Is Oxtails good for a diet?

Oxtails have become an increasingly popular meat choice in recent years. Oxtail is the tail of a cow or ox. It contains high amounts of collagen, which lends itself well to soups and stews that create rich, gelatinous sauces.
Oxtails are packed with nutrients like protein, iron, zinc, vitamins, and minerals. But an important question is whether oxtails support weight loss goals or are too high in calories and fat to be part of a healthy diet. This article will examine the nutritional profile of oxtails, their health benefits, and their role in various diet plans to help determine if they can be a smart addition to a weight loss regimen.

Nutritional profile of oxtails

Here is an overview of the key nutrients found in 3 ounces (85 grams) of braised oxtail meat without bone:

Calories 122
Protein 17 g
Fat 5 g
Saturated fat 2 g
Iron 2 mg
Zinc 3 mg
Vitamin B12 2 mcg

As the data shows, oxtail is a lean source of protein, providing 17 grams per serving. It’s relatively low in saturated fat and calories compared to other cuts of beef. Oxtails are also packed with iron, zinc, vitamin B12, and other important micronutrients.

The meat from the tail specifically contains high amounts of collagen from connective tissue. This makes oxtails ideal for moist heat cooking methods like braising, stewing, or slow cooking to break down the tough cuts into tender, gelatinous meat and sauces.

Benefits of oxtails

Here are some of the top health benefits associated with eating oxtails:

High protein – The significant protein content of oxtails can help with building muscle, losing fat, and feeling full. Protein takes longer to digest than carbohydrates, so it provides lasting satiety.

Low carb – With no carbs and only 5 grams of fat per serving, oxtail can fit into low carb, ketogenic, and paleo diets. The combination of protein, low carbs, and moderate fat makes it nutritionally balanced.

Nutrient density – Oxtails provide high amounts of iron, zinc, B vitamins including vitamin B12, and other important vitamins and minerals. They are far more nutrient-dense than many other meat options.

Joint health – The collagen in oxtail provides the amino acids glycine and proline that are required for building healthy joints, tendons, and ligaments throughout the body.

Gut health – The collagen may also support the integrity of the gut lining and promote a healthy microbiome in the intestines.

Satiety – The protein and collagen offer sustained satisfaction after eating to prevent snacking and overeating. This helps with portion control.

Oxtails on various diet plans

Here is a look at how oxtails can fit into some popular diet approaches:

Ketogenic diets

Keto and other very low carb diets limit daily carbohydrate intake, often to just 50 grams per day. On keto, higher fat intake is allowed and encouraged. Oxtails fit very well into a keto diet plan, providing zero carbs and a moderate amount of fat. Their protein content also helps prevent muscle loss on low carb diets.

Paleo diets

Paleo diets focus on eating lean meats, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds. The diet avoids processed foods, sugar, dairy, legumes, and grains. Oxtails would be fully allowed on paleo since they are a lean cut of meat with no additives. Their collagen content also ties into paleo’s emphasis on consuming the whole animal.

Low calorie diets

For weight loss purposes, many dieters aim to follow a low calorie meal plan, often in the range of 1200-1500 calories per day. Oxtails can easily fit into low calorie diets due to their modest 122 calories per serving. Their protein content helps keep portions satisfying. Compared to higher calorie meats like ribeye steak or ground beef, oxtails can be a waistline-friendly substitution.

Flexitarian/reducetarian diets

Flexitarian or reducetarian approaches emphasize eating mostly plant based, but incorporate moderate amounts of meat, fish, eggs and dairy. For those following an 85-90% plant based diet, oxtails could be an occasional animal protein choice due to their nutrition profile. Their collagen may also offer benefits compared to other cuts of meat.

Gluten-free diets

For those avoiding gluten, oxtails are a naturally gluten-free food, since they contain no grains. They offer robust protein content for gluten-free, grain-free diets, and can provide variety to rice, quinoa, and veggie-based meals.

DASH diet

The DASH diet for lowering blood pressure recommends lean meats, and limits red meat to just a few weekly servings. For those following DASH, oxtails could be a flavorful red meat choice a couple times per month, providing a serving of lean protein within the diet’s parameters.

Mediterranean diet

Mediterranean diets include modest amounts of lean red meat, along with an emphasis on fish, vegetables, olive oil and red wine. Oxtails’ lean protein and nutrition profile allow it to align with Mediterranean-style eating, in moderation.

Are oxtails good for weight loss?

When incorporated properly, oxtails can be an effective component of a diet for weight loss or maintenance for several reasons:

– Oxtails are a lean source of protein, which helps build muscle, curb appetite, and boost metabolism. Protein is the most filling macronutrient and decreases levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin.

– With no carbs and relatively low caloric density, oxtails can fit into low calorie, low carb, ketogenic, and paleo diets that are structured around meat and vegetables.

– The collagen provides satiating protein and may support gut health to reduce overeating and uncontrolled hunger.

– Oxtail dishes lend themselves to making broths and soups, which can be part of low calorie density meal plans for weight loss.

– Choosing oxtails over higher fat cuts of beef like ribeye or ground chuck can reduce overall fatty acid intake.

– Substituting oxtails in place of high carb dishes can help decrease overall carbohydrate consumption.

– The iron, zinc, and B vitamins in oxtails support an active metabolism. Iron carries oxygen, zinc boosts immunity, and B vitamins process energy in the body.

The key is incorporating oxtails properly within an overall healthy, reduced calorie diet and lifestyle suitable for sustainable weight management. In the right context, oxtails can be a slimming-friendly red meat choice.

Potential drawbacks of oxtails

Despite their numerous benefits, there are a couple potential drawbacks to consider with oxtails:

– They have slightly higher saturated fat content compared to some extra lean cuts like sirloin tip or tenderloin. Those with heart health concerns or high cholesterol should eat oxtails sparingly.

– Oxtail dishes tend to have higher calorie sauces and gravies, so portion sizes need to be monitored. Stick to 1-2 cup servings of stews with oxtail meat.

– Preparing oxtail recipes takes hours since the meat needs to be braised or simmered until tender. This requires more time and planning compared to quicker cooking steaks or chops.

– Oxtails can be pricier than other beef cuts due to their artisanal status and specialty butchering methods. Less expensive cuts like chuck may be more budget friendly.

– Some people find eating the tail region unappetizing. The idea of cartilage and joints can deter certain eaters from enjoying oxtails.

Overall however, oxtails offer several advantages for health and can fit well into a variety of diet approaches, especially with proper portion control and home cooking methods.

Tips for cooking oxtails

Here are some tips for preparing healthy, diet-friendly oxtail dishes:

– Braise, stew or slow cook in a crockpot with plenty of liquid for at least 3 hours until the meat falls off the bone. This breaks down the collagen into gelatin.

– Remove the fatty outer membrane for lower saturated fat. Leave on the bones and cartilage for collagen content.

– Use lower sodium broth or stock and limit added salt to keep sodium levels moderate.

– Skip breading or deep frying preparation methods and opt for stewing in broth or slow roasting.

– Try using antioxidant-rich spices like garlic, onions, thyme, allspice, bay leaves and chili powder to boost flavor without added fat, salt or sugar.

– Pair oxtail stew with riced cauliflower instead of starchy rice or potatoes. Serve over a salad for extra veggies.

– Skip high fat, high carb sides like macaroni and cheese, corn bread or biscuits and opt for lower calorie options.

– Make a batch of oxtail stew and portion it out for easy grab-and-go lunches and dinners all week long.


Oxtails offer a powerhouse combination of protein, essential vitamins and minerals, and collagen. Their lean protein and low carb, low calorie nutritional profile allows them to fit well into diet plans centered around meat and vegetables like paleo, keto, low carb, or flexitarian. Choosing oxtails over higher fat cuts of beef can aid weight loss goals. Their collagen may provide gut and joint health benefits as well. With mindful portion sizes and healthy cooking methods, oxtails can be a delicious and diet-friendly change from everyday chicken, fish and steak routines.

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