For many Americans, meat is their primary source of protein throughout the day. The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest 5 ounces of protein foods per day for a calorie intake of 2,000, although the guidelines depend heavily on weight, age, gender, physical activity level, and other factors .
An ounce’s protein equivalent might be an ounce of meat, a cup of cooked beans, an egg, or an ounce of nuts. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends eating a variety of protein sources, so here’s what to know the next time you choose meat.
What is the healthiest meat?
According to registered dietitian Amy Goodson, the healthiest meat is lean meat. By USDA standards, this is a three-and-a-half ounce cut that contains fewer than 10 grams of fat and 4.5 grams or less of saturated fat.
The World Health Organization recommends that no more than 30% of total caloric intake comes from fat, with less than 10% of that coming from saturated fat and less than 1% from trans fat.
But while lean meat is suggested, any high-quality protein will give you important nutrients your body needs, Goodson says. It’s more about balance.
High-quality protein is any protein that contains all nine essential amino acids (histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine) that our bodies don’t produce on their own. These are usually animal products, but some plant-based foods such as quinoa and soy are also high-quality proteins.
It helps you fill up faster and stay full longer, says Goodman. The importance is that they are not (consuming protein) once a day, but that they are really trying to distribute the protein consistently throughout the day.
Each different type of meat has a unique nutrient package, containing varying levels of iron, zinc, selenium, phosphorus, sodium, magnesium, potassium, riboflavin, vitamins B12 and B6, and other vitamins and minerals.
Even high-fat or no-lean, you’re still getting those essential nutrients but the fat is higher, so increase your calories, says Goodson.
At the end of the day it’s about balance, preference and convenience, Goodson says. Refers to the 80-20 rule, or chooses nutrient-dense foods 80% of the time, but acknowledges your body’s desire to eat foods that are less nutrient-dense (think desserts, high-fat foods) the other 20% of the time. times.
I think a lot of what’s best is (asking) what nutrients am I getting? Does it satisfy my taste preferences? Does it meet my budget? says Goodman. So obviously it really starts to shrink as well what are you putting on that plate?
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What’s the healthiest way to eat meat?
From the moment you pick up a package of meat from the store until you stare down your plate, there are a few tricks you can use to prepare your meat in the healthiest way. Here’s what Goodson suggests:
- Beware of marbling
The white lines running through the flesh often give it a marbled appearance. Those white sections are intramuscular fat, or the fat inside the meat rather than the fat on the outside of the meat. Goodson recommends choosing a cut with less marbling, which will have less fat.
- Choose at least 90% lean
The USDA recommends choosing meat that is at least 90% lean, although there may be options as lean as 93% or 95% lean at the store.
You can also look for choice or select label beef, Goodson says, which will be lower in fat than meat labeled as before.
- Cooking techniques
Goodson recommends choosing a leaner cooking method such as broiling, roasting, or broiling rather than frying. This will get excess fat out of the oil as it cooks, especially since the meat already has fat in it.
You’ll want to make sure you drain the fat off the pain when cooking especially meat, especially ground beef. No one wants a greasy dish, plus the extra fat isn’t necessary, Goodson says.
You can also experiment with seasoning. If you’re looking to reduce your sodium intake, try marinating meat in herbs like rosemary or thyme instead.
- Trim visible fat, before or after
Once you’ve made sure you’re grabbing a cut of meat with less marbling, you’ll need to pay attention to the fat on the outside of the meat and trim off any excess, either before or after the meat is cooked.
- Portion size
I’m a firm believer that all foods can fit, but some foods need to fit in smaller amounts, says Goodson. This could mean assessing how lean the meat you’re eating is, it could also mean choosing a smaller portion.
- How is your dish?
While choosing lean meat can be a part of a healthy diet, it’s more important to consider it in the context of your daily diet. Goodson calls this the whole pot perspective.
If you decide to share a ribeye with your spouse at dinnertime, perhaps you cut back on saturated fat throughout the day, Goodson says. You are balancing your intake throughout the day.
It is also what accompanies the meat on the plate. Try pairing meat with roasted vegetables, salad, rice, quinoa, or other nutrient-dense foods.
Goodson uses the example of a burger with your meat, you can also add a whole grain bun, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, onions and mashed avocado for a creamy finish.
You can literally get every single food group in a burger, Goodson says.
Is red meat good for you?
Red meat has been linked to cardiovascular disease, but Goodson says not all red meat is created equal. There’s a misconception that lean meat and red meat are the two categories of meat, even though there are over 30 USDA-recognized cuts of beef as lean, Goodson says.
If your red meat is lean, the difference is minimal:
If you’re comparing three and a half ounces of chicken to three and a half ounces of lean beef, the difference is only 1.5 grams of fat, Goodson says.
The Mediterranean diet, which favors poultry and seafood over red meat, has been ranked number one on US News & World Report’s list of the best diets for six consecutive years. But a 2018 study found that lean, unprocessed red meat incorporated into a Mediterranean diet could improve the risk of cardiometabolic disease.
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