A good steak dinner is synonymous with celebration and achievement. From the world’s most popular restaurants to your backyard grill, there are few foods as quintessentially American as steak. While plant-based products continue to flood the market, there will never quite be an equal substitute for old-fashioned quality beef. We asked two experts, Tristan Phillips, a strength and movement coach, and Patrick Montgomery, CEO and owner of KC Cattle Company, to weigh in on the healthiest cuts of steak.
“It has long since been proven that dietary cholesterol from lean red meats does not raise cholesterol and heart disease risk,” says Tristan Phillips, who references a study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and one from Harvard Health Publishing. Another study by the group reported that diets that included lean cuts of red meat actually helped reduce cholesterol. And as a whole, “Red meat is among the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet, with an impressive amount of bio-available nutrients,” says Phillips.
“So much of what is ideal for your diet depends on your genetic makeup and what diet you are striving to complete,” says Patrick Montgomery.
Knowing your supplier also helps you get the best bang for your buck. Montgomery cautions that “monitoring of claims of grass-fed, pasture-raised, etc. is minimal. Find a rancher that raises a healthy herd—it’s going to be a better, healthier steak.” Phillips agrees, saying “The least healthy steak is always one from a cow raised in the worst possible conditions, like an industrialized feedlot.”
As you seek out your chosen reputable source of beef, here are the healthiest cuts of steak, ranked by calorie content, fat content, and overall taste, along with some tips on how to make them healthier. After, put this knowledge into action by seeking out the best steakhouse in your state.
Of course, the tastiest, most luxuriously decadent steak of all is the worst one for you. This is the show-stopping cut that is called a Tomahawk when it’s served on the bone, and prime rib when it’s prepared as a dramatic standing rib roast. No matter how you slice it, it’s gorgeously marbled with fat, which is what makes it so rich-tasting and juicy. Unfortunately, that’s exactly why it ranks dead last. Sure, not too much of it is saturated, but the overall quantity is a doozy. You should probably share this one.
On a low-carb diet, high fat is a good thing. It keeps you full and satisfied, and therefore closer to your goals. However, this cut pairs high fat with a high amount of saturated fat, plus more cholesterol than ribeye.
This lesser-known cut is taken from the chuck section, which is near the shoulder and known for its beefy, full flavor. Like the ribeye, this type of steak is well-marbled, which is what makes it tastier but less healthy. While the Denver is considerably lower in overall fat, a higher percentage of it is saturated, yielding nearly half a gram more fat per serving than its more famous cousin and one gram less of protein.
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Also known as a Kansas City steak, a Hotel-Style steak, top loin, and at supermarkets, a shell steak, the strip is one of the most loved and most ordered at fine steakhouses. It has a robust, buttery flavor to it and is Phillips’ cut of choice. “With a flick of a knife, it can be a lean cut or fatty one. If you want to make it leaner, cut off the strip of fat on the edge,” he advises. This single action is actually all it takes to drop 40 calories and half the saturated fat, bumping this up to as nearly a healthy profile as even a filet mignon!
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