Protein is a macronutrient that is an essential building block for nutrition, and it's especially important for active women, since it keeps you full and aids in muscle recovery—perfect after a tough workout. So if you're bored of the same old grilled chicken and are looking for an alternative to your lean ground turkey, you should make a little room in your grocery cart and on your plate for bison. (But first, Is Red Meat *Really* Bad For You?)
"With bison, you get the best of both worlds: You can enjoy the flavor of red meat with a nutritional profile that's closer to chicken," says Christy Brissette, R.D., president of 80 Twenty Nutrition. A three-ounce serving of 90 percent lean ground beef has about 180 calories and 10 grams of fat, while a grass-fed bison burger of the same size has about 130 calories and 6 grams of fat (and a whopping 22 grams of protein), says Brissette. (To compare, a 93 percent lean turkey burger clocks in at 170 calories and 10 grams of fat.) You can also find leaner cuts of bison with about 130 calories and 2 grams of fat for a 3-ounce serving.
It's a smart choice for active women in particular because bison is darker than beef—a hint that it's higher in iron. "Women ages 14–50 need more than double the amount of iron as men," she says. "If you work out a lot, you may need even more because intense activity can destroy red blood cells." Bison meat is also higher in zinc than beef, a nutrient important for building strong immune systems. Aside from the strong nutritional profile, bison also tends to be grass-fed, making the meat higher in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids and lower in fat than meat from grain-fed animals, adds Brissette. Plus, the animals aren't given antibiotics or hormones, so you know you're not getting anything "extra."
Unfortunately, bison isn't as accessible as beef, so if you can't find it in a big-box supermarket, try your butcher, order it online from places like Omaha Steaks, or shop at Costco, which carries KivaSun's bison meat. You can even try bison jerky for a quick snack. Look for brands made without nitrates and those that contain less than 400mg of sodium per serving, says Brissette.
The lean meat is also making its way onto restaurant menus, like Ted's Montana Grill and Bareburger, but if you're cooking it on your own remember to cook it low and slow to make sure it stays moist—lean meat tends to dry out faster. A great way to keep bison meat moist is to sear it on a higher heat, then cook it slowly at low heat until it reaches a safe internal temperature of 160°, says Brissette.
Ready to cook? Try one of these 5 Healthy Beef Recipes, subbing out the beef for bison!