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A new study that concludes there's no need to cut back on red and processed meats has created as much confusion as buzz. The findings contradict the advice from major health groups, including the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society. But as NPR's Allison Aubrey reports, the controversy has not changed the advice many dietitians have been giving for years.
ALLISON AUBREY, BYLINE: Elizabeth Ward is a registered dietitian who's counseled people on healthy eating for the last 15 years. She says when it comes to red meat, there are lots of questions.
ELIZABETH WARD: People are confused about meat, and this latest information doesn't add to anybody's understanding.
AUBREY: Despite all the noise, the idea that red meat, which includes beef, lamb and pork, is either the nutritional angel or devil is flawed. Neither is true. And she says the key, if you like to eat red meat, is to think about it as one component of a healthy diet.
WARD: Studies come out all the time, but the consensus is still that, you know, meat in moderation is perfectly fine for you.
AUBREY: So what does moderation look like on our plates? The answer depends on your weight, your age and your overall preferences. But a general rule of thumb - two to three servings per week is a range to consider. A serving should be about four ounces.
WARD: A four-ounce portion is slightly bigger than a deck of cards.
AUBREY: The American Institute for Cancer Research concludes eating more than 18 ounces of red meat per week can increase the risk of colorectal cancer. Ward's advice, which is based on the best available nutrition science, is to think about making meat more of a side dish rather than the main attraction in a meal.
WARD: What I always tell people is lead with the plant foods first. You know, concentrate on getting five servings of fruits and vegetables, six servings of grains, half of them whole. And then think about, you know, where the meat is going.
AUBREY: It could be served on top of your salad or with a grain bowl. And she says there are plenty of good protein alternatives, including fish, poultry and vegetarian options. There's no need to be drawn into a paleo vs. vegan debate.
WARD: The important thing to remember is that you can be a flexitarian. You don't have to be on one or the other side of this issue. You can eat a little bit of meat. You can eat no meat.
AUBREY: The key is just don't overdo it.
Allison Aubrey, NPR News.
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