The Skinny on Beef


Red meat can be part of a healthy diet—in moderation

Over the past few years, beef has received a pounding. And I’m not talking in the cube-steak kind of way! Beef has been labeled as unhealthy, full of saturated fats and highly caloric; it’s been pointed to as a cause of cancer and even been named a culprit in infertility. While the mythsfoodfilesand fallacies about beef rage on, it still remains the number one–selling protein in America, with burgers and steaks as popular as ever. Thankfully, lean beef, eaten in moderation, can be part of a heart-healthy diet.

Truth be told, beef plays an important part of a well-balanced diet, as it is an excellent source of B12, protein, iron, zinc, vitamin B6 and phosphorus. One of the criticisms and concerns many have about beef is its fat content, which has been addressed by the beef industry by offering leaner cuts of meat.

There are 29 cuts of beef that meet the government labeling guidelines for “lean,” which means it has less than 10 grams of fat, 4.5 grams or less of saturated fat and less than 95 milligrams of cholesterol per 3.5-ounce serving. To be labeled “extra lean,” a serving must have less than 5 grams of total fat, 2 grams or less saturated fat and less than 95 milligrams of cholesterol per 3.5-ounce serving. Also, more than 50 percent of the fatty acids in beef are the “good fats” (monounsaturated fats), which are the same as those found in heart-healthy foods such as olive oil and nuts.

Here are some interesting tidbits about beef from

• Compared to a skinless chicken breast, lean beef has only one more gram of saturated fat.

• Lean beef has six times more zinc, three times more iron and eight times more vitamin B12 than a skinless chicken breast.

• There are at least 12 cuts of beef that are leaner than a skinless chicken thigh.

• Calorie for calorie, beef is one of the most nutrient-rich foods available. Not only does it offer a bundle of essential nutrients, but compared to other proteins, it has one of the highest concentrations of nutrients.

• Beef is the number one food source of protein, vitamin B12 and zinc.

• A three-ounce serving of lean beef contributes less than 10 percent of calories to a 2,000-calorie diet, yet it supplies more than 10 percent of the daily value for nine essential nutrients.

• Choose the leanest cuts of beef by looking for “loin” or “round” in the name.

• Eat reasonable portion sizes. One three-ounce serving of beef is the size of a deck of cards or a computer mouse.

In addition to the health benefits, beef is an incredibly versatile protein that can be prepared many different ways, from braising and roasting to searing and grilling. In addition, it can be used as an affordable ingredient to can enhance practically any sort of dish, including stir-fries, soups, salads, casseroles, sauces, rice dishes and stews. So it’s time to stop all the beef bashing and fire up the grill!


Cuts of beef

chuck  The chuck section comes from the shoulder and neck of the cow, and it yields some of the most flavorful and economical cuts of meat. The downside is that these cuts tend to be tough and fatty, and they have more than their fair share of bone and gristle. It’s usually best to cook them slowly in a liquid, so braising, stewing and pot-roasting work well. 

rib  Meat from the rib section tends to be tender and well marbled with the fat that makes steaks and roasts juicy and flavorful. Rib steaks and roasts are sometimes called
prime rib even when the meat isn’t good enough to be graded “prime” by the USDA. It’s best not to marinate rib cuts.

loin The loin yields the most tender and expensive cuts of beef—but not the most flavorful. The choicest portion is the tenderloin, which is exquisitely tender and lean. The top loin and sirloin aren’t as tender, but they’re a bit more flavorful. Cuts from the loin require very little work to taste great. Indeed, steak lovers consider it almost a sacrilege to marinate them or to cook them beyond medium rare. These are best when broiled or grilled.

round “The round” is a kind term for the rear end of the cow. Those muscles are well exercised, so round cuts tends to be a bit tougher and leaner than cuts from the loin. Round cuts do well if they’re cooked with moist heat, and many of them can also be roasted, as long as they’re not overcooked.

breast & flank  The breast and flank yield an assortment of cuts, including the flank steak, skirt steak, hanger steak, brisket and short ribs.

miscellaneous cuts  This category includes ground beef, stew meat and soup bones.


Source: The Cook’s Thesaurus