Eating meat supplies the body with essential protein that is necessary for healthy skin, muscles and bones; however some types of meat contain more fat than others. When choosing meat as a source of protein for a heart-healthy diet, should red meat be included?
What is Considered Red Meat
Red meat includes any type of beef such as steak, roast, hamburger or spare ribs. However, health professionals also include pork and lamb in their definition of red meat. All of these types of red meat, even those that are lean cuts, generally have a high content of saturated fat. Saturated fat is one of the bad types of fat that can put people at risk for heart disease, colon cancer and other forms of cancer.
Red Meat and Heart Disease
People who have high cholesterol, high blood pressure and other risk factors of heart disease have been told for years to watch their intake of red meat. A recent study confirmed this when it was found that women who ate two or more servings of red meat each day had a 30 percent higher risk of developing heart disease compared to women who ate a half serving of red meat daily. When the women chose healthier forms of protein, their risk of heart disease lowered by 13 to 30 percent, depending upon the type of protein source they ate. Although women were the main subject of the study, the researchers feel that this can apply to men as well.
Choosing Heart-Healthy Meat
Although red meat does supply a high source of protein, other forms of meat offer an equal value of protein without the high content of saturated fat. For example: a 6 ounce porterhouse steak contains 38 grams of protein but also has 44 grams of total fat of which 16 grams are saturated fat. A 6 ounce slice of salmon has 34 grams of protein with 18 grams of total fat, 4 grams being saturated fat. The salmon contains almost as much protein but is more beneficial for a heart-healthy diet.
Other sources of meat that are good choices for a heart-healthy diet include lean cuts of chicken and turkey and most cold-water fish such as mackerel, cod, trout, herring and tuna. However, meat does not have to be the only source of protein in the diet. Low-fat dairy products, egg whites, soybeans, beans, lentils and most types of nuts and seeds are excellent sources of protein while being low in saturated fat.
Meats to avoid are fatty red meats, pork, lamb, lunchmeats, hot dogs, sausage, bacon, ham and any meats that are deep fried or pan fried in oil. Egg yolks and high-fat dairy products should also be avoided in a heart-healthy diet.
Does this mean you can never eat red meat? A good steak or slice of roast beef is fine on occasion if you choose lean cuts and watch portion sizes. Treat red meat as you would a high-fat dessert – as an occasional treat, not an everyday staple in the diet.
People with heart disease or those concerned with preventing heart disease should choose healthier forms of protein over red meat on a daily basis. Eating red meat on occasion is fine, but in most instances it is healthier to skip the steak or burger and make a healthier choice for a healthy heart.
Science Daily “Choosing Healthier Protein-Rich Foods Instead of Red and Processed Meats May Reduce Heart Disease”
MedicineNet “Eating Red Meat Boosts Death Risk”