What’s the Deal with Saturated Fat and Red Meat?
Last updated: March 2022
Although it offers the body some valuable nutrients like protein, iron, and crucial vitamins such as B6 and B12, it is also higher in saturated fat than some other foods that offer those same nutrients.2
Red meat and cholesterol?
Despite headlines saying “butter is back,” we know that saturated fat in butter and other animal products may increase the risk of heart disease because it raises LDL (bad) cholesterol.3 Plus, we know that eating red meat alone can increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even some types of cancer.4
How much fat is in meat?
Okay, we’ll do it for you! Below are the approximate amounts of total, saturated, and monounsaturated fat found in a 3 oz portion of the listed protein-rich foods.
* The above nutrient values were obtained (and some rounded) from the USDA National Nutrient Database7
Can you eat red meat with type 2 diabetes?
Yes! Just limit the portion and frequency, since red meat has most recently been linked to not only developing chronic diseases, but also to a higher chance of dying. Give fish tacos a chance instead of carne asada–because they are good!9 The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) recommends eating no more than 18 ounces (cooked weight) of red meats such as beef, lamb, and pork over the course of one week.10 Greater than 18 ounces a week can increase your risk of cancer, especially since many types of meat undergo processing that requires the use of carcinogens.10 It’s also recommended to limit eating any processed meat. This means meat preserved by smoking, curing or salting, or the addition of chemical preservatives - which includes ham, bacon, sausages, hot dogs and deli meats.10 Since limiting processed meats also will limit your sodium intake (helpful for your blood pressure and stroke risk), it’s a win-win! So give soy chorizo a chance!
How to eat less red meat
Reducing saturated fats and upping the good fats doesn’t have to be a struggle. Remember when you made the switch from wonder bread to whole wheat? Or switching from whole milk to 1%. Easy peasy, right? It was so long ago, back in the dinosaur ages, that you can’t even remember the challenge of it. So get in the mindset to make the switch. Whenever possible, swap beef, pork, or fried meat items with grilled, steamed, poached or broiled lean meat options such as chicken breast, fish filet, pork tenderloin, or even non-meat protein sources such as eggs, beans, or low-fat Greek yogurt. You can even try the new bean pastas –I like garbanzo bean penne best.
When ordering out and watching the saturated fat, remember you’re a paying customer! It’s okay to politely ask how it’s prepared. Do they butter the bun (hold it), slater up the fish with aioli (no-thanks!) or drown the veggies in butter (pass please)? Next time you are at a restaurant, order a fish, turkey or veggie burger instead of a hamburger. Request that it’s cooked in oil not butter! If you are making burgers at home, try using a Portobello mushroom or even a chicken breast patty as the meat in an open face burger.
Cooking at home
At home you can make some changes too. You’re in control! Try swapping out the butter by using 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in your cooking. Try to incorporate more fish into your diet in fun ways like making fish tacos or broiled fish at home. You’d be surprised at how easy it is to prepare fish. Just put the fish in tin foil, and pour over a little oil, lemon, salt and pepper. Cook in a 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes and viola - it’s done! For an easy dinner, buy already marinated frozen salmon at a discount food club that comes sealed in individual packets. One and done! Frozen mahi mahi is also a time savor—just pour a little olive oil and pepper and serve with pico de gallo, chopped avocado, cabbage slaw and reduced fat shredded cheese in crunchy toasted corn taco shells. Try baking tofu cubes over the weekend and add them to salads or stir fried veggies throughout the week. You can also buy premade marinated baked tofu.
Start with a couple small changes, maybe buying some frozen fish instead of steaks. After making Friday night, fish night add on one more change! Pretty soon you’ll realize –wow, that’s wasn’t so hard after all.
How often do you find yourself craving sweet snacks?