- Fat is a concentrated source of energy.
- A gram of fat provides 37 kilojoules (kJ) or 9 calories.
- In comparison, a gram of protein provides 17kJ (4 calories) and a gram of carbohydrate provides 16kJ (4 calories).
- Foods high in fat are high energy or energy dense.
It is important to remember we need to eat some dietary fat as it provides essential fatty acids and is required for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K as well as other fat-soluble nutrients such as lycopene in tomatoes.
Fat in food is almost always a combination of saturated, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated. Although many people perceive animal fat to be totally saturated fat, this is not true. Only about half the fat in beef and lamb is saturated, and within that saturated fat, about a third is stearic acid, now known to have a neutral effect on cholesterol.
Lean beef and lamb contributes 9% of healthy monounsaturated fat to the New Zealand diet (more than from olive oil) and only 7% of the saturated fat eaten by New Zealanders.
New Zealanders are eating leaner beef and lamb than even before with the introduction of the Quality Mark in 1997, consistent trimming standards has resulted in 30% less fat in the meat supply, and a reduction of 65% saturated fat.
HOW MUCH FAT IS IN BEEF AND LAMB?
- Trimmed beef and lamb are low in fat. The fat content of lean beef and lamb is comparable to other protein sources such as chicken and pork and in some cases, significantly lower.
- It is easy to trim fat from meat, leaving only the lean muscle. Trimmed of visible fat, lean, cooked beef and lamb contains on average 8.7% fat. Compare this with 20 to 35% fat in cheddar cheese, quiche or croissants.
- Lean beef and lamb contain less than a fifth of the total fat found in other protein foods such as cheese or nuts as well as providing extra iron, zinc, B vitamins and a little vitamin D, selenium and omega 3s.
- Due to the high protein content of beef and lamb, it makes a satisfying meal (helping us feel full for longer), aiding weight control.
- Polyunsaturated fat is made up of two main families: omega 6 and omega 3. Omega 3 is known to help people with heart problems and is important for brain function.
- The small amount of polyunsaturated fat in beef and lamb also contains omega 3, potentially making a significant contribution to the diets of those who eat little fish.
- Importantly for New Zealand, beef and lamb from grass-fed animals contain higher levels of omega 3 than meat from grain-fed animals.
CONJUGATED LINOLEIC ACID
- Another polyunsaturated fat is conjugated linoleic (CLA), found in meat and milk, and at higher levels when animals are raised on pasture.
- Research in New Zealand has shown beef and lamb could provide up to 15% of the required daily amount of CLA.
STEARIC ACID - A SPECIAL TYPE OF SATURATED FAT
- Saturated fat is known for its ability to raise blood cholesterol levels. However, one type of saturated fat, called stearic acid has a neutral effect on cholesterol levels. About a third of the saturated fat in beef and lamb is stearic acid.
- Cholesterol is a type of fat found in many animal products but is also made by the body. A certain amount circulating in the blood is necessary for good health. It is an important component in cell walls, bile and hormones.
- A high blood cholesterol level is not good for health as the cholesterol is deposited on the artery walls, increasing the risk of heart disease. High blood cholesterol can be caused by a genetic (inherited) condition.
- Foods high in cholesterol include liver, kidneys, brains, egg yolks, prawns and shrimps. Moderate amounts of cholesterol are found in meat, poultry, some fish, whole milk and cheese.
- Cholesterol in food however, does not normally cause raised levels of cholesterol in our blood. The majority of the nutrition scientific community agree an excess of saturated fat in the diet is the main cause of high blood cholesterol, not cholesterol in foods.
- Lean beef and lamb can be included in a heart healthy diet. The National Heart Foundation of New Zealand recommends 100-185g of lean meat can be eaten on most days.