Is eating too much meat unhealthy?

Yes. The answer to “eating too much” of anything is always Yes. It’s even Yes to basic vegetables or simple starches. In rare, extreme amounts, it’s even Yes to water. However, there are certain pronounced differences between eating too many heads of cauliflower and too many flanks of steak.

Different meats have different effects because they are made of different variations of muscle and fat, and those muscles contain different mixtures of protein and other nutrients depending on the animal and the state it was raised in.

The most important factor with meats that is absent in most other foods is saturated fat, which is fat that comes pre-combined with water, leaving it no choice but to be absorbed entirely into the body and transferred into cellulose, filling out muffin tops and doubling-chins everywhere.

The most obvious and initial effects of overeating meat are the dietary issues it causes. People who eat too much meat are overall at higher risk for certain diseases, particularly related to the heart. High fat and protein diets can lead to high cholesterol, which creates hypertension and strain in the heart.

Meat also contains trace elements of carcinogens that can increase the risk of certain types of cancer, such as colon cancer. The increase of risk is about 20% for red meat in general. The reason for this is the bioaccumulation of pesticides. Many grazing livestock eat crops that have been sprayed with pesticides, which then enter their bodies and spread through them without necessarily harming them all at once. It’s trace amounts, but it’s still toxic at the cellular level.

Speaking of cells, the main reason for eating meat is its density of protein. Proteins are what instigate and promote the growth of cells, essentially the parts that are used to make most of the cells in our bodies. Protein is essential, so most people view meat as totally essential as well, to the point where they prioritize it over any possible substitutes for protein.

While meats aren’t the greatest, or even second best source of protein per gram they do provide other essential components to any diet and, outside of allergic cases, a small portion of meat is recommended for every day consumption. About 6 to 8 ounces is the general limit for red meats.

Another body part affected negatively by excess of meat - or anything, really - is the kidneys. The kidneys filter out excessive or wasteful material from the body so that it can be disposed of if it can’t be absorbed normally. If there’s too much protein, the kidneys have to remove it, which means that it will be wasted no matter what when too much comes in at once. This strains the kidneys, which invites all kinds of severe problems with the renal system.

These problems would come up if a person ate too many beans as well, but aside from certain preparation steps involved in beans or nuts or other sources of protein, they aren’t as dangerous. Salted nuts could lead to sodium overdoses, but fresh nuts or well cooked, unsauced beans are just protein and healthy, unsaturated fats. They’re a far healthier substitute for beef or pork, but they can be taken in excess as well.

Once the body goes through the processes needed to get rid of excessive meat, it’s left depleted of many important resources. Water in the body is used to pair molecules together and wash them out of its systems, which turns into waste. When there’s not enough water, likely from too much being used further up in the previous organs to handle digestion and protein integration, then waste becomes hard and compacted, to the point where it might not move adequately, causing constipation.

High amounts of protein waste also ends up taking other essential vitamins and nutrients along for the ride. Most notably, calcium. When too much protein is forced to exit the body it will whatever leftover calcium hasn’t yet been processed into the body, even if it might be needed. So unless too much meat is handled with too much calcium as well, it disrupts that balance and can lead to weaker bones.

Not to mention one very obvious, though somewhat less harmful, side effect. Have you ever smelled a fresh vegetable? With few exceptions, it’s not that much to take in. But what about fresh meat? Some perfectly decent cuts and types of meat can be described with certain onerous odors, which is normal for what it is. But those smells and tastes associated also become part of the body.

This leads to bad breath, bad body odor and issues inside of the gut overall. Eating too much meat can leave one feeling bloated, gassy and uncomfortable as the difficult process of breaking down the food in digestion is prolonged by the complex structure of the organic proteins and fats. It’s why meat can be filling, it sits in the gut for a while before the body is done with it.

Eating within a balance is important. For all the deficiencies with one type of food, another or several others can fill the gaps. Eating too much meat is only slightly better than eating only meat. That’s where the real problem starts to take shape. The body needs carbohydrates for energy. The leftover and excess amounts of proteins will be forcibly turned into energy-burning fat for use later, but the energy needed in the moment won’t be there without actual carbohydrates from natural sources.

Eating too much meat has the easiest solution of all: just eat less. When considering a meal or a part of a meal, and it leans the whole balance of food too far in one meaty direction, consider alternatives that fulfill the same role, or improvements to it. Beans in red sauce instead of meatballs for protein to go with spaghetti, or just regular eggs for breakfast without the bacon. Swap out reds for whites, less cow more cod.

A problem that stops that solution prematurely, however, is availability. Meat has become a ready and active staple for many households in the form of fast food and regular cheap market-brand cuts of meat. It’s often seen as cheaper to buy and eat the pound of beef than the half pound of salmon or even the equal gram ratio of beans. People want specific things on their plates that substitutes can’t replicate. Bean burgers just aren’t that popular yet.

All the advertisements and cautionary tales of dieters and sandwich shop mascots have scared us into thinking that we must eat very specific things and ways to stay healthy, but in reality much of what is instructed is far from health. It’s all manufactured concepts usually propped up and researched by the same sort of people who run those very restaurants and grocery stores that want us to buy certain things, regardless of whether we eat them or not.

Ultimately, it comes down to the individual. Are you eating meat with every single meal? And does each of those meals consist primarily of meat? Disregard the buns of a burger or the pitiful slab of lettuce and thin serving of onion, is that a balanced meal or is it balanced around the beef? Are the only green things on your pork the parsley and spices that garnished it while it roasted?

Being moderate goes a long way, and changes are never too late to make. The body is capable of readjusting to perilous kinds of behaviors over short time. That’s how the premise of the ketogenic diet works. Activating the state of ketosis takes a week, at the very least, worth of a steady and carefully controlled diet of percentages and regulation. It’s also a high-protein variant of a low-carb diet, using protein and natural fats to substitute for carbohydrates as a primary energy source.

The number of useable high-protein diets are very few and specifically geared for certain kinds of people. The Rock needs high protein to keep his body in shape. People who work laborious jobs or have extreme lifestyles that require huge amounts of energy and constant states of muscular repair will need the protein, but even they can overdo it.

A dietician or medical consultation can go a long way to finding out where the “too much” line is meant to be drawn from person to person, and they can be backed with well established and truthful scientific data.