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5 Healthiest Meats

Red-meat addicts, it’s time for a dose of reality.

A recent 10-year study, the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC), found that guys (and girls) who eat just 10 ounces (283 grams) of red meat a week are more likely to develop colon cancer than guys who don’t. Not a nice thought.

If you want to learn which meats are the worst offenders, check out our article on unhealthy meats. While nothing can replace a mouth-watering steak, there are plenty of tasty alternatives to hold you over. Here are five healthy meats that won’t wreak havoc on your colon.

1. Buffalo (Bison)

No matter how good white meat can be, it will never truly satiate the craving for red meat. Buffalo, however, can. It’s probably the reddest meat you’ll ever see and unlike beef, it’s pretty good for you. A hunk of buffalo has far less fat than steak and buffalo are generally grass-fed, which means healthier meat. Let’s compare burgers: Your typical lean hamburger (10 percent fat) contains about 0.32 oz (9 g) of fat. Buffalo burgers, on the other hand, contain less than half that, about 0.14 oz (4 g). Not bad for a tasty burger. There was a point when buffalo were endangered, but the beasts have made a comeback, especially on ranches. Today, buffalo meat is readily available in most grocery stores.

2. Pork

Pork chops used to be on the doctors’ hit list. Today, however, pork is “the other white meat” and is a healthy alternative to red meat. And when it’s eaten in reasonable quantities (8 oz), a pork chop can be quite good for you. Pork chops can be relatively lean, but they’re typically not as low-fat as chicken or fish. By contrast, however, a USDA, University of Wisconsin and Maryland study found that a 3 oz (85 g) serving of pork tenderloin contains 0.105 oz (2.98 g) of fat and that the same portion of skinless chicken breast contains 0.106 oz (3.03 g) of fat.If chops are still your thing, look for lean ones, and trim the fat before you eat them. A typical pork chop, with the fat cut off, contains about 0.3 oz (8 g) of fat.

Beware, however, of cured pork, like ham and bacon; both meats may contain nitrates and nitrites as preservatives, which have been linked to cancer.


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3. Chicken

White meat is much better for you than red — that’s a well-known fact. As such, chicken (not deep-fried) is a great alternative to red meats. It’s low in fat — without the skin — and it’s pretty tasty if it’s prepared correctly. Chicken is a great source of protein and, as an added bonus, it’s less expensive than beef. But remember, there’s always the risk of E. coli infection when you’re dealing with chicken. Be sure to cook or heat it to an internal temperature of at least 165F to kill off the bugs.Also, charred grilled chicken can contain some cancer-causing chemicals, such as heterocyclic amines, so limit your consumption of well-blackened chicken.

4. Turkey

This big bird never saw it coming. Domestic turkey is a relatively recent addition to the world’s protein menu, and it’s great for you. Turkey is generally a white meat (turkey breast), but it packs more flavor than chicken, and its dark meat can be downright gamy. Turkey meat is also relatively low in fat: one 4.9 oz (140 g) serving of skinless roasted turkey contains about 0.25 oz (7 g) of fat.

There’s a popular belief that turkey makes you sleepy, and it does, due to the sleep-inducing amino acid tryptophan within, but it’s not enough to knock you out. The sheer size of the average Thanksgiving feast, especially when combined with alcohol and a pleasant atmosphere, is more likely to influence your post-meal slumber.

5. Fish

A properly cooked hunk of fish can be as satisfying as a great steak. Plus, many fish (typically salmon and tuna) are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which have been linked to decreased rates of heart disease. Circulation published a study that suggests lean, white fish, such as cod, don’t provide the same health benefits as fattier fish do. Another extensive EPIC study found that people who eat lots of fish are less likely to develop colon cancer than those who don’t. But be careful: Big fish like tuna can contain high levels of mercury, which is a poison to the human body.

So, how much fish can you eat and be safe? It depends. Avoid large fish that eat other fish — tuna, swordfish and shark — and stick to smaller fish, which tend to contain less mercury than bigger fish. Local levels of mercury vary; check with your nearby fish and game agency to see which fish contain high levels of mercury.

Everything in Moderation

It is absolutely true that you can have too much of a good thing. Moderate your overall intake of meat and fat, and you’ll stay healthy. As a general rule, many nutritionists suggest that your portion of meat should be about the size of your fist. It seems small, but it’s enough. And be sure to balance your diet with lots of fruits and veggies.