Friday, April 4, 2008

Making the most of meat

Meat only poses two possible threats, namely its visible fat and the fact that too much of any good thing is .... well, not much good. Eating too much meat means you are eating too much saturated fat, absorbing too many unwanted fat kilojoules and pushing your protein intake through the roof.

Enjoyed in moderation though, lean red meat (with all visible fat removed) is quite a bright star in the nutrient skies. It is rich in potassium, B vitamins, zinc and iron and an excellent source of protein. Served in small, lean portions with the addition of dietary fibre, red meat will enhance your health rather than harm it.

Fibre, as found in grains, dried beans and vegetables, helps to fight heart disease, digestive disorders and certain types of cancer. These foods, when served with meat, will assist your body in coping with the hidden fats in the meat. Fibre-rich foods will also help you feel satisfied faster and for longer - an excellent way in which to help you control your meat intake and so too, those unwanted fat kilojoules.

You can make some clever cuts in your meat consumption, and I am not referring to cutting it out. I mean buying and eating cuts that contain less of the hidden fats (often called the marble fat) and cholesterol-causing saturated fat. Be 'pound' wise and buy clever cuts. Those are the hind-quarter cuts such as fillet, rump, topside and leg of lamb. They contain the least hidden fats. However, even after the visible fat has been removed, you'd be surprised to know how much fat is hidden in what you deem 'pure' meat.

Diet Start

The cooking method also dictates how much fat you will eventually consume. Red meat actually loses weight during cooking or grilling on a rack, and depending on the period of time for which the meat is exposed to the heat, between 7 and 23% of the fat could drip away. That is provided of course you don't consume the pan drippings! With stews and casseroles, in which the fat becomes part of the sauce, no dripping away of fat takes place and it seeps into the cooking liquids. Those you end up eating by way of the gravy or a sauce. And needless to say, frying meat in fat or oil obviously adds even more fat (and unwanted) kilojoules to your unsuspecting body - rather a stupid thing to do if you want to be lean and healthy. So consider your cut and its cooking method with great care if you care about your weight.

Best of all course, is to go wild. it you enjoy red meat, 'have venison often. A very large serving of grilled game steak (300 g) will only add a humble 9,6 g of fat to your intake, whereas a similar serving of grilled beef steak (rump, fat removed) could add as much as 30 g of fat.

Similarly, if you enjoy poultry, be game for game. Ostrich, pheasant and quail are ultra-lean and 300 g of roast game will only provide you with about 10,5 g of fat. On the other hand, if you roasted (with the skin intact) and consumed its domesticated counterpart the chicken, the exact same size of serving will happily lay in the region of 39 g of fat on your body.

Be cautioned, though; game and venison tend to be dry - as a result of their low fat content - so don't defeat the whole object by adding buffer, oil, bacon, lard or cream to the dish. Use wine, fruit and stocks instead to moisten the meat. As for a sauce or gravy, the stock of game or venison is delightfully robust in flavour. Reduce your cooking liquid by boiling it rapidly with garlic, aromatic peppercorns and herbs until richly brown and thickened to your liking. A wiser, leaner and more nourishing bet than a creamy sauce, for sure.

Don't inhibit your- nutrients

There is no point in trying to follow a healthy diet if you are not aware of the fact that the absorption of certain nutrients can be inhibited. In other words, their assimilation and uptake by the body can be hindered by some or other bad food combination with nutrient inhibitors.

The nutrients most at risk are calcium and iron. Thus, try not to consume calcium-rich foods with alcohol, high-fibre cereals or red meats - they restrict the absorption of calcium. This means for example, that it is not wise to combine cheese and wine or cereal and milk. Serve wine with low-fat meat, chicken, fish, fruit and vegetable snacks and your cereal with fruit juice instead of milk. Vitamin D, however, aids the absorption of calcium. As sunlight is an excellent way to improve your vitamin D levels, serve lean, fruity milkshakes around your pool instead of fruit juices. That way your body will benefit fully from your clever combinations.

The absorption of iron is hampered by the simultaneous intake of tea, red wine and high-fibre cereals, so don't serve, say, iron-rich liver with whole wheat bread or brown rice, Rather serve it with potatoes or white rice. On the other hand, foods rich in vitamin C assist in the absorption of non-heam iron (iron derived from vegetables), so combine those foods for optimum nutrition. For instance, a salad made from iron-rich spinach, vitamin C-rich tomatoes and sweet peppers would be an excellent choice for super-A nutrient absorption without any threat of inhibitors.

... andjoyohoxing