I frequently receive questions about how (of if) beef can be part of a healthy diet. Often times, beef is acquainted with cuts of yesteryear which carried more saturated fat. Thanks to advances in meat cutting to trim excess fat, cattle breeding and feeding, we see more lean beef today than we have in previous decades. In fact, some estimates show 65% of the beef in your average retail counter are considered lean cuts of beef.
Why is lean beef important?
Many people today are looking for opportunities to eat well and be healthier. Often those goals include improved heart health and weight loss – two areas where, historically, beef hasn’t held the best reputation.
Don’t get me wrong, some fat in your diet can definitely be a good thing, as explored in The Big Fat Surprise by Nina Teicholz. But many people are looking for ways to include fewer calories and less saturated fat in the diet.
We have a building body of evidence that beef can be part of a healthy diet to meet those goals. As the Beef in an Optimal Lean Diet (BOLD) study showed in 2011, including lean beef in the diet, in place of white meat, has been found to lower LDL cholesterol just as effectively as the gold standard heart-healthy diet (DASH, Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension). Bonus: Many of these recipes can be found in the Healthy Beef Cookbook.
Beef for Weight Loss and Heart Health
This summer, researchers continued to build upon that research. From a university in Colorado, the Equivalent reductions in body weight during the Beef WISE Study: beef’s role in weight improvement, satisfaction and energy study shows us lean beef is just as effective as other protein choices to help people lose weight while maintaining lean muscle mass and improve indicators of heart health.
An important thing to note is these research studies are not observational, but actually prescribed and tracked diet changes in patients, rather than just observations made in many other studies.
WHAT? That probably goes against the advice and stigmas many of us have heard relating beef to health. It’s good to see research like this reinforcing what we know – when combined with exercise and healthy lifestyle, beef can be included in a healthy diet.
I didn’t say this research shows beef is better. I didn’t say you need to eat only beef. I did say you don’t have to avoid or remove beef from your diet in order to be healthy.
The people involved in this Beef WISE research were on the State of Slim diet, focusing on correct portion sizes of mindful food choices with daily exercise. This diet doesn’t depend on counting calories, nor does it focus on eliminating foods, rather it focuses on what you can include in a healthy diet. See what the State of Slim looks like here.
I’ve been showing this through my active lifestyle (running 30+ miles every week, completing my first 50-mile run earlier this year, maintaining weight, and getting great marks on blood work and heart tests last year) and using beef as the foundation of a balanced diet.
Next time someone brings up the opinion we should start eliminating food groups from our diet in order to be healthy, throw up a red flag. According to the many Registered Dietitians (note: RD is different from a nutritionist) I have spoken to, a balanced, sustainable diet shouldn’t exclude food groups and we start entering dangerous territory when you start doing so.
No single food and no single meal will ruin your diet and health. Enjoy what you eat and know that food can be great for you. We shouldn’t need marketing or diet labels to make us healthy or to feel good.
This post contains information and references from research partially funded by the Beef Checkoff. Views do not necessarily represent that of my employer, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, a contractor to the Beef Checkoff.
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