The 6 Leanest Cuts of Meat
Protein provides satiety and can help suppress appetite after eating and this is the reason why many weight loss diets advocate a higher protein intake.
A 2005 study concluded an increase in daily protein intake from 15% daily calories to 30% daily calories may aid weight loss by naturally suppressing appetite.
A 2010 study with young athletes concluded eating 35% daily calories from protein was significantly more superior for maintaining lean body mass during a reduced calorie intake compared to eating 15% daily calories from protein.
Because of these and other research studies with the potential benefits of protein, eating more protein in the diet has gotten popular.
On the other hand, eating a diet high in red and processed meat has been associated with increased risk total, cardiovascular and cancer mortality.
A high intake of red and processed meat is also specifically associated with an increased risk for colorectal and colon cancer.
More protein from better meat
Just increasing your protein intake, no matter what form, may not the best message for overall health for most people. As with any food, all meats do not have the same effect on your body.
No matter what type of diet style you follow, eating a diet high in plant based foods is recommended. In fact, many plant foods like legumes, soy, whole grains, nuts and seeds can be good protein sources.
Adding meat intake to a plant rich diet can still give you the amount of protein you want for health reasons without compromising health risks associated with certain meats.
Limiting your intake of red and processed meats while eating more lean meats around a plant focused diet can provide a balance of nutrients your body needs.
Processed meats can include: salami, bologna, sausage, pepperoni, hot dogs, etc.
Limit your intake of processed meats while focusing on lean cuts of meat can provide a good source of protein, vitamins and minerals without adding a lot of calories and fat to your diet.
1 – Chicken breast
Chicken breast may be the most popular lean cut of meat and for good reason. A three ounce skinless chicken breast provides only 3 grams of fat while providing 25 grams of protein.
Chicken breast is also a source of vitamin B6, niacin and selenium. Make sure you are not eating the skin on the chicken breast, as this will increase the fat content.
Because chicken breast is so lean, it is important to cook chicken breast with heart healthy oil or a liquid like stock. Adding different seasonings can also change the flavor profile for chicken dishes.
2 – Turkey breast
Like chicken, white turkey meat is also very lean. A three ounce serving of skinless turkey breast usually provides slightly less fat compared to chicken breast and about the same protein content.
If you want ground chicken or turkey meat, look for a 96% or higher lean meat for the leanest ground option.
If you consume any ground chicken or turkey, there is probably some higher fat cuts and/or skin mixed in which will increase the fat content.
3 – Pork tenderloin
Pork, the other white meat, offers many lean cuts to choose from. One of the leanest choices from pork is the tenderloin cut.
A three ounce portion of pork tenderloin provides about 3 grams of fat and 22 grams of protein. In comparison, a typical three ounce pork chop can provide 12 grams of fat.
Therefore, if you are trying to make the leanest pork choice, opt for a tenderloin.
4- Top loin pork
Besides the tenderloin, another lean pork cut is the top loin chop or roast.
A three ounce serving has about 5 grams of fat. In order to have these cuts be as lean as possible, visible fat should be trimmed.
5- Eye round beef roast
The leanest cut of meat for beef is the eye round roast according to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
A three ounce portion only has 4 grams of fat and 24 grams of protein. Even though some cuts of red meat are considered lean like the eye round roast, limiting red meat intake is still recommended.
The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) suggests limiting all red meat intake to no more than 18 ounces cooked red meat per week.
Mayo Clinic suggests choosing cuts of beef that are choice or select instead of prime because prime usually has more fat.
6- Sirloin tip side beef steak
Sirloin tip side beef steak has a very similar nutritional profile as the eye round roast. The sirloin tip side steak has just over 4 grams of fat per 3 ounce serving.
Keep in mind just because you are eating a lean cut of meat doesn’t mean you can eat whatever you want with it. You should pair your meat intake with a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes for a balanced meal.
The USDA suggests making protein a fourth of your plate and fruit and vegetables half your plate.
Red meat and processed meats have a reputation for being consumed with other high calorie, low nutrient foods like fries and white bread.
This may contribute to why a high red meat intake especially may be linked with colon cancer risk.
Other sources of protein besides meat
Besides meat, plants can also be a natural low fat protein choice.
A bonus of eating plant proteins is the additional fiber and antioxidants they can provide.
For example, a 100 gram serving of black beans provides less than 1 gram of fat, 16 grams of fiber and 21 grams of protein.
A 100 gram serving of tofu can provide around 5 grams of fat, 2 grams of fiber and 8 grams of protein.
A half cup of the cooked grain farro provides about 2 grams of fat, 5 grams of fiber and 6 grams of protein.