What Do Dietitians Think about Red Meat and Cancer?

This is a topic of discussion within the beef industry.

Jan Tilley, MS, RDN, LD

Jan Tilley – MS, RDN, LD – is a nutrition professional who truly believes that red meat, such as lean beef, should be part of a healthy dietary pattern.

Misinformation Can Be Scary

At JTA Wellness, we want to clear up the confusion around red meat and redirect conversation back to the importance of seeking balance and moderation in the foods we choose. The fact is no single food has ever been found to cause cancer. From studying the current American diet, we know that it is heavy in carbohydrates, processed foods and light in high quality protein, fruits and non-starchy vegetables. Nutrient dense lean protein sources, such as lean beef, are key to maximizing energy, building lean muscle mass and creating satiety.

Understanding Diet, Inflammation and Cancer

A key area of interest in the link between diet and cancer is the role of chronic inflammation. To help understand how inflammation can lead to cancer, it is important to understand that there are two types of inflammation found in our bodies – acute inflammation and chronic inflammation.

Acute inflammation occurs when we have a bee sting or flu virus where our immune system jumps into action by sending white blood cells and proteins to help fight off the enemy. When the inflammation is resolved, the immune response shuts down and everything goes back to normal.

Chronic inflammation occurs when our immune system fights to repair an ongoing problem, such as obesity, but never receives the signal to stop. There is a growing body of evidence citing that the link between diet and cancer may be found in chronic inflammation. In this scenario our body mistakenly identifies healthy tissues as harmful pathogens. In addition to causing some types of cancer, chronic inflammation may be the root cause of many of the chronic diseases we see as we age including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cognitive decline.

Preventing Cancer with a Healthy Lifestyle

In addition to making unhealthy food choices, it should be noted that there are many behavioral changes that are known to act as factors that can lead to the development of some types of cancer. Some of these risk factors include:

  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Leading a sedentary lifestyle
  • Not getting enough sleep
  • Poor stress management

The power of making healthy choices, both in how we fuel and care for our body, remains our best option for preventing the development of many types of cancer. We know that good health requires effort, dedication and determination to pursue an active, disciplined lifestyle that maximizes health and wellbeing.

Red Meat in the Diet

There is an abundance of evidence-based research demonstrating that a healthy, balanced diet rich in vegetables, whole grains, fruits, lean proteins and healthy fats can decrease our risk of developing cancer. Lean beef can be an important part of a healthy diet and is an excellent source of protein, heme-iron, vitamin B12, selenium, zinc and niacin. Certain cuts of beef, such as top sirloin, are not only high in protein but also have less fat than a 3-ounce boneless, skinless chicken thigh When shopping for lean beef, it helps to remember “if it’s round or loin its lean!” Some of America’s favorite cuts of beef are lean, including:

  • Top Sirloin steak
  • Tenderloin steak
  • 93% lean ground beef
  • Flank steak

By selecting cuts of beef from the loin or round you can be sure you are selecting the leanest cuts. For easy and delicious lean beef recipes, visit www.BeefItsWhatsForDinner.com.

Embrace Lean Beef

In summary, lean beef can be a vital part of a healthy, balanced lifestyle. It is a bioavailable source of protein bringing a unique set of important nutrients that are difficult to find in alternate sources. Lean beef can be enjoyed in moderation with fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low fat dairy as a part of a healthy diet.


  1. We need to really recreate the misconceptions surronding red meat. This website is a a great start and incredibly important.

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