Making Meat Healthier

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Harvard Medical School

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Making Meat Healthier

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Making Meat Healthier
Making Meat Healthier
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Ideas for better burgers and barbecues.
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InteliHealth
2010-05-27
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InteliHealth Medical Content
2013-05-27

Reviewed by the Faculty of Harvard Medical School

Making Meat Healthier

While it's a good idea to limit the amount of red meat you consume, you do not need to give up all meat completely in order to have a healthy diet. You just need to be selective know what meats to limit.

A broiled quarter-pound beef burger contains a whopping 20 grams of fat, eight of these grams in the form of saturated fats. If you are like most people, this is about one-third of your recommended daily limit. Instead, try lean ground turkey, seafood and vegetables (chickpeas, for example) to make delicious low-fat burgers. Here are some tips to make burgers as tasty as they are healthy:

  • When making a beef burger, use lean beef and cut the amount in half; then fill your sandwich with vegetables, tomatoes and lettuce.
  • Sear all vegetable burgers first over high heat to lock in moisture.
  • To keep turkey and veggie burgers juicy, don't press down on the patties while cooking.
  • Instead of hamburger rolls, try pita pockets or English muffins.
  • Spruce up your burger with hearty greens (experiment with arugula and watercress, if available) and mustard, salsas or chutneys. Consider trying a sauce of nonfat sour cream plus mustard, which add flavor minus the fat.
  • When making a turkey burger, look for ground turkey made from white breast meat. Dark turkey meat may contain skin and commonly contains as much fat as does ground beef.

When you grill meat, poultry and fish over high heat, and it develops a charred surface, a chemical compound called benzopyrene can collect on the food. Benzopyrene can cause cancer in lab animals when given in large amounts. Cooking time, temperature and the amount of fat in the meat and in marinades affects the amount of benzopyrene formed.

There's limited evidence linking barbecued food to cancer in humans. To play it safe, here are some suggestions:

  • Choose lean cuts of meat and trim visible fat away.
  • Thaw frozen meats first to cut down grilling time and prevent charring.
  • Use spice rubs or marinades with little or no fat.
  • Cook meat completely, but don't overcook.
  • Use hardwood charcoal briquettes, which burn at a more even temperature than softwood charcoal.
  • To prevent fat from dripping onto coals, place a drip pan on top of the coals.

 

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Last updated September 30, 2013


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