Friday, July 5, 2013

Red meat round-up

I hope everyone had a happy and healthy Fourth of July! After watching clips of the Nathan’s Annual Hot Dog Eating Contest yesterday I was thoroughly disgusted with our country. The “champion” ate 69 hot dogs, over 20,000 calories, 1,173 grams of fat, and almost 50,000 mg of sodium. We live in a country that is riddled in obesity and we glorify these contestants as heroes. What are we teaching our children and society? This was featured on ESPN, enough said.

A typical steak and potato dinner is a staple in many American homes today. In fact, many are happy eating this meal (or similar) most nights of the week. Despite recommendations from several national medical associations, red meat consumption still trumps over chicken and seafood. Yes, pork and lamb are considered red meats too!

The American Heart Association recommends to avoid processed meats (luncheon meats, hot dogs etc) and to limit red meat intake to two times per week. They also encourage fish intake at least two times a week for the oh-so-good omega 3 fatty acids. That leaves the rest of the meals to feature poultry (chicken, turkey) or to be plant-based (vegetarian).

Previous recommendations to limit red meat were largely based on its saturated fat and cholesterol content (both of which increase the LDL or “bad cholesterol”. High red meat intake has been associated with coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, premature death, and colon cancer.

Research released in 2012 from the Harvard School of Public Health (Health Professionals Follow-up Study and the Nurses’ Health Study) found that those who ate the highest amount of red meat ~2 servings per day were at a 30% higher risk of dying when compared to those who ate <1/2 serving per day.

New research, released in April 2013 from the Cleveland Clinic is suggesting that carnitine, a nutrient found in high amounts in red meat, plays a role in atherosclerosis or “hardening of the arteries”. A byproduct of carnitine’s metabolism is TMOA. In one study, high levels of TMOA in the blood put patients at a 50% higher risk for having a heart attack/stroke within the following 3 years. Further research needs to be done, but that’s a significant number!

Selecting “Lean Red Meat”:
You may be thinking “there is no way I am giving up my steak or juicy burger” and that is fine. Again, I am just encouraging you to consider limiting the amount. Data and research set aside, some cuts are lower in fat and would be better to select if you do consume red meat. Cuts with the term “loin” or “roast” and cut away any visible fat. Prime rib, filet mignon, or flank steak are good choices too! Select 85% lean ground beef or above (ideally 90% or greater). Avoid “prime” and marbled meats such as “T-Bone” or “NY Strip Steak”

Portion Matters:
Yes, even when you go for the lean meats, portion size matters. A typical steakhouse or restaurant will serve a 8 oz or greater portion. That is 2x the recommended serving size of 4 oz (the size of a deck of cards or a smart phone)! Keep in mind that double the portion, means double the fat and calorie content.  

There are many ways to enjoy red-meat free meals. Re-invent your plate… make the vegetable or salad the highlight of the meal and the meat as an optional choice or the “side dish”. Go for more chicken, turkey, seafood, beans/whole grains, and low-fat cheeses. Your heart will thank you for it.

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