If you eat meat, you probably love the variety of cuts you can buy and how many ways it can be prepared.
You enjoy a delicious hamburger one day, and a tasty grilled salmon the next. You appreciate the different flavors you can create with different cuts. The culinary variety and flavor you can create with different kinds of meat are nearly inexhaustible.
And you know how healthy some meats can be. You get so many of your vitamins, minerals, and nutrients from the healthy lean meats in your daily diet. Some nutritional experts say meats and other animal products are the best sources of certain essential nutrients.
At the same time, we know not all meats are good for our bodies. As much as we may want to have bacon with every meal, we know our bodies would pay for it later. Many nutrition professionals are concerned with the saturated fat content of some meats, such as bacon and some cuts of beef.
You know you should be eating more lean meats than fatty cuts, but which kinds of lean meats are the best?
Come with us as we explore lean meats to find out what are the best lean meats, how they can improve your diet, and how they should be prepared.
What Kinds Of Meats Are Lean Meats?
What does it mean when we call a cut of meat “lean?”
Lean meats have comparably low fat content for their mass. Typically, lean meats have little visible fat and no more than a few grams of fat per serving.
How do you determine which cuts are lean?
Generally, skinless poultry is lean. Skinless chicken or turkey breast meat is some of the leanest meat you can buy. Skinless poultry legs and thighs are also lean cuts.
Beef has a bad reputation for having high amounts of saturated fat, but some cuts of beef are quite lean. As a rule of thumb, if the name of the cut has the word “loin” or “round,” it’s a lean cut. So, top loin, sirloin, and tenderloin cuts are considered lean.
This same rule of thumb applies to lamb and pork. Fortunately, lamb and pork often have large pieces of fat that are easy to trim off, so you can quickly reduce the fat content of these cuts of meat simply by spending a little bit of time preparing them.
Often, the meat packaged in the butcher section of your local supermarket will have the fat to lean content of each cut of meat listed on the package. To make sure you only select the leaner cuts of meat, look for meat that is at least 90% lean.
What Are The Best Lean Meats?
If you’re familiar with cooking meat, you know some cuts are better than others. The same principle applies to lean meats. You’ll find some varieties of lean meat cook up more tender and taste better. It’s important to know what to buy if you want to make healthy eating choices for life.
1. Skinless White Meat Poultry
When you think of lean meats, you probably think of skinless chicken breast. Perhaps you think of roasted turkey breast sandwiches.
Although both dark and white poultry is lean without their skin, white meat is the leaner of the two. Skinless white meat poultry is an excellent source of protein, selenium, and B vitamins.
While this lean protein source is leaner without the skin, it cooks better with the skin on. We recommend you cook poultry white meat with the skin on and remove it before eating.
2. Lean Beef Cuts Or Ground Beef
For several years, beef has been villainized for its connection to heart disease. While it’s true fatty beef can contain a lot of cholesterol, lean cuts of beef are great additions to your diet.
Cuts that are at least 90% lean is the best choice if you want to eat beef. Anything less than 90% will be too fatty to be considered lean.
Beef is an excellent source of iron and B vitamins as well as zinc and selenium. Women and children commonly need more iron in their diets, and lean beef is a tasty place to get it.
3. Pork Loin
Pork also has a bad reputation for being fatty and unhealthy, but if you look to the pork loin, you can find some tender and moist cuts of lean meat.
Pork can have large fat deposits, but usually, these deposits are near the surface of the cut of meat. You can simply cut them off before or after cooking.
As with beef, pork is an excellent source of zinc, selenium, and B vitamins. You’ll be able to get the benefits of these vitamins and minerals while only consuming 3 grams of saturated fat.
4. White-flesh Fish And Canned Fish
Canned fish and white-fleshed fish are usually not the first meats you might think of when you imagine lean meats. However, canned fish is an excellent source of lean protein as well as omega-3 fatty acids.
White flesh fish has less overall omega-3 fatty acids, but it’s still a great way to get your nutrients without as much fat. These white-fleshed fish have a lower fat content than their larger and often pinker cousins, canned tuna or salmon.
Canned fish is good in salads or casseroles, provided you don’t add too many fatty and calorie dense ingredients. White fish can be grilled or baked to perfection.
Image via Nutrition Advance
Bison is still a bit of a novelty in some areas of the USA, but it’s growing in popularity. One of the reasons this is happening is because bison is such an excellent lean protein source.
Food experts discovered bison is much leaner than similar cuts of beef. Additionally, the fat in bison meat has a much healthier profile than beef fat. It’s even been shown to be better for the heart than beef.
Although nutrition specialists are still hesitant to recommend that consumers eat more red meat, healthy, grass-fed bison meat has several known health benefits. This meat could be a valuable addition to your diet.
What Are The Benefits Of Eating Lean Meats?
If you’ve been paying attention to the recent trends toward veganism, you might think all animal-based food products are harmful. For those of us who enjoy our steak dinners, this sounds like sad news. Not to worry!
Food and nutrition experts say we can get lots of nutrients from eating meat. So, what are the health benefits of eating leaner meats?
Some of the benefits you can get from lean meats include:
- More Protein: It should go without saying, but lean meats have plenty of readily available, easily digestible protein. One of the fastest ways to increase the amount of protein in your diet is to eat more lean meats.
- More Essential Vitamins and Minerals: Lean meats contain lots of B vitamins, iron, and selenium, all of which are important for complete health.
- Reduced Risk of Heart Disease: Studies have shown that replacing 10% of your daily carbohydrate intake with lean protein can reduce your risk of heart disease by 21%.
- Curb Weight Gain: Lean meats are nutrient dense and help you feel full longer. By eating protein, you’ll help your body build and maintain muscle mass. Muscle tissue burns more calories than fat tissue.
Although experts have pointed out some health risks of eating high quantities of animal products, we can still get substantial health benefits from including lean meats in our diet.
How Should You Cook Lean Meats?
Now that you can choose the right cuts of meat, how should they be prepared?
You want to avoid cooking your lean meats in too much fat. Use low-fat cooking methods like baking, broiling, poaching, grilling or steaming. Try not to add flavor through heavy batters or fatty sauces. Instead, season your lean meats with spices and herbs.
Because lean meats have less fat, they are prone to getting dry during the cooking process. Dry meats are not tasty!
Most moist cooking processes, like braising and poaching, will keep moisture inside your food. You won’t have to worry about your lean meats drying out if you cook them with a moist cooking method.
On the other hand, dry cooking processes, such as grilling or baking, can dry out your food. If you want to keep your lean meats moist during dry cooking methods, you should use a marinade or layer your meat with slices of fruit to keep it moist.
Once you’ve gotten the hang of cooking with lean meats, you’ll be able to enjoy a healthy and flavorful diet. We hope you try some of the cuts recommended above. Bon Appetit!