounts of fattier cuts of red meat, your cardiologist may not be too happy with your levels. Choose lean cuts of beef to combat your high cholesterol. The good news is that there are lots of options to choose from. Research now suggests that up to 6 ounces of lean beef as part of a balanced diet won't negatively affect cholesterol levels, and these findings are reflected in the American Heart Association's recommendations. Get our simple 15-minute trick for lowering your cholesterol.

You are experiencing constipation

Door handle open to toilet can see toilet

If you are eating too much meat and not getting enough fiber from produce, whole grains, and beans, you may experience constipation. While beef is one of the most digestible proteins, eating too much likely means that you are not eating a balanced diet. Keeping your meat intake in check while making sure to eat fiber- rich foods and staying hydrated can help keep things moving in the right direction. Here are some easy ways to add fiber to your diet.

You are having fertility struggles

doctor form

If you are having trouble conceiving, it is possible that too much red meat is playing a role. Choosing protein options that are plant-based or rich in omega-3 fatty acids (like fish) and limiting red and processed meats result in improved fertility in women according to a study published in Fertility and Sterility. For men, data suggests that processed red meat is associated with a lower sperm count. Melissa Groves Azarro, registered dietitian and author of A Balanced Approach to PCOS recommends that her clients limit the consumption of red meat to 1–2 times a week while emphasizing fatty fish like salmon and beneficial plant proteins such as lentils and chickpeas. Trying to get pregnant? Avoid these 10 terrible foods for fertility.

You are experiencing bad body odor

body odor

If you notice that people turn their noses away from you or make comments on your funky smell, you may be giving off some bad body odor. While skipping showers is an obvious culprit to B.O., your protein choices may play a role as well. In one small study, men who avoided red meat for 2 weeks had an odor that was more attractive and more pleasant when compared with the red meat eater's natural scent, according to data published in Chemical Senses.

Lauren Manaker MS, RDN, LD, CLEC
Lauren Manaker is an award-winning registered dietitian, book author, and recipe developer who has been in practice for almost 20 years. Read more about Lauren