July 22, 2021
Most Americans know firsthand how delicious beef can taste in salads, appetizers, and entrees. But many are less aware of how a diet rich in the savory red meat promotes strength and overall good health.
That fact is well-understood by our country’s elite athletes, who continually fine-tune their diets to maximize their performance in international competition. As our top athletes prepare to compete for gold this summer, a registered dietitian has tips for how you can eat like a champion at home.
“Simply put, beef is a protein powerhouse, especially when compared to some of the most popular plant-based protein options,” notes Dr. Shalene McNeill, Registered Dietitian and Executive Director of Nutrition Science, Health & Wellness at the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, a contractor to the Beef Checkoff. “You’d need to eat three cups of quinoa or 6.5 tablespoons of peanut butter to get the same amount of protein as three ounces of cooked beef — and that would mean consuming more than three times as many calories.”
Though multiple myths exist about beef production and consumption, the truth is that incorporating the protein-packed taste treat into your diet can benefit your health while supporting an industry that’s sound, sustainable into the future and of key importance to a wide segment of the world population.
In that spirit, here are six other facts about beef that may surprise you.
By providing high-quality protein and multiple other essential nutrients (iron, zinc, potassium, phosphorus, niacin, vitamin B12 and vitamin B6), beef wards off deficiencies in those elements. No other protein source offers that unique and important mix of benefits.1,2
Beef is an excellent food choice for those watching their weight, as 3 ounces pack approximately 25 grams of mind- and body-building protein into just about 170 calories. Overall, beef contributes only 5% of the calories found in the diet of the typical American. And it’s versatile enough to be enjoyed in a variety of breakfast, lunch and dinner dishes (as well as snacks).1-6
In young children, beef provides the protein, iron, zinc and B vitamins that help build growing bodies and brains. For those over age 50, the protein in beef helps prevent the loss of muscle mass that can lead to frailty and/or falls as people age.7-12
Lean beef helps support cardiovascular health; happily, nearly 40 cuts of beef (including the ultra-popular sirloin) are classified as lean by the USDA.1, 13-16
Real beef contains an optimal mix of the amino acids needed to build and repair muscle; the body can’t produce amino acids on its own, and plant proteins provide a lesser variety. Real beef is also rich in the iron that helps prevent fatigue, and that iron is more easily absorbed from meat sources than from plant sources. Iron deficiency is already a global public health concern among women and adolescent girls.1, 15, 17-20
Contrary to popular belief, they’re a sustainable part of the food chain, playing the key role of converting inedible plants and solar energy into high-quality protein that’s helping to feed our growing global population. Not only do grain-finished beef operations in the U.S. generate 19% more protein for the human food supply than they consume, but they produce only 2% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and sustain a carbon footprint that’s 10 to 50 times lower than other world regions.21-24
Follow the lead of our nation's champions and support your strength and energy by building the power punch of beef into your daily diet. Your body and your taste buds will thank you.