If you ever look for alternative protein sources with high-quality protein and lean fat, you can’t go wrong with alligator meat. Yes, you heard that right. In fact, in certain parts of the earth, the consumption of alligator meat is quite common, almost as common as beef. The time is also can’t be any more right than now. The advancements of technology and science has opened up new possibilities, which makes some otherwise unknown high-quality protein sources came to their deserved lights.
Alligator meats are usually sold frozen. While the meat cuts consist of many sections such as legs, bodies and tails, the most popular and arguably the best part of the meat is the tail. It has the texture similar to veal (meat from calves) and the taste like those of chicken, rabbit, or fish. The tail meat is especially white and tender. The other parts, such as body has tougher textures and darker tones, which is said to be akin to pork shoulder with stronger natural flavor.
When it comes to nutritional content, alligator meat is literally jam-packed with protein in its every bites. According to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, one serving of alligator meat (approximately 3.5-ounce) contains 232 calories. This amount is considerably less than the calories from similar serving of beef, for instance, which have 291 calories. However, the alligator bites harder with twice as much protein as beef. Per 3.5-ounce, it is said that alligator meat contain about 46 grams of protein, compared to those of beef which is about 23 grams.
To be fair, if we can get over the fact that we’re eating reptiles, alligator meat can prove to be valuable high-protein source. There are also other benefits that might be derived from alligator meat, which we will discuss in the following paragraphs.
1. Warming Up Our Bodies
It would come as no surprise that alligator meat is widely popular among TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) practitioners. The first known restaurant serving alligator meat is also originated from Singapore, the country in which TCM practices flourish. The thing with TCM claims is, as we all know, there’s little to no studies to back them which makes them somewhat mysterious, but at the same time also widely believed.
Anyway, objectivity aside, TCM practitioners believe that alligator meat can warm up our bodies. Think of it the way ginger does to our bodies. Therefore, eating alligator meat is believed to have some curative effects to some conditions, such as colds and asthma. Even so, those who are concerned about the legitimacy of this claim should take it with a grain of salt.
2. Lower Saturated Fat
One of the biggest letdowns of red meat is the staggering amount of saturated fat which makes up most of the calories per serving. High amount of saturated fat is associated with many health problems such as stroke and other heart disease, because saturated fat intake is mostly linked to the raise in blood cholesterol level.
Turns out, the saturated fat amount in alligator meat is far, far lower than those in beef, which is 4grams per 3.5-ounce of alligator meat serving compared to 14 grams in similar serving of beef. Which is quite healthier being consumed as daily protein sources.
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3. Dense in High-Quality Protein
Alligator meat is quite unique, compared to other popular meats such as chicken, beef and fish. It is categorized as game meat, which is naturally lean in fat and dense in protein. It also has similar properties with that of fish and chicken, in term of taste and saturated fat amount. Last but not least, it is considered to be a direct contender to beef, because of its high-quality protein amount.
As described from the introduction, alligator meat contains practically twice as much protein as beef of similar serving size. The cool thing is, no matter which body part the meat is from, the amount of nutritional contents is proportionally similar. Therefore those who only like the tails don’t have to worry about not getting the same amount of protein as the ones who eat the legs or bodies.
4. Free from Cholesterol
Yes, you heard it right. It is true that alligator meat still have some saturated fat in it, which is okay because of how little it is, and all the big animals have saturated fat in their bodies anyway. The difference lies in the cholesterol, which alligator surprisingly has none. That fact alone blows beef hard out of the water.
The only remaining issue would be figuring out how to start including alligator meat in diet advices. Anyway, upon learning the fact, those who are concerned about the cholesterol in their meal might have other options other than going vegan, which is a great thing in itself isn’t it?
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5. Might Have Anti-Carcinogenic and Anti-Arthritic Properties
We have to admit it, there are literally two kinds of people, those who eat whole meat and those who only pick certain parts of the meat. Basically, both might be right. For example, those who only eat chicken breasts get more protein per serving compared to those who eat the whole chickens. However, the same cannot be said about alligator meat.
As strange as it may seem, the cartilage of alligator is believed to have anti-carcinogenic and also anti-arthritic properties. This is to be expected, really, as the belief is coming from the traditional medicine crowds. However, if you’re curious, they are quite popular in Vietnamese restaurant menu.
6. Rich in Vitamins and Minerals
By now we realized already how healthy alligator meat really is. Which makes us wonder why aren’t they popular yet, availability seems to be non-issue as there are already some alligator farms spread in some countries. Even more so, when we learned about the other nutrition the alligator meat has.
It is said that there are minerals such as potassium, iron, and vitamin B-12 in alligator meat. Not only that, alligator meat also contain a little sodium, therefore it is best to remember adding less salt when cooking it.
So, those are the health benefits of alligator meat, the amount of protein with little to no tradeoff in the form of saturated fat and cholesterol is certainly a huge plus, especially if we look for some alternative protein sources and happened to be fans of exotic or game meat. For those who are wary of the prospect of eating meats of reptiles might also put alligator meat into considerations especially after learning about the benefits, even more so if alligator meat is widely available in where they live.
Some Cautions Before Deciding to Choose Alligator Meat
There are, however, things that might be some cautions before opting for alligator meat. As reported by ABC News article on September 2006, alligator meat turns out to contain high levels of mercury. Mercury is a kind of heavy metal contaminants which is a common byproduct of industries such as factories and power plants. The pollution made their way in the air and ended up in water, such as lakes, rivers and oceans, which later absorbed by the organisms residing there, accumulated in its highest amount in the large fish as the apex predators in their own regions.
Therefore, the mercury contamination are quite common to be found in large fish such as sharks, marlin, king mackerel, swordfish, and big tunas such as ahi tuna and big eye tuna. In the rivers, alligators are by all means the only biggest predators left. Which is why those who are pregnant or planning to conceive babies should avoid eating alligator meat, the same goes for children under six. Because as we all probably know, mercury can hinder brain developments in children’s early years and thus causing high numbers of learning disabilities. Beside health benefits of alligator meat, you need also pay attention to its cautions.
How to Prepare Alligator Meat
To be fair, alligator meat can be prepared the same way the meat of other sources can. However, the widely established advices are that alligator meat should be cooked lightly. Mostly alligator meat come in frozen fillet form, which makes them ready to be processed as patties, sausages, or as addition for stews, soups and fillings for tacos.
The main concern is to keep the saturated fat amount minimal, considering how lean the meat originally is. Therefore, if stir-frying and grilling is your thing, keep the cooking oil at minimum if possible.
Anyway, with all those things into considerations, we are pretty much ready to delve into the denser, leaner world of alligator meat. Especially those who are already regular tuna customers, the mercury issues would probably have been dealt with long time ago. Finally, thank you for reading, we hope you find this article amusing as well as insightful for your health and diet informations. Keep the learning and healthy spirit.