Can you eat meat and be Low Fat? My answer:
Yes! Yes! Yes!
One of the biggest myths out there is that there are no Low Fat meat sources available for us modern, urban dwellers. That is simply NOT the case (at least here in the U.S.) and many men do not realize that the founders, pioneers and early apostles of Low Fat all ate meat! Here are some prominent examples:
1) Nathan Pritikin. The modern Low Fat Diet movement was resurrected almost single-handedly by a complete non-medical professional: Nathan Pritikin. Pritikin modeled his diet after some of the supercultures around the world and died with perfectly clean arteries per a coroner's examination. And, surprisingly, he regularly ate meat. However, he stuck to limited amounts and lower fat cuts of meat - yes, just like the supercultures he modeled himself after.
2) Hunza, Okinawans, Vilcabambans, Tarahumara and Abkhasians. These people groups all enjoy the best longevity on planet earth and unparalleled health with virtually no heart disease, hypertension or cancer. And all of them eat low (or darn close) fat diets with limited meat.
3) Primal People. Paleo folks are trying hard to emulate primal cultures, but ironically forget that modern oils, butters and higher fat dairy are all modern inventions. And wild game is almost always low or lowish fat! A modern cow or pig is simply a man-made monstrosity that has little resemblance to the kind of meat that men consumed for tens of thousands of years before.
So then what happened? Why is a Low Fat Diet almost universally associated with veganism and vegetarianism? The answer is simply that Nathan Pritikin passed away and the three men who took over the movement happened to all have strong vegetarian leanings of one sort or another:
1. Dr. Dean Ornish. This groundbreaking researcher showed that a Low Fat Diet did very well with angina, advanced heart disease, arteriosclerosis, prostate cancer and even telomeres. However, the diet used in his research allowed only a little non-fat dairy and egg whites and no meat whatsoever.
2. Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn. This researcher showed how easily Low Fat Diets could be used to regress plaque and regularly used it in his practice at the famed Cleveland Clinic. His stance was very strict: no diary or meat of any kind.
3. Dr. Neal Barnard. This famed author is vegan and an active plant-based activist. His research has shown that low glycemic, Low fat Diets can be used to often regress diabetes.
Before I say anything else, let me say that I am deeply grateful to all three of the above researchers. But I think a key point has been missed along the way: there are many meats that are just as low fat as any plant. For example, my wife surprised me one day after coming home from Sprouts with some kangaroo meat. Look at the macronutrient totals on the package:
Notice, first of all, that kangaroo meat is a great source of protein. Almost 90% of its calories are protein - a bodybuilder's dream. Second, notice that the percentage fat is less than 10%! Now Pritikin, Ornish and Esselstyn all insisted that to regress plaque - their definition of a true Low Fat Diet - that you needed to consume around 10% - maybe 15% at the highest - of total calories from fat. Notice that the kangaroo meat is actually below either threshold! So how is it that kangaroo meat can not be part of a Low Fat Diet??
Below I am going to show one source of great Low Fat meat after another based on 11/26/2013 excursions to Sprouts, Whole Foods and Trader Joe's. Notice that there many types of seafood, wild boar and 2% ground beef all easily make it into the Low Fat category. Every one of these stores had three to four varieties of meat that are perfect choices and all are very high in protein.
Now none of these are cheap, but it's no secret that you have to pay for good food (unfortunately) right now. Some day everyone will come to their senses and grass fed meats and organic vegetables and fruits will be on every plate. But that day just isn't here yet.
CAUTION: I only included wild seafood. Farm-raised fish is notoriously high in arachidonic acid because they feed it corn and other unnatural food sources. You do also have to be cautious with eating too much fish. Many varieties contain a substantial amount of methylmercury. See my page on Fish Safety for some interesting stats. Experts advise just once or twice per week. (The nonfatty fish tend to be lower in mercury, so that's good news.)
NOTE: The great majority of my diet will always be plant-based. Plants lower blood pressure, increase blood flow and boost nitric oxide. But my point is that meat can fit into a Low Fat Diet.
So you can clearly see that including a little meat for flavor, for protein and/or for certain nutrients can actually make a lot of sense. Yes, some people will to obstain from meat or even from all animal products for religious or ethical reasons. But my purpose here is to bust the myth that fat and meat are synonymous. That is simply not true, especially when one uses more natural sources.
Do I have any cautions about Low Fat meats? Just a few:
a) There is a recent study that shows that the carnitine in red meat may affect gut bacteria in a way that leads to arteriosclerosis. This is controversial, however, and has created many discussions on the web.
b) Meat, especially the red meats, cooked at high temperature creates the black charred effect on the surface of the meat. These are full of carcinogenic HCA's (heterocyclic amines). Certain marinades and spices greatly reduce HCA content.
c) Some studies show red meat may increase colon cancer risk.
d) Some animal proteins may increase IGF-1, which may increase certain "endothelial" cancers.
If you'll notice, most of the risk seems to come from the red meats. It may be wise to not rely on these too much until more studywork is done. Regardless, there are many excellent Low Fat meat choices without being forces to rely on industrial meats based on low omega-3, high saturated fat meats.