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Dietitians Dish: Lean beef good source of many vitamins

Jan. 24, 2011 at midnight
Updated Jan. 24, 2011 at 7:25 p.m.

Kathryn Steve

By Kathryn Steve

I am sure you or someone you know has said that they are not eating red meat because it is bad for their heart. Even though there is some fact to this, it is not entirely true. In fact, there is less saturated and total fat in a top loin steak (New York strip or Kansas City steak) compared to a skinless chicken thigh. The trick to a healthy diet is choosing the right cuts of beef.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends an overall healthy diet and lifestyle to reduce the risk of cardio vascular disease (CVD) in the general population. With respect to dietary fat, the AHA recommends that total fat intake be between 25 to 35 percent of daily calories with less than 7 percent of those being from saturated fats and less than 300 milligrams cholesterol. Based on these recommendations, an individual consuming a 2,000-calorie diet would be advised to consume approximately 56 to 78 grams of total fat with 16 grams or less of those being saturated fat.

There are 29 cuts of lean beef that are less than 10 grams of total fat, no more than 4.5 grams of saturated fat and less than 95 milligrams cholesterol in a 3 ounce serving, which fits into the AHA recommendations. Some popular cuts of these 29 include: bottom round roast, top round steak, T-bone steak, 95 percent lean ground beef, top loin and sirloin steak. A quick way to remember lean cuts when you are at the store or eating out is if it's round or loin it's lean.

Not only can beef be lean, but it is also a great source of B vitamins, iron, zinc, selenium and protein. A 3-oz. serving of lean beef has approximately 37 percent of vitamin B12 and 16 percent of vitamin B6 for the daily value needs of an average person. These nutrients are needed to "unleash" the energy from food and also assist in lowering levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that has been shown to increase the risk for heart disease and dementia. Did you know that is takes up to seven-and-a-half 3-oz. skinless chicken breasts to equal the same amount of vitamin B12 in a 3-oz. serving of lean beef?

Beef is the third largest source of iron in the American diet, following iron-enriched breads and cereal. However, iron from meat is better absorbed than the iron found in bread, cereals and other plant products. The zinc in beef helps build muscles, heal wounds and maintain the immune system.

Beef has high-quality protein and has all of the essential amino acids, the building blocks of protein which the body needs in order to build, maintain and repair tissues.

With the Super Bowl coming up, this would be a great time to try out some lean beef; for the full list of the 29 cuts along with recipes and other interesting facts about beef, check out www.beefnutrition.org.

Kathryn Steve is a registered and licensed dietitian. Send questions or comments to dietitians@vicad.com.

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