February is American Heart Month, and who doesn’t want to talk about something quite a few of us love…red meat? Whether or not you love red meat, I promise you will want to read on. Not only will we talk about red meat, but we’ll also cover the healthiest cuts of all meat, cooking/shopping tips, and much more.
What is Red Meat?
When most of us hear “red meat” we think about beef. But nutritionally speaking, red meat is defined as any meat that has more of the protein myoglobin than white meat (fish or white chicken meat) according to the USDA. So does that means all other meat is red meat? Not exactly, because according to the culinary definition, any meat that comes from adult or “gamey” mammals (for example, beef, horse meat, mutton, venison, boar, hare) is red meat. To make things even more complex, most poultry is white meat, except for goose and duck. No wonder we are often confused when it comes to making the healthiest meat choices. My goal is to help make things simple. To do that, I will give you an outline of which meat, fish, and poultry to eat and how much to eat. Grab your fork and knife and let’s jump in.
What Meats Should You Eat?
Two key things to think about when choosing the healthiest meat are the amount of saturated fat it contains and how processed the meat is. Saturated fat can raise your blood cholesterol and increase your risk of heart disease.(1) Because of this, you want to limit your saturated fat intake as much as possible. Also, processed meats have been linked to an increased risk of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.(2),(3) Limiting (or even better, eliminating) processed meat will benefit you all around.
And how much protein do you need to eat? Well, the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is a modest 0.8 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight. For a person who weighs 150 lbs, that is only 54.5 grams of protein per day. To calculate how much protein you need, divide your weight (in pounds) by 2.2. Next, multiply the result by 0.8, and that’s the amount (in grams) of protein your body needs per day. In general, the American Heart Association recommends 8–9 servings of poultry, meat, and eggs and 2–3 servings of fish and other seafood per week to hit your protein goals. One “serving” of protein is 3 oz., which is about the size of a deck of cards.
Here is a great cheat sheet that tells you how much protein is in each type of meat, fish, and poultry source and notes to make the healthiest choice.
|Meat, fish, and poultry (healthiest sources are listed first)|
|Type:||A few notes:||Average protein grams per 3-oz. serving|
|Fish/seafood/shellfish||White fish tends to be leaner, and shrimp are also a great lean protein (24 grams of protein per 0.1 gram of saturated fat). Also, “oily fish” such as salmon provide heart- and brain-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.||21 grams|
|Turkey||Choose the white meat sections because they have slightly less saturated fat than dark meat.||19 grams|
|Chicken||Skinless, boneless breasts are the leanest. Keep in mind that rotisserie chicken is often loaded with salt since stores will brine or season with a heavy salt mix.||19 grams|
|Bison and other game meat such as venison||Game meat is often super-lean and lower in fat than other red meat. But be aware that with ground meat, sometimes butchers will mix in higher-fat cuts to enhance the flavor.||26 grams|
|Pork||Look for loin cuts like tenderloin or top loin, which are typically leaner. Cook these cuts slowly and with added moisture (e.g., in a slow cooker) to produce a more tender result.||29 grams|
|Beef||Round or sirloin are leaner cuts; flank steak is typically pretty lean; T-bones, rib-eyes, and New York strip steak are higher in saturated fats.||22 grams|
|Lamb||Loin, shank, and leg cuts are leanest; some cuts of lamb are slightly higher in calories than beef, but you can typically trim fat from the edges to make them leaner.||21 grams|
|Processed meat||Bacon, hot dogs, and sausage are all high in saturated fat and lower in protein. Avoid processed meat as much as possible.||12 grams|
As you can see, the more unhealthy or higher fat the meat is (lower on the list), the less bang for your buck in protein grams. It is also key to note that grass-fed and organic meat will be a healthier choice no matter what cut of meat or type of animal it came from. Of course, there are other important ways to help keep your heart healthy, such as regular physical activity. And, providing your heart with critical nutrients like CoQ10 and resveratrol can help give your heart and blood vessels the support they need to keep pumping strong.*
Remember to Choose Your Meats Wisely
If you are going to “splurge” on a higher-fat meat, then eat extra lean before and after to even things out. A great example is to try meatless Mondays and experiment with some super-healthy plant-based proteins like beans. Also, keep this list handy next time you go shopping. Choosing the right cut of meat, seafood, or poultry makes a big difference.
…Your friendly dietitian Sarah signing off and wishing you a healthy and love-filled American Heart Month!
*This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
Sarah is the Shaklee Pure Performance Team dietitian/nutritionist. She is also a two-time competitor for the USA in the Summer Games, participating in the 10-meter Air Rifle event in 2012 and 2016. Her experience as an elite athlete and her status as a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) and Licensed Nutritionist (LN), make her perfectly suited to consult with Shaklee athletes on their nutritional needs. Sarah graduated from Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas with a BS in Nutrition in 2013, and then earned an MBA in Entrepreneurship and Healthcare Management. She specializes in weight loss, improved sport performance, diabetes prevention, heart health, healthy aging, smoking cessation, and performance goals. Her hobbies include church ministries, mountaineering, physical fitness, and gardening.