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Defining the fat of the land.

Knowing more about the fat content of meat is helpful in deciding what cuts to buy and how to prepare them. Because fat is what gives beef, pork, lamb, and other meats their characteristic flavors, its complete elimination (if that were possible) would result in a virtually tasteless product. Fat also has much to do with the relative tenderness of meat. Fat and cholesterol are not synonymous, however. With few exceptions, the muscle meat of all species contains about the same percentage of cholesterol. It is the amount of saturated fat in the meat that has more effect on blood cholesterol. Some fish (herring, mackerel, and salmon, for example) have more fat than others, and shrimp is high in cholesterol. However, seafood is still generally less fatty than red meat and poultry--and fist fat may help prevent heart disease.

There are three types of meat fat: marbling, trim fat, and seam fat. Marbling, the streaks or bits of fat within the muscle itself, has the most to do with taste, tenderness and juiciness. It thus has much to do with the price of a particular cut. Trim fat is the surrounding a piece of meat, and it can be completely cut away before cooking. It has nothing to with tenderness, but it can add to the overall taste, especially when cooked to near-crispness. Seam fat, which runs between the muscle sections in most cuts, can be removed by the eater.

The leanest cuts of meat are those from single muscles, and usually have "loin" or "round" in their name (sirloin, tenderloin, top round, etc.). However, some are more tender than others, depending upon how much work was done by the muscle involved. (The harder it had to work, the tougher it is likely to be.) With the exception of ground beef, the cheaper the meat, the less the fat--and nearly all the fat in most cuts is visible; therefore, if you want lean meat, give it a good looking over.

By trimming off as much fat as possible, cooking on a rack, or barbecuing on a grill to allow fat to drip out of the meat (and removing seawm fat while eating), any cut of meat can be made leaner. If we would think of meat as just one component of a meal, rather than the main one, we would not have to think of red meat as "bad." After all, almost all food is "good" (i.e., nutritious in one way or another). Food should therefore be enjoyed, and a balanced diet can provide that enjoyment.

Here are some recommendations from the American Heart Association and other health groups:

(1) No more than 10 percent of total calories should come from saturated fat;

(2) One should consume less than 300 mg. of cholesterol daily;

(3) Meat is not essential to a healthy diet and should therefore be limited to six ounces daily, or less;

(4) Avoid "prime" cut meats, corned beef, bacon, pastrami, rib eye roast, spareribs, most ground meats and sausages (including hot dogs), most luncheon meats, and organ means (such as sweetbreads).

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Title Annotation:fat content of meat
Publication:Medical Update
Date:Jun 1, 1991
Previous Article:Paying for prevention.
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