Lowering your cholesterol and fat intake can be a difficult challenge for a life-long meat lover. Meat contains protein which helps us build muscle, synthesize new proteins (which allow our bodies to perform basic functions), maintain tissues and build new cells. Unfortunately it also contains varying amounts of cholesterol and saturated fats which clog arteries, raise our cholesterol levels and lead to cardiovascular disease and heart disease.

But you don’t have to give up meat completely to follow your low-fat diet in an effort to lower your cholesterol. Knowing which meats to avoid or cut down on for their high fat content and which ones are considered on the leaner side of the meat group can make your low-fat diet a success. If you are trying to lower your cholesterol, your saturated fat intake should not be more than 7% of your total caloric intake each day.

High fat meats that should be avoided with a low fat diet are anything processed like ground beef, bacon, sausages, hot dogs and organ meats like liver. You should also avoid cuts of meat that appear fatty or have a “marbled” appearance to them.

Some meats that are considered a leaner option are chicken, turkey, lamb, veal, and loin or round cuts of beef or pork. Although it’s not really what comes to mind when you think of “meat,” fish including tuna, salmon, mackerel and trout — is another great, lean option. Fish contains omega-3 fatty acids, which can lower your triglycerides and are considered to be heart healthy.

Another tip to a successful low-fat diet is knowing how to cook your meat. Frying food of any kind is the least healthy way to cook because it adds saturated fats to what’s being cooked. Instead, prepare meats by baking, roasting, broiling, or grilling them.

As with anything, the key is moderation. The American Heart Association recommends consuming no more than 6 ounces of meat daily, which is roughly the size of a deck of cards. While most meat lovers might view that as impossible, it can be done. Skipping meat for two of your three meals per day and filling up on vegetables and healthy side dishes will leave less room for meat. Even if you never quite achieve the AHA recommendation, any attempt to avoid or cut down on your fat and cholesterol intake will leave your heart happy.

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