Lean Meat vs Fatty Meat: Which Should You Eat?

Meat has a high amount of unsaturated fat. As such, it is often considered unhealthy. Little wonder then why meat, mostly fatty meat has been demonized.

However, recent studies have shown that saturated fat is not harmful to your health…as such, meat is now considered healthy food.

Nevertheless, there are some concerns with the fatty acid levels in meats raised conventionally.

Lean meat is good for people whose diet comprises mainly of high-carb foods. It is also good for people who want to boost their protein intake while maintaining a low-calorie intake.

This article compares lean and fatty meats, the things you should look out for, and how to choose right depending on your goals and preferences.

Comparing the calories and macronutrients in lean and fatty meat

The most striking difference between fatty and lean meats is the fat content. Fatty meats have a higher amount of total fat compared to lean meat.

A gram of fat contains 9 calories. Conversely, a gram of protein contains 4 calories. There is also a larger number of calories in fatty meat.

Let’s take a 100g part of the chicken (3.5 oz) for instance:

  • The breast is lean meat and contains 165 calories, and 4g of fat with 31g of protein (1).
  • Wings, skin, and meat are fatty. They contain 290 calories with 27g of protein and 19g of fat (2).

So, you see that a piece of fatty chicken can give you almost two times the number of calories you’d get from a lean piece of chicken.

Differences in macronutrients

Meat contains a lot of nutrients. It is balanced – containing a small amount of all the nutrients required by your body for proper functioning.

But then, there are slight differences in the micronutrient content of lean and fatty meats.

You see, fatty meats contain more fat-soluble vitamins than lean meats. This includes vitamins A, D, E, and K2.

However, there isn’t much difference in the micronutrient content and also no compelling reason to choose one type of meat over the other.

If you want to take in more animal nutrients, then you’re better off eating liver and other organ meats.

Modern breeding methods have reduced the amount of omega-3 fatty acids in meats

Modern agricultural techniques have changed our food environment.

The change has been more drastic in the past few centuries and has undergone a complete transformation in recent decades.

Our mostly paleolithic ancestors ate plenty of meat. However, the meat came from the wild animals hunted by them.

These animals were raised 100% naturally. They roamed free, ate grass and bugs, or anything they preferred.

But take a look at today’s animals. They are kept indoors and fed with artificial feeds made from soy and corn.

The thing is…what we eat matters, but we also have to consider the foods that our animals eat.

Animals fed with grains contain a smaller amount of omega-3 fatty acids compared to animals fed with grass (which is their natural food) (34).

But their omega-6 content is ok, meaning that they have a distorted Omega-6: Omega-3 ratio.

The thing is, whatever fatty acids we take in must be balanced. Many people take more omega-6 fatty acids but are very deficient in omega-3 (5).

As such, eating meats raised on grains can trigger some nutritional problems by causing an imbalance between your Omega-6 and Omega-3 levels.

But is this worth worrying about? I think not.

If you avoid the richest sources of omega-6 fatty acids (processed vegetable oils), then you are good to go! No need stressing over conventionally-raised meats.

On the other hand, if you want to optimize your intake of Omega-3 and Omega-6, then eat pasture-raised or grass-fed meats. You may as well supplement your diets with lean meats and other healthy fats.

If you consume fatty meats that are raised conventionally, then ensure that you take in fish oil or fatty fish regularly. This will optimize your Omega-3 intake.

If you want to eat more protein, then go with lean meat

Research shows that a high intake of proteins helps with weight loss and body composition (678).

A high intake of protein is good for certain classes of people, like bodybuilders, athletes, and people who are aiming to lose weight.

In such instances, lean meat works better. Why? Because you’ll get a great ton of calories if you get the same amount of protein from fatty meat.

For instance, a bodybuilder who takes 200g of protein would exceed their calorie limit if they got most of their protein from fatty meat.

Fatty meats are a better choice on a low-carb diet

Almost everything in nutrition is based on the context.

The “goodness” or “badness” of a food depends on the individual.

One variable to be considered when determining the role of fatty foods is how much carb the individual takes in.

Many studies have shown that a low-carb diet improves your health in many ways (91011).

If your carb intake is low, then you have to get your energy from dietary fat. If not, you may starve and then fail to complete the diet.

As such, fatty meats are great for people who take a low-carb diet.

For people whose carb intake is moderate – to – high, eating lean meats is best. Note that eating high-fat and high-carb diets simultaneously aren’t such a good idea.

Summary

Having said all these, the important point to note is that the major difference between fatty and lean meat is the fat content and calorie content.

People who eat a low-carb diet will need more fat.

However, people on other diets have to maintain a low-calorie intake, so they’re better off taking in more protein. Note that eating unprocessed meat is crucial – it doesn’t matter whether it is fatty or not. Processed meat isn’t healthy.