Like many Americans, Alex Rodriguez loves red meat. In fact, he loves it so much, he used to eat it nearly every single day. The former professional baseball shortstop recently told People that he used to “eat meat like steak probably eight out of 10 days.” And he’s not alone. Research suggests that, on any given day, between 63 percent and 74 percent of Americans consume either red or processed meat, like sausages, burgers, and steak. But research also suggests that regular consumption of these meats is bad for our health. Rodriguez knows this, so he cut his consumption down considerably, to two days out of 10.

According to the former athlete, who is now a businessman and philanthropist, the move, alongside regular gym visits, walks, and yoga, helped him to drop more than 30 pounds last year. He has previously attributed his weight gain to stress during lockdown. “I’m a very social person. I like people. I love people,” he said on The Jennifer Hudson Show last year. “And I was so stressed between being in [Los Angeles] and Miami, being the CEO of two companies, and lost my way a little bit and started gaining some weight, wasn’t focusing on my health as much.”

“I just changed my routine,” he added. “Now, I get up in the morning, and I don’t look at my phone until noon. So from the time I wake up, I’m in the gym at 8, work out for a couple of hours, come home, do a little sauna, a little steam, stretch, meditate, and then I’m at my desk every day from 12pm to 6pm.”

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Why do so many men eat so much steak?

While many Americans love red meat in general, when it comes to beef and steak, it’s men, like Rodriguez, fuelling the market. The US is the biggest consumer of beef in the world, but last year, research suggested that the majority of that is actually eaten by only 12 percent of the population, many of them men.

“There’s this connection between meat consumption and masculinity,” Joshua Specht, author of the book Red Meat Republic: A Hoof-to-Table History of How Beef Changed America, told the Guardian. “Historically, to be a successful man in America meant eating beef.”

In the 2019 documentary The Game Changers, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who follows a plant-forward diet, also spoke about the common myth that meat consumption is essential for masculinity. “I’ve lived in that world,” he said. “Steak is for men. They show these commercials—burgers, George Foreman with the grill, and [an] epic sandwich.”

“This is great, great marketing for the meat industry, selling the idea that real men eat meat,” he added. “But you’ve got to understand, it’s marketing. It’s not based on reality.”

The former professional bodybuilder said that while he does still eat meat occasionally, his main focus is plants, and this has done wonders for his health. “My bad cholesterol number is so low that my doctor thought I might be a different person,” he claimed in 2022.

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The health benefits of ditching red meat

Red meat is popular, but it’s not considered healthy by many experts. Last year, one study found that people who eat red meat regularly may have a 62 percent higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. In 2022, another study noted that—due to chemicals released in the gut during consumption—red meat could increase the risk of cardiovascular disease by 22 percent per serving.

Red meat is also classified as a group two carcinogen by the World Health Organization and is linked with a higher risk of cancer (particularly colorectal cancer). Processed meat is a group one carcinogen.

Like Rodriguez and Schwarzenegger, more people want to cut down on their red meat consumption. Earlier this year, one survey found that 40 percent of Americans are looking to eat less of it. This would not just benefit their health, but also the planet. After all, the beef industry is a leading driver of deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions.

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But if you enjoy steak, you don’t have to give up the flavors and textures you love. There are many delicious, sustainable plant-based alternatives on the market. Juicy Marbles, Beyond Meat, Meati Foods, and Chunk Foods are just a few examples of companies making realistic vegan steak products that are just as satisfying as the real thing.

“It took years of development to refine our product, and it’s something we continue to do because we refuse to settle for anything but the absolute best,” Amos Golan, Chunk Founder and CEO, told VegNews last year after the brand’s steaks landed at Charley’s Steak House. “Our steaks have a meaty texture and bite, a juicy mouthfeel, and unmistakable umami flavors.”

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