Contrary to popular belief, lean red meat does not contain high levels of fat or saturated fat. The total fat content of red meat has been considerably reduced over the last 40 years and the amount of fat in red meat is actually much lower than most people think.
The application of improved animal breeding and butchery techniques means that fully trimmed lean red meat typically contain between 4g – 10g of fat per 100g. Despite common reference to animal fats as being ‘saturated’, red meat contains both saturated and unsaturated fats. Indeed, lean beef and pork contain more unsaturated fat than saturated fat. Red meat also contains small amounts of omega-3 polyunsaturates, which help keep the heart healthy, especially in people who’ve already had a heart attack.
Originally, all saturated fats were thought to be associated with increased blood cholesterol, but it has become apparent that individual saturated fatty acids differ in their effect. One of the main saturated fatty acids present in red meat is called stearic acid and there is evidence that this fatty acid has no adverse effects on cholesterol levels in the blood.
A food is defined as ‘high’ in saturated fat if it contains 5g (or more) saturated fat per 100g. A food is defined as ‘low’ in saturated fat if it contains 1.5g (or less) saturated fat or less per 100g. Most lean red meats are, therefore, not high in saturated fat and contain only moderate amounts (see table below).
Saturated fat content, per 100g, lean cooked red meat
|Red meat cut
|Lean beef rump steak, grilled||2.5g|
|Lean beef topside||2.1g|
|Lean stewing beef||2.3g|
|Lean lamb loin chops, grilled||4.9g|
|Lean leg of lamb, roasted||3.8g|
|Lean stewing lamb||6.5g|
|Lean diced cubed pork||1.6g|
|Lean loin chops, grilled||2.2g|
|Lean pork leg, roasted||1.9g|
Source: Meat and Health