When you are considering what type of meat to eat as part of a healthy diet, beef may not initially come to mind, but it can be a good choice. Red meat, such as beef, often gets a bad rap because it can be high in calories and saturated fats, but it is important to consider, not all cuts of beef are equal. The key is to select the leanest cuts of beef and prepare them without adding a lot of fat and extra calories.
Lean beef can be part of a healthy diet and has several nutritional benefits. For example, beef is an excellent source of protein, which your body needs for building muscle and proper functioning. Beef also is one of the best sources of iron, which is essential for red blood cell production. Low iron in the body can lead to anemia, which can cause fatigue, cognitive impairments and shortness of breath. Along with protein and iron, beef is also a good source of other vitamins and minerals, such as zinc and vitamin B-12 and B-6.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has categorized 29 types of beef as lean or extra lean. The top five cuts of beef that are considered the leanest include the following:
One of the most important ways you can choose a lean cut of beef is by reading the food label. The nutritional information on beef is regulated by the USDA, and they have set certain standards for beef to be classified and labeled as lean. It must have less than 4.5 grams of saturated and 10 grams of total fat in a 3.5 ounce serving. It must also have less than 95 milligrams of cholesterol in a serving.
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Also on the packaging, the beef will be labeled prime, select or choice. The leanest cuts of beef are categorized and labeled as select or choice cuts. Cuts which are labeled prime tend to have higher levels of fat.
In addition to reading the label, select beef, which has the lowest amount of fat you can see. Fat on beef appears as marbling, and although it can be removed prior to cooking, it is best to opt for the lowest visible fat. Also, look for beef which is grass fed, which tends to be higher in omega-3 fatty acids and lower in cholesterol.
Selecting a lean cut of beef is only half the battle when incorporating beef into a healthy diet. The way you prepare and cook the meat is equally important. Even the leanest cut of beef can become unhealthy if you are adding a lot of oil and fat. Consider some of the preparation tips below.
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By selecting the right cut of beef and using a healthy cooking method, lean beef can be part of a healthy diet. Keep in mind, although lean beef can be good for you, it is possible to overdo it. Similar to most types of food moderation is essential. According to the University of Michigan Health System, one to three servings a week of lean meat, such as beef, is advisable.