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Posted by: Dennis Hinkamp on Jun 4, 2012

Re-Thinking Beef

Contact: Kathleen Riggs
  Utah State University Extension family and consumer sciences professor, Iron County
  Phone: 435-586-8132
  Julene Reese
  Utah State University Extension writer
  Phone: 435-797-0810

Ask a Specialist: Beef: Should it be What’s for Dinner?

LOGAN, UT – Beef has been targeted as a protein source that is high in fat. Because of this, some consumers feel they should limit its consumption or not eat it at all. However, there are ways to prepare beef that minimize added fat. In addition, some cuts of beef are no higher in fat than other “lean” meats such as poultry and fish. It’s important to take a closer look at beef in order to make informed decisions about including it in the diet. In addition to being a good source of iron and zinc, it is also a good source of B vitamins, selenium and phosphorus. With that said, how does it stack up in calories and in vitamin/mineral density per serving? Consider this dietary information from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service.
• Protein - A 3-ounce serving of lean beef provides 51 percent of the body’s daily requirement of protein for a 2,000-calorie diet. It is especially important for periods of rapid growth, such as childhood, adolescence and during pregnancy. Other good sources of protein include eggs, nuts, soy and dairy products. But protein is only one of several nutrients obtained from beef.
• Zinc – Zinc supports brain function and boosts the immune system. Your body needs zinc for many essential functions such as growth, development and appetite control. Three ounces of lean beef contain 154 calories and 38 percent of the body’s requirement for zinc. It would take 13½ 3-ounce servings of salmon to get the same benefit of this mineral. That many servings of salmon would be 2,363 calories.
• Iron - This mineral delivers oxygen to cells where it is used to help produce energy. Three ounces of lean beef provide 14 percent of the daily requirement, again at 154 calories. It would take 2 ¾ cups of raw spinach to get the same amount of iron. In this case, however, beef is no match for spinach in calories since this amount of spinach contains only 19 calories.
• B-Vitamins – These are key nutrients in turning food into energy. Beef is a major supplier of B-vitamins including riboflavin, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B-6 and vitamin B-12. Besides their role in energy production, each B vitamin has its own unique function. For example, B-12 works closely with Folate in forming red blood cells, and it maintains normal functioning of the nervous system. To get the benefits of these vitamins provided by a 3-ounce serving of beef, the following equivalents would be necessary: Vitamin B12- 7 ½ (3-ounce) servings of chicken breasts equaling 1,050 calories; Riboflavin would require 4 ½ (3-ounce servings) of white tuna meat that would come in at 491 calories; and Vitamin B6 would require consumption of 6 ½ cups of raw spinach to equal the same vitamin value found in beef.
• Selenium – Selenium is an antioxidant that works with vitamin E to help prevent damage to your body’s cells. Recent studies have found adequate intake of selenium may reduce the risk of heart disease and certain types of cancer. Three-ounces of lean beef contain 26 percent of the daily requirement for this nutrient.
•  Phosphorus – This nutrient helps build strong bones and teeth. A 3-ounce serving of beef contains 20 percent of the daily requirement for phosphorus.
To select the most beneficial cuts of beef, choose 3-ounce serving sizes that start with 4 ounces of raw beef. Look for beef labeled with the “USDA Select” grade. It’s lower in fat and calories than “Choice” or “Prime.” Trim fat before cutting beef into strips for stir-fry or cubes for kabobs. Use low-fat cooking methods such as broiling, roasting on a rack, grilling, braising or stewing. Remove excess fat from stews, soups and casseroles by chilling them and skimming the hardened fat from the top. If you’re in a hurry, use a baster to remove surface fat. Cook with fresh ingredients that do not contribute extra fat such as hot and sweet peppers, onion, garlic, tomatoes and fresh herbs.
Eating beef can be a healthy addition to any diet. Keep in mind the excellent nutritional value of beef, then concentrate on healthy ways to purchase, prepare and serve it.
Direct column topics to: Julene Reese, Utah State University Extension writer, Logan, Utah, 84322-4900, 435-797-0810,


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