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.
Health Benefits Of Lean Beef
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 Top 5 Leanest Cuts Of Beef
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:
- Eye round roast: With only 2 grams of saturated fat and 59 milligrams of cholesterol in a 3 ounce serving, eye round roast ranks as one of the leanest cuts of beef you can eat. Recommended methods of healthy cooking include roasting and stewing.
- Sirloin tip side steak: In a 3 ounce serving, sirloin tip side steak has about 70 milligrams of cholesterol and only 2 grams of saturated fat.
- Top round roast: This type of beef has about 3 grams of saturated fat in a serving. Although some types of round steak may be tough, top round roast is one of the tenderer round cuts.
- Top sirloin steak: Total fat in a serving of top sirloin is about 10 grams, four of which are saturated fat. Healthy cooking methods that work well for top sirloin steak include broiling and grilling.
- Bottom round roast: Similar to other cuts of lean beef, bottom round roast has about 4 grams of saturated fat in a serving. Bottom round roast can be tough so marinating before cooking may be a good idea in order to tenderize the meat.
How To Choose A Cut Of Beef
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.
Healthy Beef Cooking Tips
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.
- Remove the fat: Lean beef can be made even leaner by removing the visible fat prior to cooking. Ground beef should also have the fat drained after it is cooked.
- Avoid bottled sauces: Certain bottled sauces can contain a lot of oil and sugar, which adds fat and calories. Instead, marinate beef in vinegar, herbs and spices.
- Grill or broil: A few of the healthiest ways to prepare lean beef is by grilling or broiling the meat. Roasting lean beef is also an option.
- Avoid frying and adding excess oil: One way to turn a lean cut of beef into an unhealthy meal is by frying it and adding excess oil. Ground beef can be browned using vegetable cooking spray instead of oil.
[Related – 10 Healthy Cooking Methods For Better Nutrition]
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.