Meat has always been one of the controversial food item as meat consumption has been blamed for spread of diseases.
Similarly in the world of weight management meat consumption plays a dual role. Well I always thought consuming meat would help build muscle mass and gain weight. But lo and behold meat helps in weight loss!
Before moving to that, let’s first try and understand why meat is important in diet.
Meat is a rich source of protein and protein helps in building muscle, producing antibiotics etc. Meat provides vitamin B 12 and other B complex proteins which is not available from plant sources.
Meat provides a number of minerals and nutrients that aid in suppressing appetite and are also vital for basic body functions.
Meat does contain saturated fats which are not healthy but eating lean cuts of meat can help reduce fat intake.
Types of meat
A large variety of meat is consumed worldwide but the most common ones are meat derived from sheep, cattle, goat, pig and poultry.
Meat is also classified as red meat or white meat based on the specific protein content in the meat. Meat of mammals is considered as red meat and that of chicken and turkey is white meat.
Meat is available in the form of cuts, joints and minced.
Nutritional value of meat differs on basis of cuts. Also the breed and the way in which the animal is raised affects the fat content of the meat.
Why meat can help in weight loss?
Meat helps with weight loss due to its high protein content.
High levels of protein in the diet promote satiety and reduces further energy intake.
It also promotes thermogenesis or burning of calories, thereby aiding in weight loss.
A number of research studies are in favour of meat consumption for weight loss. We will go through a few of them and explore the evidence available on individual meat types, comparative studies and cooking methods.
We will discuss some of the most popular meats and see what scientific evidence has to say regarding their weight loss benefits.
Pork is meat obtained from pigs and it is the most widely consumed meat.
University of South Australia investigated the effects of regular consumption of lean pork on body weight and risk of cardiovascular diseases. Volunteers were asked to consume 1kg pork per week by substituting some food items in their diet.
At the end of 3 months, significant reduction in weight, waist circumference, body fat and abdominal fat was seen in pork group and this effect was persistent at the end of 6 months.
There was no change in lean mass which indicated that the volunteers lost only fat mass. No change was seen in cardiovascular risk factors such as cholesterol levels but no harm was caused either.
What it means? Regular consumption of lean pork can help reduce weight without affecting cholesterol or other metabolic parameters.
Beef is obtained from cattle and is the third most commonly consumed meat.
It is an excellent source of carnitine, an essential compound required for basic body function.
A study was conducted at Purdue University to explore whether beef consumption increases protein intake.
Individuals were given diets with different proportions of protein mainly from beef.
Energy intake was significantly lower in diet the containing 30% protein than the 5 % and 15% diet. Also hunger and desire to eat ratings were reduced in this group.
What does this mean? Though this study is not directly focussed on weight loss by beef consumption, it definitely does indicate that beef consumption does promote satiety and reduces energy intake which can in turn help in weight loss.
Chicken is the most commonly consumed poultry in the world. One quality that makes it superior than red meat is that it is low in fat content.
A research study was designed to see if selenium enriched chicken or non enriched chicken consumption can affect body weight and other parameters in young adults.
At the end of the study both groups experienced significant reduction in weight and fat mass. No loss of fat free mass was seen.
Also an improvement was seen in parameters related to antioxidant status and inflammation in both groups.
What does this mean? Frequent consumption of chicken with a controlled diet containing moderately high proportion of protein can help in weight reduction.
Comparison between different types of meat
Following studies draw a comparison between different meat types and as to which one is the best for weight loss.
A comparative study between effect of red meat or white meat on weight loss was conducted. Overweight female volunteers were asked to follow a low calorie diet with either beef or chicken as a protein source.
Weight loss was significant and similar in both the groups. Reduction in body fat percentage and total cholesterol levels was seen.
Since pork is popularly consumed throughout the world and is said to have favourable effects on body composition, research was carried out to check whether weight loss effect is specific to pork or is it possible with consumption of other meat types.
In the 9 month study, individuals were asked to consume either beef or chicken or pork individually for a period of 3 months. It was observed that weight loss was similar in all groups at the end of 9 months.
What does it mean? Meat may help with weight loss, be it pork, chicken or beef.
Comparison between meat and vegetarian diets
Comparison between meat and vegetarian diet helps us understand that the high protein content in meat favors weight loss.
A comparative research study between meat and vegetarian based diet showed that both the diets have similar effects of weight loss. In this study, meat and soy beans were major source of protein in respective diet.
Weight loss was similar in both groups. Participants lost about 9% of their body weight in 16 weeks. Also improvements in metabolic parameters such as blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol were seen in both groups.
What does it mean? Both meat and vegetarian diets containing high protein source can aid in weight loss.
Effect of cooking style and other parameters on meat quality
Meat quality and taste differ based on the breed of the cattle, the manner in which they are raised and the fodder they are provided.
Cooking temperature and style also affect the nutritional value of meat. Apart from destroying pathogens, cooking can affect digestibility, protein and fat content of the meat.
Cooking also produces harmful mutations in the meat that can cause cancer. It is advisable not to use extremely high temperatures to cook meat.
Red meat consumption is said to cause colon cancer. However there is not significant evidence available to support this idea.
Effect of fodder on meat quality
The fodder and environment involved in raising cattle affects the quality of meat.
A study suggests that beef from grass fed cattle is healthier than that obtained from grain fed cattle.
Beef from grass fed cattle has lower fat content than beef from grain fed cattle.
It does contain saturated fatty acids (fats saturated with hydrogen and generally considered unhealthy) but these do not affect cholesterol levels.
Grass based diet of cattle improve antioxidant status of the meat, thus imparting it anticancer properties.
The only catch is that grass finished beef has a distinct grass like taste and requires different cooking temperatures than regular beef.
What does it mean? Consuming meat from healthy naturally raised animals can be good for your heart.
Effect of cooking temperature & style on meat quality
A research study attempted to establish the relation between cooking style and fat content in regular ground beef. Six different cooking methods were evaluated.
It was observed that fat percentage in lean formulations of beef patty increased with cooking whereas vice versa occurred with formulations having initial high fat content.
Also it was concluded that microwave cooking produces patties with least fat content and calories.
What does it mean? Cooking styles can affect the fat percentage in beef. Microwave cooking is the healthiest option.
Effect of spices on meat quality
Incorporating spices and herbs while cooing meat not only improves the taste but it also elevates the nutritional value.
Scientific evidence suggests that using herbs to cook meat can improve its biological and pharmacological properties.
As per the study, cooking meat with sage and oregano extracts improved the antioxidant status of the meat.
What does it mean? Make your meat preparation healthier and tastier by adding herbs and spices.
Consuming meat at moderate levels in a balanced diet is considered to be healthy.
Excessive consumption of meat can lead to weight gain and it can also increase risk of cardiovascular disease if cooked in excess oil.
Ensure that cooking temperatures are adequate enough to destroy any pathogens. Also remember that meat is a heavy food item for digestion.
So yes we can safely conclude that regular consumption of meat does actually aid in weight loss.
This is due to the high protein content.
However it is important that meat consumption should in balance with rest of the diet and one should follow a regular exercise regime.
No specific meat is proven to be the best for weight loss. So feel free to experiment with any meat type to lose weight.