I always have folks asking me if they should eat meat, and if so, what type and how often. I always reply that the consumption of meat is not necessarily a bad thing, but rather individual choice which can make the difference. The biggest criticism I have encountered is the degree of fat which is typically found in most commercially-raised red meats. There is no doubt that red meat contains a lot of saturated fat, which has been shown to be very damaging to human health.
Meat products derived from beef, lamb, and pork can vary greatly to the degree of saturated fat they contain. The fat content of meat is determined by the feed used, the husbandry methods, and the cut selected. Typically, animals that are kept penned ingest corn feed and are given antibiotics or growth hormones to become larger (thus giving farmers more bang for their buck) and contain higher concentrations of fatty meat.
Should You Eat Meat?
Meat can be an excellent food selection, given the fact that it contains high amounts of heme iron, zinc, selenium, and vitamin B12. It is also a very good source of protein, because it contains all the essential amino acids of a complete protein source. The best form of meat to eat is game, if you can find it. It is the true free-range meat and has a very good fat profile, given that most game feed on grasses and plants. These food sources are considered to be healthier for the animal, and thus less harmful for humans to ingest. If you like game, try moose, venison, or bison lean.
Eating Meat: The Healthiest Choice
In my opinion, the best meats to consume are those which come from animals which are raised as 100% organic. This means that they have not been given any antibiotics or growth factors and that they are free-range, allowed to graze on grasses which are devoid of chemicals. This is very important because free-ranged animals, like wild game, are allowed to graze freely on grasses and plants which they would normally consume, and are not confined to a small space. The direct result is a much leaner animal whose fat profile within the meat is much more favorable. This type of meat contains much more omega-6 fat and less saturated fat, calories, and cholesterol. Of course, this type of meat will cost you more, but the extra cost, in my view, is more than worth it!
How Much Meat Should You Eat?
Meat can be eaten two to three times per week, providing that the right choices and serving sizes are selected. The leanest cuts of beef include sirloin tip, round, and top sirloin. However, it’s the serving size which can be the most important issue when you decide to have a steak, pork chop, or some roast beef.
I recommend no more than a four ounce serving—and this also includes burgers! If you want a great burger, try mixing extra lean ground beef with ground bison. It’s really great tasting and a healthier alternative.
The manner with which the meat is prepared can also be very important. I recommend that you remove all the visible fat and grill the meat on a surface that allows the extra fat to fall off. Try to select a medium to medium-high heat range for grilling, as this will prevent charring of any exposed fat. And most of all, enjoy!
“Dietary Supplement Fact Sheets,” National Institutes of Health; http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/list-all/, last accessed May 21, 2013.
“Cuts of beef: A guide to the leanest selections,” Mayo Clinic web site; http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/cuts-of-beef/MY01387, last accessed May 21, 2013.