Over the last 30-40 years, beef has been given a bad name for causing everything from heart disease and obesity to auto-immune disorders and cancer. The basis for some of this is seated in some questionable science dating back over 50 years. I will be the first one to admit that books such as Fast Food Nation, In Defense of Food and the documentary, Super Size Me, definitely changed the way I choose my beef, but it certainly hasn’t deterred my love for a big, juicy steak on a fairly regular basis. The reduction of cholesterol does not necessitate the elimination of beef. However, as a physician, there are some patients that have conditions where elimination is necessary. Let’s look at some common sense points regarding your health and consuming beef:
1 Choose the closest thing to grass fed, organic beef you can find in your area. Grass fed beef contains more Omega-3 fatty acids and CLA (congugated linoleic acid). Omega-3 ‘s and CLA are associated with decreasing inflammation. A lower amount of inflammation is associated with decreased risk of heart and vascular disease, diabetes, auto-immune disorders and cancer. This grass fed beef can be eaten by most people. Those people who have auto-immune disorders may want to curtail their consumption to 2-3 servings per week. Some of my colleagues go so far as to buy a portion of a cow from local organic farmers, that practice humane slaughtering techniques.
2 Choose lean cuts of beef such as eye of round, sirloin, and 95% lean ground beef. There are actually 29 cuts of lean beef according to The Beef Checkoff, at The government says a serving qualifies as "extra lean" if it has less than 5g total fat, 2g or less saturated fat and less than 95mg cholesterol per 3.5 oz. serving. A serving qualifies as "lean" if it has less than 10g total fat, 4.5g or less saturated fat and less than 95mg cholesterol per 3.5 oz. serving.
3 Red meat provides essential nutrients such as B-12, Zinc, and Iron. According to the NIH 35-45% of American over 60 years old may not be getting even the RDA of zinc, which is a gross underestimation of what most people need anyway. ( For B-12, other sources include wild rainbow trout and sock-eye salmon. Lean beef provides all essential amino acids which are the building blocks of muscles, enzymes, cell wall structure and communication molecules in the body. And with 7 grams of protein per ounce of beef, you will stay fuller, longer when you eat about 3.5 ounces per serving. Vegetarians usually need to supplement zinc, iron, B-12 and must be very careful to get a full complement of amino acids with proper food combining.
4 For the summer grilling season, if you are concerned about beefing it up too much, try some wild caught seafood or free range chicken breasts. To make the leaner cuts juicier, marinate using a little olive oil, vinegar and your favorite spices, and do NOT overcook. I look to food science expert and Food Network Star, Alton Brown, to guide my cooked meat temperatures. ( If you are a true vegetarian try some BarBQ Tempeh using your favorite BarBQ sauce laced with a little curry. (
5 Honestly, I love beef, and I probably eat 6-8 servings per week. In a healthy diet that consists of 5 small meals per day, each one containing some kind of protein and colorful vegetables or fruits, I also eat my share of nuts, free range chicken, wild caught fish, and organic pork. Mix it up, variety is what keeps us healthy, so beef up with beef, just do it with common sense, and as Alton Brown says it’s “Good Eats”.
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