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Eating Healthy Meats

Eating Healthy Meats


     As an average consumer, you probably have a vague awareness of the nutritional value of your meats—fish being better than red meat, for example. The issue can be complicated because all meats have pros and cons; research can come up with conflicting studies that surprise us. For example, research suggests that in terms of cholesterol alone, eating white meat chicken is as bad as eating beef.

     Still, there’s a generally agreed upon hierarchy of nutritional value when it comes to meat, and small shifts in your diet might have greater effects than you realize. In a study of the Danish population, researchers found that Danes could gain more than 7,000 years of healthy life annually, if they ate the recommended quantity (12 ounces per week) of fish while replacing red and processed meat in their diets.

     However, we are all different and so are farming practices in different countries so here are the categories of meat starting with the good.

A cut above: Fish and Poultry

Poultry and fish are considered the best meats you can have in your diet. Fish is hailed for its omega-3 fatty acids, which can protect against cardiovascular disease. Fish is also rich in Vitamin D, selenium and protein. You should eat a variety of fish and wild-caught if possible. That way you avoid the risk of ingesting mercury, poly chlorinated biphenyls and micro-plastic due to our polluted waters. Swordfish and king mackerel are the worst so look for cod or salmon instead.

     Poultry, such as chicken and turkey is also a great protein source, and is low in calories and saturated fat. There is very little fat difference between the white and dark meat but breast meat is typically leaner than thigh, and you should always look at how it is prepared. Obviously chicken wings loaded in sauce are not your best option. Bake or grill a skinless, boneless cut of poultry for the healthiest result.

     The American Heart Association recommends two to three servings of fish a week and eight to nine servings of super-lean protein. Even just two to four servings per month of fish and two to four servings per month of poultry can provide tremendous health benefits as long as it replaces processed food meals.

You must also shop for best farming practices for your poultry such as, free range and no antibiotics or hormones, along with uncontaminated slaughtering practices.

Less is more: Red Meat

Most meat-eaters love a juicy hamburger or steak—but that should fall more in the category of indulgence than in dietary staple. The pros to red meat—which includes beef, pork, lamb, veal, venison and duck—are found in its minerals. Red meats can be great sources of iron and also pack vitamin B12, zinc, and protein, all of which are important nutrients. The cons however are notable.

     According to the American Institute of Cancer Research, red meat intake can possibly promote certain cancers such as colorectal cancer. Also cooking red meat at high temperatures may also increase cancer risk, and red meats tend to be higher in saturated fats than other protein sources. The saturated fat may increase your risk for cardiovascular disease.

     What you should probably avoid altogether, or at least only eat on a very rare occasion? Processed meats.

     Essentially this is any meat that has been preserved or had a chemical added, like bacon, bologna, pepperoni, beef jerky, hot dogs, sausage and deli meats. The World Health Organization classifies processed meat as “carcinogenic to humans.”

     When it comes to overall health, saturated fat should be limited as much as possible. Lamb typically has more saturated fat—which can raise your levels of bad cholesterol, putting you at higher risk for cardiovascular disease—than beef or pork. T-bones, rib-eye and New York strip steak tend to be fattier forms of beef when compared to ground rounds, sirloin or flank steak. Pork is typically lowest in calories and saturated fat when compared with other red meats—as long as it isn’t processed into bacon or cured ham.

     According to the World Cancer Research Fund, you should not eat more than 12 to 18 ounces of red meat each week, or roughly three servings—but personally I still think that is too much.

     Many trials have shown decreased progression or reversal of chronic diseases, cancer, obesity and metabolic syndrome including diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol, when you avoid processed red meats and greatly limit red meat consumption. A recent study in the British Medical Journal showed that increased red meat consumption leads to a higher risk of mortality.

     If you choose to eat red meat, keep it smart. Select lean cuts and bake or broil it rather than frying or grilling. I suggest “round” or “loin” cuts such as pork or beef tenderloin whether you are in a supermarket or in a restaurant.

Other Protein

Substituting even one serving per day of red or processed red meat with poultry, fish or legumes significantly decreases the risk of metabolic syndrome. And don’t forget those non-meat sources of protein. In addition to legumes, nuts, seeds, tofu, almond milk, quinoa, and chia can be part of a healthy regimen.

     If you’re thinking of a healthy way to improve your diet, cut back on red meat and limit animal products to a few times a month. Plant based diets are the healthiest. The products we are not eating daily such as beans, grains, legumes, vegetables and fruits probably account for most of the unhealthy effects in our society.

     When it comes to meat in your diet, small adjustments can reap big rewards. They include weight loss, improve sugar diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol, and possibly the ability to get off some medications.

Healthiest to least healthy

My personally recommendations to make you healthier


>Wild Alaskan salmon, oysters and sardines are highest in healthy fats; white fish such as cod or flounder tend to be leaner


>White meat has slightly less saturated fat than dark. Turkey is fairly comparable to chicken in nutrients, but both its dark and white meat are slightly leaner.


>White meat has slightly less saturated fat than dark” skinless, boneless breast is leanest


>Look for loin cuts like tenderloin or top loin, which are typically leaner


>Round or sirloin are leaner cuts: flank steak is typically very lean: T-bones, rib-eyes, New York strip-steak are higher in saturated fats

Processed meat

>Bacon, hot dogs and sausage are all high in saturated fat and are often made with chemicals considered carcinogenic to humans. [print_link]