Red meat gets a pretty bad reputation because it is known to be rich in saturated fat. However, it's perfectly healthy to consume lean red meat in moderation. Virtually all red meat animals can yield lean cuts of meat, which are likely labeled as loin or round cuts.
Consuming Lean Red Meat
Most animals are red meat animals. Red meat examples include beef, lamb, goat, venison, bison and pork. Red meat can also come from birds, like ostrich, goose and duck.
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Red meat is generally considered to be worse for you compared to other proteins, particularly white meats like chicken or marine products like salmon. According to the Mayo Clinic and the American Heart Association, this is because red meat typically has more saturated fat compared to these other proteins.
Saturated fat is considered bad for your health when consumed in excess. Consumption of too much saturated fat can increase your cholesterol levels and affect your risk for cardiovascular disease.
However, this doesn't mean you need to avoid red meat entirely. You mainly want to avoid fatty cuts of red meat. The American Heart Association recommends that you primarily consume lean red meat products, which are usually labeled with the words loin, round or sirloin.
You'll also want to make sure you remove any excess fat, especially solid fat on the outside of your meat, even if it's already considered lean red meat. Draining off the fat left after you've cooked your meat can also help you reduce the overall fat content.
Finally, make sure you're consuming meat, poultry and other animal proteins in moderation. The Mayo Clinic recommends consuming no more than 6 ounces (170 grams) of animal or marine-based proteins per day.
Lean Red Meat Examples
There are many types of lean red meat. For example, wild game like boar and venison are likely to be leaner than farmed beef and pork. However, these meats can be expensive and hard to obtain.
If your options are limited, your best bet may be sticking to the American Heart Association's recommendations and obtaining loin or round cuts of more commonly consumed meats. Some lean red meats you're likely to find at the supermarket include pork loin and beef sirloin steak.
Although beef steaks are can be marbled or fatty, you can also obtain a variety of lean cuts of beef. Cuts of lean red meat are likely to be labeled Choice or Select, rather than Prime.
The USDA says that lean red meat cuts must have less than 10 grams of fat per 100 gram serving (which equals 3.5 ounces). Out of this total fat content, no more than 4.5 grams should come from saturated fat. Lean beef should also have no more than 95 milligrams of cholesterol per serving.
According to the Mayo Clinic, lean red meat cuts of beef include:
- Bottom round roast or steak (also known as London broil steak)
- Brisket flat half steak
- Eye of round roast or steak
- Flank steak
- Shank crosscuts
- Shoulder or arm pot roasts
- Shoulder steak (also known as ranch steak)
- Shoulder tender roasts or medallions
- Sirloin steaks (specifically top, center-cut roast and tip side)
- Strip steak (also known as top loin steak)
- T-bone steak
- Tenderloin steak
- Top round roast or steak
- Tri-tip roast or steak
You can also buy extra-lean red meat cuts of beef. Extra-lean cuts of beef are likely to be bottom round roast and steak, eye of round roast and steak, sirloin tip side steak and top sirloin steak.
Extra-lean beef has less than 5 grams of fat per 3.5-ounce serving. No more than 2 grams of this fat should come from saturated fat, and there should be 95 milligrams of cholesterol or less.
- Mayo Clinic: "Mayo Clinic Minute: Meat Myths ⏤ Red vs. White"
- Mayo Clinic: " Cuts of Beef: A Guide to the Leanest Selections"
- American Heart Association: "Meat, Poultry, and Fish: Picking Healthy Proteins"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Meat Lover's Guide to Healthy Eating"
- USDA: "Beef from Farm to Table"