Power to the ostrich

South Africa is a meat-loving nation. Steaks, chops, sausage and ribs - whether it's a braai, stew or a big Sunday meal, it's got to include meat. Unfortunately red meat is high in fat, mostly saturated fat, which contributes to our nation's high obesity and cholesterol levels, which in turn cause a rise in heart disease and diabetes. So, what are we to do?

Enter the humble ostrich.

You may already know ostrich biltong, but have you ever eaten cooked ostrich meat?


Ostrich meat is known as the healthiest red meat and, apart from game, a great alternative to beef. It has a similar appearance and texture to beef with a slightly sweeter flavour. It is high in protein, low in kilojoules, completely cholesterol-free and very low in fat.

According to the SA Ostrich Business Chamber a 100g raw, extra-trim ostrich fillet contains 392 kilojoules, 21.3g of protein and only 0.8g of fat! That's  similar to white fish and far healthier than beef fillet (543kJ, 19g protein, 5.98g fat),  lean lamb stir-fry (619kJ, 19g protein, 8g fat), pork fillet (498kJ, 19.5g, 4.5g fat) and even chicken breast fillet (458kJ, 21.6g protein and 2.5g chicken).

"Ostrich meat is almost fat-free, very tasty, and a great choice for people with diabetes, who have to keep their weight in check," says registered dietician Liesbet Delport.

“As ostrich is so low in fat, it is also quite acceptable to add a little bit of butter for loads of extra taste, as it will be the only saturated fat in the dish." According to Delport, other red meats usually contain saturated fats that increase the risk of heart disease.

"Also try ostrich mince as a fat-free alternative to regular mince. Even replacing half of the mince with ostrich mince will reduce the fat content significantly," Delport advises.

As far as cooking is concerned, remember that ostrich should not be cooked for long periods, as it can become tough because of its very low fat content. This is, in fact, an added bonus, as it will save you time in the kitchen!

Satisfy your cravings for red meat by replacing your favourite cuts with ostrich steaks, ostrich goulash, ostrich stir-fry, ostrich kebabs and ostrich mince (for pasta dishes, burger patties and even bobotie).

It's like beef, but without the guilt!

Need some inspiration? Try these recipes from the Eating for Sustained Energy series of cookbooks (by dieticians Liesbet Delport and Gabi Steenkamp):

- Ostrich steak with wine and berry sauce
- Ostrich, tomato and mushroom goulash with a hint of sherry
- Marina's ostrich carpaccio

- (Birgit Ottermann, Health24, October 2010)

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