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Lean Beef Can Be Part of a Healthy Diet


Updated June 08, 2014

Eating a diet high in saturated fat has been connected to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease because saturated fat increases cholesterol. Heart disease is the number one killer in the United States as well as in other countries so many people have to pay attention to all of the risk factors, including the reduction of saturated fats in the diet.

Does this mean that beef is totally bad for you? No, not at all. Beef is a great source of protein, carnitine, zinc, selenium, iron, and B vitamins. The key to enjoying beef to choose leaner cuts of beef, such as round steaks and some parts of sirloin steaks.

Serving size is equally important. One serving size of beef is only three to four ounces, or about the size of a typical deck of playing cards. That big T-bone steak I mentioned earlier may be equal to three or four servings of beef.

You might be scratching your head right now, mentally comparing that juicy 10-ounce T-bone steak to a little three-ounce piece of round steak. Your taste buds may not thank you for giving up the T-bone, but your heart surely will. Actually, enjoying low-fat beef isn't so tough (no pun intended), and you can make three ounces of low-fat beef really feel like a meal:

Try a beef stir-fry or sauté. Stir-frying and sautéing are both methods of cooking that use a small amount of hot oil in a large pan. A healthy stir-fried or sautéed meal would include three ounces of lean beef slices for each person plus lots of different vegetables, sauces and seasonings. The vegetables will add volume to your meal, and the sauces and seasonings will add so many flavors, you won't even realize how little meat is in the dish.

Have a steak salad as a meal. Start with a big bed of your favorite lettuce and add lots of vegetables, maybe a little low-fat cheese, some nuts and even pieces of fruit. Thinly slice three ounces of leftover or cooked lean steak, and place the beef slices on top of the salad. Add a small amount salad dressing made with olive oil or canola oil. The fresh vegetables add lots of volume; the olive and canola oils add healthy fats. Make a sandwich. The most popular beef sandwich is the hamburger. No, this doesn't mean you can trade in your T-bone steak for a big greasy hamburger. To make a healthy sandwich with lean beef, place three ounces of thinly sliced lean steak on a slice of hearty whole grain bread. It might look a little lonely, so add lots of lettuce, sprouts, tomato slices and maybe a slice of vegetarian cheese. Add some mustard or pickles and you have a healthy and delicious sandwich. The fiber from the whole grains will leave you feeling full and satisfied with just a small amount of beef.

Make beef stew. Beef stew is such a great comfort food and so easy to make at home. Start with a large pot or Crock-Pot. Brown pieces of lean beef and add non-fat, low-sodium beef broth. Next, add carrots, celery, potatoes and any other vegetables that you love. In a few hours, you will have a delicious stew. Serve a bowl of your stew with some whole grain bread and a green salad for a delicious, filling and healthy beef meal.

Make a casserole. This is an easy way to stretch out a pound of ground beef. Choose the lowest-fat grade of ground beef you can find in your grocery store. Cook the beef thoroughly and drain all of the fat before proceeding with your recipe. On that note, choose your recipe carefully -- many casseroles are full of fat and calories and won't make a good choice for a healthy meal. However, you can try some healthy casserole recipes. Look for ones that use tomatoes and tomato sauce instead of cheese or cream sauces.

More Tips and Recipes

  • Lean meats can be made more tender by using a marinade.
  • For ground beef recipes, use ground turkey instead. Turkey is lower in fat and works well for burgers and chili.
  • Extend your ground beef by mixing it with other ingredients such as whole grain breadcrumbs, vegetables or mashed beans.
  • This delicious low-fat southwestern burger recipe is easy to make.
  • Make these low-fat mini meatloaves.
  • Choose beef from grass fed cattle. Grass-fed cattle offer much leaner meat with a healthier fat profile.

Mann NJ, Ponnampalam EN, Yep Y, Sinclair AJ. "Feeding regimes affect fatty acid composition in Australian beef cattle." Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2003;12 Suppl:S38.

Rule DC, Broughton KS, Shellito SM, Maiorano G. "Comparison of muscle fatty acid profiles and cholesterol concentrations of bison, beef cattle, elk, and chicken." J Anim Sci. 2002 May;80(5):1202-11.

Xu J, Eilat-Adar S, Loria C, Goldbourt U, Howard BV, Fabsitz RR, Zephier EM, Mattil C, Lee ET. "Dietary fat intake and risk of coronary heart disease: the Strong Heart Study." Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 Oct;84(4):894-902.

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