Good news for backyard barbecuers as we head into Memorial Day weekend: Red meat may not be totally bad for you. Researchers at Harvard recently found that processed red meat can actually cause heart disease and stroke, more so than unprocessed red meat. We asked Dr. David Katz, a professor of medicine at Yale University, about this new finding. “Not all meat is created equal.” he said. “You have to think, this animal I am eating, what did they eat? If we ask ourselves that question, we will be eating closer to nature.”
So, is it possible to maintain a healthy lifestyle and still indulge in the occasional hamburger? We think so. After consulting with doctors, food scientists and nutritionists, we put together a cheat sheet of 5 things you should know about red meat that will help you make healthier choices this barbecue season.
1. Skip the hot dogs, sausages and bacon. Preserved meats such as hot dogs, bacon, sausage and cold cuts are higher in calories, salt and additives like nitrates. The major culprit is salt. According to researchers at Harvard, processed meat contains up to four times more salt then a piece of steak.
2. Buy grass-fed red meats. According to a recent report in the Nutrition Journal, grass-fed animals have less fat and have higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which is better for your heart. Grass-fed red meat also has higher levels of cancer-fighting oxidants such as vitamins A and E.
3. Choose lean red meats. According to the Mayo Clinic, when you’re selecting beef, choose cuts labeled “choice” or “select,” instead of “prime” (which usually has more fat). Opt for cuts with the least amount of visible fat (i.e., marbling). Even then, trim any visible fat before preparing the beef. When you’re selecting ground beef, opt for the lowest percentage of fat. Nutritionist Cynthia Sass recommends lean cuts such as:
- Eye-round beef
- Top-sirloin beef
- Top-round beef
- Bottom-round beef
- Top-sirloin beef
- Pork tenderloin
- Top round lamb
4. When grilling, season your meat with spices like rosemary, thyme and all spice. These herbs and spices are loaded with antioxidants, and they block the formation of carcinogenic compounds that can cause cancer when grilling. Other spices such as sage, marjoram and basil also have the same positive effect. These compounds are the same present in green tea.
5. Limit how much red meat you eat. Dr. Katz recommends only eating red meat a couple of times a week. He says the more meat people consume, the less fruits and vegetables they tend to eat. American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 ounces (170 grams) of lean meat a day, including poultry and fish.