Meat has been a contentious topic for nutritionists and dieticians alike for many years, with each faction arguing the good and bad of meat consumption, especially red meat. The thing is, meat has nutrients that are essential for muscle growth, repair, and maintenance. But when it comes to choosing the type of meat to eat, you want to go lean. Foods like chicken fingers, hot dogs, and hamburgers are not your friend, and in this post, we are going to list down some of the healthiest and unhealthiest meat cuts you can eat.
When buying meat, opt for servings with less than 10 grams of total fat and around five grams or less of saturated fat. It’s also recommended to trim away any excess fat or skin, or grill, boil or roast the meat to reduce the content of saturated fat. With that in mind, here are the top picks of lean cuts that you can add to your diet.
Poultry, in general, has less fat and more proteins compared to red meat. Chicken is classified as white meat, and skinless chicken breast is particularly praised as the leanest cut of chicken with low calories and high proteins per gram. The other leanest parts of the chicken are breast tenderloins.
You can also opt for chicken thighs and drumsticks, which are cheaper than chicken breasts. However, they have slightly more monounsaturated fats. In most cases, removing the skin can help reduce the fat content. White meat is a good supply of phosphorous and riboflavin. Nutritionists encourage us to eat dark meats, as well, to up our level of zinc, selenium, and B vitamins.
Pork tenderloin is one of the leanest cuts of pork. A study by the USDA, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the University of Maryland, found that a 3-ounce serving of pork tenderloin has slightly less fat than skinless chicken breast.
The BBC ranked pork eighth as the most nutritious food out of 100 due to the high protein and minerals it contains. Pork was also found to contain more unsaturated fats compared to beef and lamb, meaning more omega-3 fatty acids. No wonder several studies link consumption of lean pork to reduced waist circumference, fat mass, and belly fat.
Fish has always been at the top of the list when it comes to healthiest meat cuts. The white-fleshed fish are lean and a rich source of lean protein. Some of the healthiest fish include tilapia, cod, haddock, Pollock, mullet, Monkfish, and halibut, among others.
These white-fleshed fish contain between 10-25 percent as much omega-3 fat as higher-calorie, higher-fat as darker fish like sockeye salmon and Coho. Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, trout, and sardines are also excellent sources of healthy fats and high-quality protein that leave you feeling full for longer, but with few calories.
While red meat always receives a bad rap for being unhealthy, grass-fed beef is naturally lean and contains fewer calories and more omega-3 fatty acids. Red meat is a complete high-quality protein that our bodies need to support our physical activities. To avoid the risk of cancer, avoid burning or charring any beef or any kind of meat, for that matter.
Bison and buffalo meats are pretty healthy, as well, since most of them are grass-fed. There was a time when buffalo was an endangered species. But now that they are being raised in ranches, you can easily find buffalo meat in grocery stores near you.
Like bison and buffalos, venison contains much less fat and even fewer calories. If you’re wondering what venison is, it’s another term for deer meat. It can be rather delicious, especially if allowed to rest and the blood to drain off of the meat for the right length of time.
Venison can make for a great substitute for beef if it’s readily available in your area.
Rabbit meat is one of the leanest meat cuts, with a 3-ounce serving supplying just three grams of fat and 147 calories. Rabbit meat is also rich in high-quality proteins, vitamin B12, omega-3 fatty acids, and minerals like potassium and calcium. It’s a good choice for anyone who wants to enjoy guilt-free eating since it’s low on cholesterol.
If you’re not familiar with cooking rabbit meat, chefs recommend slow-cooking. The slower you cook rabbit meat, the better it will taste and the moister it will be. If you cook it like you cook chicken, it will come out hard. Rabbit meat is readily available in grocery stores or at farms.
Turkey is one of the healthiest meat cuts that you can eat. Its commonly associated with Thanksgiving and Christmas, although you don’t have to wait for the holidays to eat turkey. Turkey supplies a good amount of zinc, choline, selenium, niacin, vitamin B-6, and vitamin B-12. The dark turkey meat tends to contain more vitamins and minerals, but also comes with more fat and calories.
Unhealthy Meat Cuts to Avoid
Although delicious, processed meats like hot dogs, cold cuts, salami, and cured meats are not healthy and should be avoided as much as possible. Regular consumption of processed meats has been associated with high risks of developing certain types of cancer, like colon cancer. They usually contain high sodium levels that can lead to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and stroke.
You also want to avoid fattier cuts of meat due to the high levels of saturated fats, which can raise your cholesterol levels and contribute to heart disease.
All images by Shutterstock