The almighty Argentine asado

Before we start, i'd like to state that this article is written purely from a health aspect point of view. If you're somebody that pigs out on Barbecues on a regular basis guilt free and has no desire to change that. I recommend you stop reading now! This is in no way an attempt to put you off barbecues. It's merely an article aimed at educating people into making more conscious decisions about what they put in their mouths.

For Argentinians, Asados are more than a meal, they're a ceremony. Men huddled around the fire sipping on fine wine, giving their 10 cents on how it should be done. The women making the side dishes. More often than not it's a 2 gusto salad, 3 if you're lucky. If you're honored enough to be invited into the home of an Argentine. Take this advice: you are a guest, take wine, eat whatever is given to you, empty your plate, enjoy the experience and say thank you!

I like barbecues as much as the next person. I tend to chomp down an unhealthy and unrecommended 5 portions of red meat per week. More than double that of the recommended intake. Do as I say, not as I do! Red meat has a number of health benefits when consumed moderately. Stepping over the fine line however could be putting your body under some unwanted strain and you could potentially be looking at some long term risks. You snarl now, but you may thank me later.

The following comments are based on nutritional content and personal preference! Each to their own. I've broken it down into 3 categories:

  1. Go nuts (Eat as much as you like)
  2. Go easy (Eat in moderation)

  3. Save for special occasions

 

Starters

Unfortunately there aren't too many truly healthy starter options on the Asado menu. Each one offers a slightly different range of nutritional benefits, unfortunately for most, the pros are out-weighed by the cons.

Chorizo – Personally I'm not a fan nor have I ever been. It offers very little nutritional benefit, is greasier that a teenagers quiff and is packed full of fat and salt.

My recommendation – Save for special occasions

(Nutritional info per medium sausage: 500 calories, 46g fat, 28g protein, 3g salt)

 

Morcilla – Why waste the blood when slaughtering an animal, right? Morcilla is typically made from pig of cow's blood. It's one of my Asado favourites but one I infrequently choose to indulge in. Love it or hate it, it's packed full of goodness. High in iron, Zinc and protein.

My recommendation – Go easy

(Nutritional info per medium Morcilla: 350 calories, 30g fat, 15g protein, 2g salt)

 

Provaleta – Cheeeeeeese! Tastes great, in Argentina they tend to season it with herbs and spices, then drizzle a little olive oil over the top. It's a good source of calcium and vitamin A. It is however loaded with saturated fat and salt. Stick to a single serving.

My recommendation – Go easy

(Nutritional info per small portion: 100 calories, 8g fat, 7g protein, 0.5g salt)

 

Bread - aka empty calories and the beach-body slaughterer. It certainly isn't easy to avoid when it's served in every restaurant as compulsory eating. Those fuckers place that doughy goodness in-front of you upon arrival to any restaurant in Argentina. Best thing to do, say NOT today thanks and ask them to take it away. Problem solved. If not, you'll find yourself scoffing down 200 - 300 calories before you even get your starter. 180 of those calories coming in the form of carbohydrates and that's before smearing it in artery clogging butter. If you simply can't resist, ask for the wholegrain variety, eat one slice and pass on the butter.

My recommendation – Go easy

(Nutritional info per medium slice of white bread – 75 calories, 12g carbs, 0.4g salt).

 

Liver and kidney – Higado y Rinones

Not sure if these fit into the starters category. Ofter served as part of the parrillada (Main course). They trump all of the other starter options on the menu. Both are great sources of vitamin A, B, and iron. They are both fairly high in cholesterol but for most healthy adults, not nearly high enough to have any damaging or lasting effect.

My recommendation – Go easy

(Nutritional info per 100g: 125 calories, 20g protein, 5g fat).

 

Chinchulin – Small Intestines

Beef intestine is a very good source of protein but is also rich in fats (Predominantly monounsaturated fats). It's an excellent source of vitamin B12 and Niacin.

My recommendation – Go easy

(Nutritional info per 100g: 285 calories, 10g protein, 27g fat)

 

Mollejas – Thymus glands or sweetbreads

Apparently it's the caviar of the meat world. It's tasty, I'll give it that. It contains zinc, selenium and omega 3 fatty acids. I must mention however that it's VERY high in calories and fat, you might as well sellotape a block of lard to your arse cause that's where it's going!

My recommendation – Save for very special occasions.

(Nutritional info per 100g - 232 calories, 21g fat, 12g protein)

 

Onto the main course

In most Parrillas you will find a confusing amount of beef options on the menu. I've only included the most popular cuts of beef and a couple of alternatives.

For every 5 cow asados, mix it up with a pork asado
— Guido Accardo

The best and worst cuts of meat
 

Lomo – Tenderloin/filet

The leanest of the bunch

Go nuts - (Nutritional info per 100g: 150 calories, 6g fat, 21g protein)
 

Ojo de bife – Rib-eye

Arguably the tastiest 

Go nuts - (Nutritional info per 100g: 182 calories, 6g fat, 30g protein)

 

Cuadril – Rump

One of my favorites, low in fat

Go nuts - (Nutritional info per 100g:  125 calories, 4g fat, 22g protein)
 

Bife de Chorizo – Sirloin

My favourite. Comes with a strip of fat down the side. CUT IT OFF!

Go nuts - (Nutritional info per 100g:  135 calories, 5g fat, 24g protein)


Vacio – Flank but may contain the muscles of other near cuts.

Go easy - (Nutritional info per 100g:  174 calories, 12g fat, 20g protein)
 

Asado – Ribs

The fattiest of the lot. Not a fan! Could be a cultural thing.

Save for a special occasion - (Nutritional info per 1 medium rib: 310 calories, 30g fat, 14g protein)
 

Not into beef? Move to a different country. Just kidding, in all seriousness though, if you're a vegetarian, I'd give the Argentine parrilla a wide birth. A lot of Argentinians simply can't grasp the concept of not eating meat. You'll occasionally if invited go to an Asado that is literally just meat and wine. "Carne?" "No thank you, i don't eat meat." "Ah queres un poco de cerdo entonces?" "No i don't eat meat!" "ah bueno, pollo entonces". and so on. Genuinely confounded at the concept of somebody that chooses not to eat meat. I've witnessed this conversation dozens of times.

If you do eat meat but just fancy something different. Try one of the following alternatives:
 

Pechuga de pollo - Chicken breast

The staple in any bodybuilders diet and for good reason. High in protein, tryptophan and phosphorus, it helps prevent bone loss, suppresses and controls homocysteine levels which cause cardiovascular disease and is basically fat free. However, it is often pumped full of hormones to speed up the growth process. Just make sure you organic where possible.

My recommendation – Go nuts

(Nutritional info per 100g - 124 calories, 2g fat, 22g protein)

 

Solomillo - Pork tenderloin/pork loin

My absolute favorite pork cut. Tasty, lean, Loaded with essential vitamins: thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6 , riboflavin, vitamin B12, Phosphorus, potassium, selenium and zinc. It's a fantastic alternative to beef and this particular cut is the best of the best.

My recommendation – Go nuts

(Nutritional info per 100g 158 calories, 7g fat, 22g fat)

 

Lechon - An entire pig!

Excuse my French, fuck the nutritional content. It's calorific and high in fat but tastes absolutely fantastic. If you're invited to eat Lechon, feel privileged, forget about that calorie content, stuff your face and worry about your extra spare tyre on Monday.

My recommendation - Save for special occasions

 

Side dishes
 

Chimichurri

A sauce made up of garlic, olive oil, red wine vinegar, red onion, oregano, parsley, salt and pepper. Tasty, tangy and packed with nutrients. The Argentinians love a bit of chimi slathered over there meat. It's delicious and goes perfectly with steak!

My recommendation – Go easy

(Nutritional info per tbsp - 40 - 58 calories, 6g fat, 3g carbs)
 

Papa fritas - Chips/french fries

No need to explain this one. Ojo, When starchy foods are cooked at very high temperatures they produce potent carcinogens (When the sugars combine with an amino acid to produce high levels of a potent carcinogen known as acrylamide). In other words, not great. Go easy on the french fries.

My recommendation – Save for special occasions

Per medium sized portion (200g) 300 calories, 34g carbs, 22g fat


Butternut squash

Low in calories, low in fat, low in carbs, high in vitamin A, potassium and fiber. The best possible side dish!

My recommendation – go nuts

(Nutritional info medium sized portion (200g) 76 calories, 16g carbs, 0g fat)
 

Potatoes

Go for boiled, mashed, baked, fried in that order.

My recommendation – go easy

(Nutritional info per medium portion (200g) 150 calories, 34g carbs, 0g fat)

 

Ensaladas - the 3 classics Argentinean salads

  • Lettuce, raw onion, tomato

  • grated carrot, boiled egg

  • rocket with Parmesan

Salads can be fantastic as a main or as a side dish. Just try not to ruin it with cheese, fried bread and ranch dressing. You know who you are! The concept of healthy food just goes over some people's heads. Instead, choose a salad with leafy greens. Spinach, rocket, broccoli, cherry tomatoes, red onion, red cabbage with a pinch of salt and a dribbling of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

My recommendation – go nuts

(Nutritional info varies dependent on ingredients)
 

There you have it folks. I hope to god that i haven't ruined the almighty asado for you and that you find the article useful. Now you have the knowledge, it's up to you whether you choose to use it or not.
 

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