We all know beef tastes great, but did you know that beef can be good for you too? Here are some answers to your most pressing questions when it comes to beef and your health.
Q: Can I enjoy beef regularly as part of a healthy, balanced diet?
A: Absolutely! A 3-ounce serving of beef—about the size of an iPhone or deck of cards—provides more than 10 essential nutrients and about half of your Daily Value for protein in around 170 calories, on average (and 150 calories for a serving of lean beef).
A: The definition of lean, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, means:
- Less than 10 g total fat
- Less than or equal to 4.5 g saturated fat
- Less than 95 mg cholesterol per 100 grams (3.5 oz)
Q: Is it difficult to find lean cuts of beef at the store?
A: No. Today’s beef is leaner than ever, and 67 percent of all beef muscle cuts sold at grocery stores are lean. In fact, many of Americans’ favorite cuts such as Top Sirloin, Tenderloin (Filet Mignon), Top Loin (Strip) steak and 93 percent lean or leaner Ground Beef are lean.
Q: How much beef should I eat at a meal to meet my daily protein requirements?
A: Protein needs vary, but research suggests that people may need anywhere from 25-35 grams of protein (the equivalent of 3-4 ounces of beef) per meal. To find out your individual protein needs, check out this handy protein calculator.
Q: Aren’t we eating too much meat and beef?
A: Despite other changes in the way we eat, Americans have not increased their percentage of calories from protein in 30 years. Americans consume about 5.1 ounces of protein foods daily which includes 1.7 ounces of beef daily, on average. This level of protein intake and beef consumption is right on track with health recommendations. The fact is, beef is a natural source of essential nutrients, which makes it a great protein option that you can enjoy any day.
Q: What nutritional benefits does beef offer me that other proteins don’t?
A: Beef is a nutrition powerhouse in many ways. Aside from being a great source of protein, beef provides essential nutrients in a smaller package than some other proteins. For example, you would have to eat at least 8 ounces of cooked chicken breast to get the same amount of iron as 3 ounces of beef, and nearly 7 times (20 ounces) the amount of chicken to get the same amount of zinc as in a serving of beef.
A: No. When it comes to choosing high-quality proteins, beef is a nutritious choice with an unbeatable taste. Naturally nutrient-rich lean beef gives you more essential nutrients (10 to be exact!) in fewer calories than many other plant-based proteins. That’s a lot of nutrients in such a small package! In fact, it often takes more than twice the calories to get 25 grams of protein from beans, nuts and grains compared to beef. Check out the chart below.
Q: Is beef bad for my heart and my cholesterol?
A: Beef can be good for heart health, as 8 extra-lean beef cuts are certified as heart-healthy by the American Heart Association. Research also shows that a heart-healthy diet and lifestyle that included lean beef, even daily, improved cholesterol levels. In addition, a recently published meta-analysis of eight randomized controlled trials (the gold standard research method) compared cholesterol-lowering effects of a diet including beef versus poultry and fish and found the diets improved cholesterol similarly. In other words, there’s no reason to give up beef when watching your cholesterol as long as your diet is healthful.
Q: Isn’t beef the primary source of fat and cholesterol in my diet?
A: No. Most saturated fat in the diet comes from regular cheese, pizza and grain-based desserts, according to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Beef contributes only 10 percent or less of the saturated fat and total fat in the diet, yet provides more than 10 percent of 10 essential nutrients. Also, more than half of beef’s fatty acids are monounsaturated (good) fat – the same kind found in olive oil and avocados.
Q: Do nutrition experts recommend beef as part of a healthy diet?
A: Yes, many of them do. For example:
- Dr. Penny Kris-Etherton, Distinguished Professor of Nutrition at Penn State University and a leading authority on food, nutrition and cardiovascular research, recently completed a study showing that a heart-healthy diet that included lean beef daily can lower blood pressure. Dr. Kris-Etherton said, “This study shows that nutrient-rich lean beef can be included as part of a heart-healthy diet that reduces blood pressure, which can help lower the risk for cardiovascular disease.”
- Dr. Mike Roussell, author, speaker, nutrition consultant and former student of Dr. Etherton’s at Penn-State University, set out five years ago to answer the question, “does lean beef have a place in the DASH diet?” According to Dr. Mike, “Today that research is being published, and after weighing, measuring, and feeding 36 different people everything they put in their mouths for almost 6 months, we have a solid answer to that question. Yes. Lean beef can be included in a DASH diet.” The DASH diet is typically held up as the gold-standard diet.
- Dr. Douglas Paddon-Jones, University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston recently completed a study suggesting high-quality protein, such as beef, should be spread throughout the day. “This research suggests… we need a moderate amount of high-quality protein, three times a day and we think about 30 grams of protein is the maximal amount…so instead of end-loading all protein toward the dinner meal…” says Dr. Paddon-Jones in a video explaining his ongoing research.
- Similarly, Heather Leidy, an assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology, recently was the first researcher to examine the impact of breakfast consumption on daily appetite and evening snacking. Her research found that subjects who consumed a high-protein breakfast consisting of eggs and lean beef increased fullness or “satiety” along with reductions in brain activity that is responsible for controlling food cravings. The high-protein breakfast also reduced evening snacking on high-fat and high-sugar foods compared to when breakfast was skipped or when a ready-to-eat cereal breakfast was consumed, Leidy said.
Have more questions about how lean beef fits into your healthy diet? Watch the video or ask us a question at @BeefRD.