Buying and Cooking Red Meat

When you do eat read meat, choose the cut of meat carefully.  Selecting leaner cuts saves you calories and also helps limit your intake of saturated fat, a nutrient that can raise LDL (bad) cholesterol and increase heart disease risk.  Look for the words “loin” and “round,” which typically signal leaner cuts of meat, such as in “sirloin steak,” “top round roast,” or “pork tenderloin.”  Grass-fed beef and bison (available at farmer’s markets and some supermarkets) are leaner, too.  Besides choosing leaner cuts, trip away any visible fat on the edge of meats before cooking.  When preparing poultry, remove the skin either before or after cooking to reduce saturated fat and calories.

When selecting ground meat, choose one that is at least 90 percent lean if it fits your budget. Another option is to blot and/or rinse cooked ground meat with hot water to cut fat. If substituting ground turkey or chicken for ground beef, check the ingredients, since poultry is frequently ground with the skin. The leanest ground poultry is from pure breast meat.

How you cook your animal protein also matters. Cooking meats at high temperatures using methods such as grilling, broiling or frying creates potentially cancer-causing compounds, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and heterocyclic amines, and can increase the formation of advanced glycation end products (AGEs). AGEs may play a role in the development of diabetic complications like nephropathy, and preliminary data suggest higher levels of AGEs in the brain of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease may promote oxidative stress and inflammation. Plant-based foods, such as vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains, contain relatively few AGEs, even after cooking, and phytochemicals in foods like berries can counteract AGEs.

Everyone loves a good cookout, so if you’re going to grill, soak meat for an hour in an acidic marinade (think lemon juice- or vinegar-based) before cooking and cook over a low flame to cut down on the formation of AGEs and carcinogens.

Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter