For a lot of people, a meal is not complete without some type of meat included. Meat is an excellent source of protein. However, whether you are looking to lose weight or just live a healthier lifestyle, it is always a good idea to be mindful of what meats are the healthiest to consume. For those looking more closely at what is going in their body, here is a list of the five healthiest meats to eat.
The healthiest meats to eat include seafood, poultry, and lean red meat, amongst others. These meats are considered the healthiest because they provide some of the most crucial ingredients for maintaining a healthy body.
Above are the top five healthiest types of meat that you can consume. But what makes them the healthier choices, and what should you avoid when browsing the grocery store aisles? Keep reading to find out exactly what sets these meats apart and what you should and should not look for when doing your regular grocery shopping.
What Kind of Nutrients Does Meat Supply to the Body?
The most notable nutrient that is provided by eating meat is protein. Proteins, like carbohydrates and fats, provide calories to your body which you burn for energy. MyPlate explains that “[p]roteins function as building blocks for bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood.” The site continues to explain that proteins are also an integral part of the structure of enzymes, hormones, and vitamins.
Basically, your body cannot function correctly without protein because of the many functions it carries out. Protein is an integral part of building muscle and staying strong. They also play a huge part in the amount of energy you have and how full you stay after a meal. The more protein, the longer you feel “full.” Many people rely on meat as a source of protein in their meals.
The other types of nutrients provided by meat vary by the type of meat you are ingesting. Some of these other nutrients that can be provided by meat are B vitamins, EPA and DHA, Zinc, Iron, omega-3 fatty acids, and magnesium. It is important to vary the types of meat in your weekly intake because each meat provides a different vital nutrient. The serving sizes of the various meats are also different so keep that in mind when planning your meals.
The 5 Healthiest Meats to Eat
While each of these meats is considered healthy, they are only good in the proper portions. Be mindful of the correct amounts to consume because even healthy foods in improper amounts can become unhealthy. Here are five of the healthiest meats in no particular order.
It is no secret that eating a variety of seafood each week is one of the healthiest choices that you can make when choosing your meats. This is because seafood does not contain a large number of saturated fats (the bad fat), but rather a lot of the good stuff. It is important to choose low-fat and non-fried seafood options including but not limited to
- Pink salmon
- Pacific Oysters
It’s best to avoid mackerel, swordfish, and shark because of their high mercury content.
But what exactly is the “good stuff” found in seafoods? According to MyPlate, “[s]eafood contains a range of nutrients, notably the omega-3 fatty acids, EPA, and DHA…Some types of fish…are also natural sources of vitamin D.” What makes these nutrients so important to be consumed in your regular diet?
Omega-3 fatty acids are great for your heart health and keeping heart disease at bay. The combination of EPA and DHA is also good for your heart health, as well as it supports your brain function and eye health. Vitamin D is essential to your bone and muscle health. A discrepancy in the number of these nutrients eaten can lead to costly health risks, including heart disease, heart failure, loss of eyesight, and bone breakage and pain.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t include lobster or crab served with a side of butter. Or crispy fried seafood. Although both are delicious, they’re not on the list of healthiest meats to eat.
Lean Red Meats: Beef and Pork
The two classifications of meat are white and red. Red meats are the meats that come from mammals such as beef, pork, goat, and lamb. Contrary to popular belief, specific cuts of red meat, even pork, in moderation can actually be very good for your health.
Not only is red meat a source of protein, but it can also be a good source of iron, zinc, and vitamin B. The less processed the meat, the more nutrients it contains and the better it is for you. B vitamins help ensure that your cells function properly to give you energy and keep your body operating at its best. Iron helps prevent anemia, and zinc helps with your immune system and metabolism health.
When choosing red meats, the most important thing to consider is the leanness or the amount of fat. The leanest cut is the one that should be chosen. For pork, that means skip the bacon and sausage and instead choose pork tenderloin or center-cut chops. For beef, steaks try sirloin and trim off as much visible fat as possible before cooking. Choose ground beef that is at least 90% lean
Turkey is poultry and white meat that, despite what you may think, can be served at meals other than Thanksgiving. Turkey is commonly cooked whole and served at large feasts such as those celebrating holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. Turkey can also be cut and prepared as ground meat, breasts, and tenderloins.
Turkey that is not processed and prepared without the skin is low in saturated fats. Turkey is a quality source of protein, B vitamins, and zinc, and the benefits of these nutrients are mentioned above.
While providing roughly the same nutrients as red meat above, turkey has a considerably less amount of fat and calories, which makes it a great choice for a meat to be served with your meal. It is important to note that because it is poultry, the turkey should be carefully prepared to avoid cross-contamination and that it should be cooked to the proper internal temperature before it is served to stay clear of any sickness.
Chicken, like turkey, is also poultry and another type of white meat. Chicken is also widely known as one of the healthier meat choices. Chicken gives you a good source of protein without containing a high amount of the bad, saturated fats and is also low in calories.
Besides being a good, low-fat source of protein, chicken can also be a good source of iron and zinc, among other nutrients. The importance of zinc and iron is mentioned above. One of the most important things to keep in mind when preparing chicken is to make sure that it does not contaminate your other foods when raw and that it is cooked thoroughly to avoid food poisoning.
Both ground chicken and ground turkey make excellent substitutes for ground beef, especially if you cannot locate a ground beef that is higher than 90% lean. It would also benefit you to look for chicken that is organic rather than some that are highly processed or contain a high number of additives of any kind.
Before there were farmers or grocery stores to buy meat from, people did not have a choice but to eat meat from wild game that was hunted. Wild game is once again becoming increasingly popular, and you can now see the option on restaurant menus or even as food trucks!
For the purpose of this article, we will talk exclusively about wild game that is red meat. These options include but are not limited to venison, elk, bear, bison, and wild boar. When compared to the red meat bought in stores, the wild game contains less saturated fat and cholesterol but is higher in Omega-3 fatty acids, according to tasteofgame.org. You can see a cohesive list of wild game meats and their protein and fat content here.
Wild game meat generally also contains a higher concentration of zinc, iron, and good fats (polyunsaturated fats). Cooking wild game meat is very similar to that of store-bought red meat. It is important to note, though, that wild game meat bought in restaurants or stores will tend to have a higher price tag than that of the easy-to-find beef and pork because of its rarity.
What Meats Should You Avoid?
Not all meats are healthy to eat in high amounts, or even at all. Even some red meats should be avoided or only eaten on special occasions.
Here’s a quick rundown of what meats you should avoid and exactly why you should be cautious with these meats.
|Type of Meat
|Reasons to Avoid
|Meats that are high in saturated fats and cholesterol
|• In high amounts, the bad fats and cholesterol can play a part in leading to chronic health conditions such as heart disease because they can clog your arteries.
• This leads to congestive heart failure and an increased risk of heart attacks and other serious health conditions.
• Packaged beef jerky
• Canned meats
• Deli meats
• Hot dogs
|• Processed meats are typically high in fats and sodium, which again can lead to heart disease, with the sodium also contributing to high blood pressure. It is best to consume these meats in very low amounts or to avoid them completely.
• Another factor to avoid when considering what meats to purchase is how the meat needs to be prepared. Meats that are breaded and need to be fried or cooked in oil should be avoided because they too are high in cholesterol and bad fats. Instead, look for meats that can be baked or broiled.
Whether you want to lose weight and pursue a healthier lifestyle, or you just want to be more mindful of what you are putting into your body, knowing what meat is the healthiest to consume goes a long way in establishing that. Protein plays a vital role in a functioning body, and eating meat is one of the best ways to get that needed protein.
However, some meats are healthier than others. Poultry, seafood, lean red meats, and wild game are among the healthiest meat choices you can make. This is due to the nutrients provided by these meats, but also because of the ways they can be prepared, as avoiding breaded and fried meats is also an integral part of being healthy.