Is Red Meat Bad For Blood Pressure?

is red meat bad for blood pressure

Photos by Nic Taylor and Schrift-Architekt on

On many health websites, you’ll read that red meat is bad for high blood pressure – it’s high in cholesterol and saturated fat and eating too much of it will bump up your blood pressure. That’s the usual line.

It’s true that many studies have shown that eating red meat regularly is linked to higher rates of heart disease, and heart disease and high blood pressure often go together.

But is this the case for all red meat?

Not necessarily, as recent research shows that different kinds of red meat have different effects on our health.

Firstly, an analysis of 20 studies by a team at Harvard University found that there’s a big difference between eating unprocessed red meat (beef, pork, lamb etc.) and red meat which has been processed (by smoking, salting, curing or having preservatives added), such as bacon, salami, pastrami, smoked ham and other ‘luncheon meats’.

Their analysis showed that it’s eating processed red meat which leads to increased risk of heart disease, not eating unprocessed red meat.

A large French study which followed over 44,000 women, similarly found that regularly eating processed red meat was linked to increased risk of high blood pressure, while regularly eating unprocessed red meat was not.


So is red meat bad for blood pressure?

eat, drink and be merry while still lowering your blood pressureSo the answer to the question – is red meat bad for blood pressure – is “it depends”. It depends on what kind of red meat you eat. Eating smoked, salted and cured red meat is bad for blood pressure, but eating fresh red meat isn’t likely to make much difference.

But what about all that saturated fat and cholesterol? Surely they mean red meat is bad for blood pressure?

Well, firstly, the cholesterol you eat in your food doesn’t necessarily have any great effect on the cholesterol levels in your blood.

That might sound counterintuitive, but it’s actually other foods that affect the cholesterol present in your bloodstream – eating food containing trans fats raises cholesterol levels, and so does eating a lot of sugary foods and starchy foods (especially those based on refined grains – white bread, pasta, pastries etc).

As for saturated fat, well a raft of recent studies have been demonstrating that saturated fat is not the demon it’s made out to be and that eating saturated fat isn’t strongly linked with high blood pressure and heart disease.

I’ve written on more on this in another post: Saturated fat and high blood pressure

So you can put quality steak back on the menu and you can even have butter with it 🙂

For other good foods and drinks that aren’t as bad for you as you might have thought, click here to get our free report, Eat, Drink and Be Merry (while still lowering your blood pressure naturally).


Why is processed meat bad for blood pressure?

Researchers in the Harvard study and the French study think that it’s the high salt content of processed meat, and the nitrate preservatives which are added to it, which contribute to the increased risk of heart disease and high blood pressure which are linked to eating processed meat regularly.


Red meat associated with some other health risks

Having said all this, there are some studies which do still show that regularly eating red meat – even unprocessed red meat – is linked to poorer health, including increased risk of some cancers and diabetes.

So if you eat red meat frequently, it’s probably still a good idea to replace it sometimes with fish (especially fatty fish which is good for blood pressure and the heart) or poultry, or other high-protein foods like legumes (peas, beans, chick peas) and nuts.

UPDATE JANUARY 2023: A systematic review of studies conducted in 2022 has concluded that there is only a weak association between eating unprocessed red meat and getting heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers, and no evidence of an association between eating unprocessed red meat and having a stroke. In the words of the researchers,

We found weak evidence of association between unprocessed red meat consumption and colorectal cancer, breast cancer, type 2 diabetes and ischemic heart disease. Moreover, we found no evidence of an association between unprocessed red meat and ischemic stroke or hemorrhagic stroke. […] While there is some evidence that eating unprocessed red meat is associated with increased risk of disease incidence and mortality, it is weak and insufficient to make stronger or more conclusive recommendations.

You can read the original article here: Health effects associated with consumption of unprocessed red meat: a Burden of Proof study (Nature)


Cooking red meat for maximum health benefits

How you cook meat also affects its health properties. Cooking meat at high
temperatures makes it more carcinogenic as various unsavoury chemicals are created. Unfortunately, this includes chargrilling and barbecuing meat.

The healthiest ways to cook meat are therefore to bake or steam it, or slowly
grill or broil it with a low heat, or fry gently at low heat in a pan. These are also good options if you prefer your meat leaner, as you can let the fat drain out.


high blood pressure and the elderly - how to lower it naturally

Those of you who’ve read our guide to Lowering Your Blood Pressure Naturally will be familiar with this, of course.

If you haven’t already got it, our ebook covers everything you need to know about how to lower your blood pressure naturally (without needing medications) by making simple alterations to some of the things you eat and drink and do.

It goes through it all step-by-step, so it’s easy to follow and enjoyable to do. Just click on the pic for more info and a free sample.

Some references:

Eating processed meats, but not unprocessed red meats, may raise risk of heart disease and diabetes



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.