It’s an unfortunate fact of human evolution that our ancestors developed taste buds which signal to the brain that fatty foods are delicious. During those early hunter-gatherer days, our ancestors needed to consume fatty food when they found it because their lifestyle called for more calories and protein which often accompanies fat. Modern developments in agriculture and mass distribution mean we now have access to fatty foods whenever we want them, and unfortunately the increase in obesity indicates that we’re getting too much of something that was once productive.
Meats are often heavy in fat content, and many dieters choose to limit their meat consumption. However, there are healthier meats out there. The lean protein and vitamins found in meat are necessary for good health, as are the essential fatty acids like omega-3 and omega-6.
When shopping for and preparing healthy meat, type, cut, and preparation method make a big difference in the amount of fat content a meal has. It’s healthier to choose a lean cut than a fatty one, it’s healthier to trim away the visible fat during preparation, and of course it’s healthier to marinate the meat and grill or bake it than it is to fry it. Ground meat can be problematic, although most include the percentage of fat content on the package label. But what types of meats are healthiest?
- Though often not considered a “real meat”, the most nutritious animal product comes from fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and trout. These species of fish provide about 9 grams of protein per ounce of meat, they contain a lot of omega-3s, and they also provide good amounts of B vitamins, calcium, and vitamin D.
- Chicken and turkey are very low in saturated fat, particularly white meat (breast and wings) without skin. The dark meat (legs and thighs) contains more fat, but also has a higher concentration of B-vitamins.
- Beef can be surprisingly healthy as long as lean cuts are chosen. Beef has high content of iron and protein. Some breeds of beef cattle produce healthier meat than others, but even the fatty cuts can have their health benefits if eaten in moderation. For example, Wagyu beef has more omega-3s and omega-6s and contains a better ratio of saturated to unsaturated fats. It may be difficult to find Wagyu brisket for sale in a local supermarket, but it can be obtained within the U.S. via many other outlets like the internet. Leaner cuts are considered less “luxurious” eats, but are healthier in general.
Basically, meat can definitely be part of a healthy diet, as long as the fat content or quantity consumed is kept low.