Good Nutrition


  • 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. Beef and lamb fat includes polyunsaturated and saturated fat with a good proportion of monounsaturated fat.

Lean beef and lamb actually contribute 9% of healthy monounsaturated fat to the New Zealand diet (more than from olive oil) and only 8% of the saturated fat eaten by New Zealanders.

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 contains on average 6.6% fat and trimmed lean, cooked lamb has about 10.5%.
  • Compare this with 20 to 35% fat in cheddar cheese, quiche or croissants.

Compare the amount of fat in the following protein foods:

Grams fat per 100g

Per (serving)

Baked snapper (1 fillet)
Lean roast beef topside (2 slices)
Lean grilled rump steak (150g steak)
Lean stewed mince(1 cup)
Grilled chicken drumstick w/o skin (2 drumsticks)
Lean grilled lamb leg steak (60g steak)
Boiled egg (1 egg)
Roasted chicken thigh with skin (1 thigh)
Canned corned beef (2 slices)
Cheese, cheddar, mild (1/2 cup, grated)
Peanuts (1/2 cup, raw) 



Note: Servings in brackets.

Reference: The Concise New zealand Food Composition Tables, 8th edition, 2009, ISBN 978-0-9864540-1-1

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 and B vitamins. Due to the high protein content of beef and lamb, it makes a satisfying meal (helping us feel full for longer), aiding weight control.

Omega 3s

  • 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 Linolec Acid (CLA)

  • The other polyunsaturated fat attracting attention is CLA. Studies on rats have shown a reduction in the incidence of cancer, and reduced tumour size when CLA is used as a treatment.
  • CLA is only found in products from ruminant animals (meat and milk), and at higher levels when those animals have been 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.
  • Nutritionists 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 diet designed to lower blood cholesterol.
  • The National Heart Foundation of New Zealand states women can include 100-150g of lean meat and men 150-200g of lean meat in their diet per day.

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