By Elliot Fisher MS, CSCS, PES, NSCA-CPT
Red meat gets a bad rap in the health and fitness industry.
There's definitely pros and cons to red meat. The main downside is that red meat is pretty high in fat. High fat diets are associated with higher cholesterol, insulin resistance, and obesity.
Chicken and fish are often recommended because they are lower fat. This way you can get the protein with less calories and fat.
Not all cuts of meat are created equal. There are a lot of super high fat cuts of meat. Ground beef that is 85/15 or higher fat are SUPER high fat. Way too many grams of fat for the calories and protein you're getting from it. Roasts, ribeyes, and strip steaks can also be high fat.
Lean cuts of beef include top round, sirloin, flank, and ground beef leaner than 85/15 (the leaner the better). You can also cut the fat off certain meats to lower the fat content.
Beef's fat content is mostly saturated and monounsaturated. Depending on the cut and quality it might be about a 50/50 ratio.
Saturated fat can be bad in excess as it really leads to increases in LDL cholesterol. It can also help increase HDL cholesterol (but the raise in HDL isn't worth the risks associated with high LDL cholesterol).
Monounsaturated fats don't tend to be as bad on LDL cholesterol and may have some benefit for HDL cholesterol.
Having said this, you do need some saturated fat in your diet. Getting it from meat is probably a better source than from added fats in processed foods.
A good general direction is to try to minimize saturated fat intake, make sure you're not in a calorie surplus from your fat intake, and to try to minimize processed foods.
You might be wondering what any of this has to do with red meat being better than chicken or fish?
Red meat is SUPER nutrient dense. It has tons of creatine, carnitine, b vitamins, potassium, zinc, selenium, phosphorus, iron, and so on.
If you pull up the micronutrient content of beef vs chicken or white fish the beef is no comparison significantly better as far as nutrient density.
Because of this I recommend people trying to prioritize red meat over chicken or fish, but to opt for leaner cuts. And if you have a fatty cut then just make sure your daily fat isn't too high and that your calories are in check.
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