Beef and a Healthy Lifestyle

The Internet is flooded with trendy diets, weight-loss programs and conflicting advice on what a healthy lifestyle is – often leaving people confused about what is “good” and “bad” to eat. We all know that a balanced diet is important for good health, but everyone has different dietary and nutritional needs, so there’s no “one size fits all” answer, which can further complicate the issue.

To help cut through the confusion over what contributes to a balanced, healthful diet, America’s cattle farmers and ranchers have over the years worked hard to support and build a solid foundation of knowledge based on the latest science and nutrition research.  With this research in hand, we’ll look at how beef contributes important nutrients to an overall healthy diet and how the way in which cattle are raised can impact your choices at the meat case and on the menu.

Beef's Role in a Healthy Diet

Right now in America and other developed countries, we are at a point when it is common to be overweight yet, at the same time, undernourished. While we are surpassing recommended levels of calories and fat, we’re not getting the recommended amounts of many important nutrients. Beef – including steak, roasts and ground beef - offers a solution to this dilemma as it’s a delicious food that provides more nutrients in fewer calories than many other food choices. As an example, beef contributes to important nutritional requirements for protein, vitamins B6 and B12, zinc, iron, niacin, phosphorus and potassium for all age groups. It does all this while contributing only 5 percent of total calories, 10 percent or less of saturated fat and total fat intake and less than 1 percent of sodium intake (in a 3-oz serving).

Lean Beef Benefits

Whether you prefer an easy steak wrap for on-the-go or a beef stir-fry with the family, there are plenty of lean beef options to fit into your personal diet. Today, 65 percent of the beef cuts sold in U.S. meat cases are lean and there are 38 cuts of lean beef that can be used across a variety of cooking methods.

Among the many delicious benefits you get from enjoying lean beef, one of the most remarkable is its role in heart-healthy diet. The Beef in an Optimal Lean Diet (BOLD) study showed that lean beef can be part of a heart-healthy diet, as lean beef is still low in levels of saturated fat and cholesterol. Learn more about the study and how to eat deliciously for heart health here.

Alternative Proteins: Better Than Real Beef?

It seems like every time you open a health or fitness magazine, a celebrity is promoting the newest power protein food. And for good reason — a healthy, balanced diet includes a variety of protein sources. As such, alternative proteins are gaining attention, space in the fridge and on the plate for their health benefits. However, the perceived benefits may not outweigh the unintentional nutritional consequences of not including lean meats in your diet.

Plant-based food advocates like to offer other foods to bolster protein content in plant-based diets such as black beans, quinoa and edamame. However, you may be surprised that choosing beef is actually a calorie-saver when calories and protein are compared. Beef supplies significantly fewer calories and more nutrients than many plant proteins.

A cooked three-ounce lean beef burger patty averages around 154 calories while providing approximately 25 grams of protein, which is nearly half of the recommended daily value. To get the same exact amount of protein (25 grams), you’d need to eat six tablespoons of peanut butter or a whopping three cups of quinoa, for instance, which both also deliver a sizable amount of calories (564 calories for peanut butter; 666 calories for quinoa). 

The choices of beef

At the supermarket, you’ve likely seen a variety of different labels on beef, like “natural” or “grass fed.” But what do all these claims really mean? Farmers and ranchers raise beef in a variety of different ways, which means you have choices when you get to the grocery store or restaurant. Let’s explore the different options.

Grass vs. Grain

Now that we’ve explored what these labels mean, let’s address the real nutritional difference in grass- and grain-finished beef. Many news articles make the (incorrect) claim that grass-fed beef is better for you than grain-fed beef. What cattle eat can have a moderate effect on the nutrient content of the beef we enjoy, but most experts agree that the overall nutrition and high-quality protein are the same from all beef choices.

The Road Forward

For more than 150 years, America’s farmers and ranchers have been producing safe and delicious steaks, roasts and ground beef to nourish families through all of life stages. And each year, the goal has been to continually improve – by staying abreast of the latest nutrition science and research. You can feel good about enjoying your favorite steak, roast or burger, knowing that the beef community is constantly working to better understand the nutritional attributes of beef and the role of beef in a healthy diet.

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