The One Type Of Meat That Ruins Your Gut, According To Dietitians

Woman cooking meat and vegetables in a pan
Woman cooking meat and vegetables in a pan

Gut health is all the rage in the wellness world these days—and with good reason! If you’ve never given much thought to the role your gut plays in your overall health, it’s time to start paying attention. Unfortunately, getting serious about the state of your digestive system usually means cutting out certain foods—including one type of meat that can wreak havoc on your body for multiple reasons. Sorry, red meat lovers: Health experts tell us all that beef may be taking a toll on your gut.

To learn more about how red meat affects our gut health (and our bodies in general), we spoke to Dana Ellis Hunnes, senior clinical dietitian at UCLA medical center, and author of Recipe for Survival. Read on for more information on why you may want to cut this meat from your diet.

Red Meat And Gut Health

As delicious as a juicy burger can be for our taste buds, Hunnes tells us that, unfortunately, eating red meat can lead to a range of health complications, including inflammation and gut issues. "Red meat is inflammatory," she explains. "It increases inflammatory markers in the blood, including IGF-1 and TMAO." TMAO is a compound that has been known to impact cholesterol, metabolism, and even put as at higher risk of heart disease. In short, red meat can cause issues in just about every area of our health—and the inflammation it causes can take a serious toll on your gut.

"As for gut health, there are compounds in red meat (including the TMAO) that change the acidity in the gut and therefore affects the microbiome," Hunnes says. "In a way, red meat is somewhat toxic to good bacteria in the gut (the microbiome)." When the balance of good and bad bacteria in your gut gets thrown off, you're more likely to run into digestive issues like gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and more. This gut dysbiosis can even affect your immune system, lead to weight gain, and even worsen your mental and emotional health.

The Bottom Line

So, what's the solution? If you really can't find it in you to cut out red meat for good, Hunnes recommends that you at least make efforts to shrink your portion sizes significantly or reduce the frequency at which you eat it. As she says, "it's often a dose-response effect," so cutting down your intake can make a difference.

To keep your heart and gut health in check, Hunnes tells us it's "best to pile the plate high with whole, plant-based foods that are high in resistant starches, which are known to feed the healthy bacteria in the gut." Luckily, there are tons of gut-healthy options to choose from. "Whole grains, fruits, nuts, seeds, vegetables, legumes, all are known for improving gut health as they are anti-inflammatory and feed the healthy gut bacteria," she concludes. Got it!