Increase Your BBQ IQ: Best Meats to Eat for Heart Health

Steer clear of processed red meat at your next barbecue
Increase Your BBQ IQ: Best Meats to Eat for Heart Health

Let’s face it: Hot dogs and sausages aren’t healthy. But you don’t have to let concerns about heart disease put a damper on your grilling plans.

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The jury might still be out on whether eating “white” meat is healthier than eating “red” meat, but there’s ample evidence that processed red meats, such as sausage, salami and ham increase your risk for heart disease.

Stick to a few easy-to-follow guidelines about what to eat and you can enjoy healthful and delicious barbeque fare all season long.

Meat lovers: what to eat

There are delicious alternatives to preserved meats. When choosing what to throw on the grill, consider these recommendations from registered dietitian Kate Patton of Cleveland Clinic’s Section of Preventive Cardiology & Rehabilitation:

  • Choose 3 ounces pork tenderloin — not a hot dog.
    • Pork tenderloin is considered a red meat, but only has 3.5 grams total fat, 1.2 grams of saturated fat and 48 mg of sodium per 3-ounce serving.
    • A 1.5-ounce hot dog has 9 grams total fat, 3 grams of saturated fat and a large serving (340 mg) of sodium.
  • Choose a ground bison burger — not bratwurst.
    • A 3-ounce bison burger has 8.6 grams total fat, 3.5 grams of saturated fat and only a trace amount of sodium.
    • Bratwurst has 21 grams total fat, 8 grams of saturated fat and a hefty serving (680 mg) of sodium. That’s almost half the total daily sodium limit recommended for many people.
  • Choose grilled chicken breast — not chicken nuggets.
    • A 3-ounce serving of skinless grilled chicken breast has 3.6 grams total fat, 1 gram of saturated fat and 75 mg of sodium.
    • Precooked chicken nuggets have 19 grams total fat, 4 grams of saturated fat and loads of sodium (522 mg).

Be selective in what you use to baste or marinate your food:

  • Choose honey and balsamic vinegar — not barbeque sauce.
  • Try a homemade sodium-free or low-sodium marinade instead of bottled barbeque sauce that has 135 mg or more sodium per tablespoon.

Lighten up cookout side dishes, too:

  • Choose vinegar and oil-based coleslaw — not creamy coleslaw.
    • One tablespoon of creamy slaw dressing has 190 mg of sodium.
  • Choose homemade cold bean salad — not canned baked beans.
    • Use well-rinsed, no-salt-added canned beans.
    • Homemade bean salad has only 155 mg of sodium and less sugar than canned baked beans.

Study links processed meats and heart disease

In a study published in The American Heart Association Journal Circulation, researchers from Warsaw University and the Karolinska Institute followed 37,035 middle-aged adult men with no history of heart disease, for over a decade.

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After reviewing and analyzing health questionnaires, the scientists discovered that eating processed red meat was linked to the likelihood of the participants developing heart failure.

Participants who ate 75 or more grams of processed red meat daily had an almost 30 percent greater incidence of heart failure than men who ate little (less than 25 grams) of processed red meat.

The more processed red meat eaten, the greater the rate of heart failure; risk increased by 38 percent for each 50-gram increase (the amount in a single slice of deli meat).

Ms. Patton didn’t participate in the study, but she says the results make sense. “They’re getting a lot of extra sodium, a lot of extra animal fat, and that’s what put the participants at higher risk for heart failure,” she said.

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Common sense and food

Hot dogs, ham and sausage aren’t healthy but you can lower your risk by limiting how much you eat, says Ms. Patton. “If you’re eating sausage for breakfast, and salami for lunch, and having some type of processed meat for dinner, then try to cut that back to only once or twice a day.“

Make fresh, lean meats your cookout standard and, as always, watch portion size and make fresh summer veggies and fruits the largest portion on your plate.

Be sure to check out more of our heart healthy recipes too!

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