Monday, July 30, 2012

Like a Good Steak on the Grill?

While there are endless foods that tickle my taste buds when grilled, there is nothing like a good steak.

Did you know that beef has been becoming more lean over the past 40 years? Many changes in cattle breeding, management practices and retail trimming have resulted in the increased accessibility of leaner beef. Today, more than two-thirds (69%) of beef sold at retail, including popular cuts like sirloin steak, tenderloin, t-bone steak and 95% lean ground beef meet the government guidelines for lean. The USDA definition of “lean” is meat that contains less than 10 g of total fat, 4.5 g or less of saturated fat and less than 95 mg of cholesterol per serving or per 100 grams.

The demand for leaner cuts and increased trimming at the market began after The 1980 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommended consuming lean meats and “trimming excess fat off meats”. Today’s cuts have 80% less external fat than those sold 26 years ago. Twenty years later, Dietary Guidelines (2010) recommend “choosing lean meats and poultry, including meat cuts that are low in fat and ground beef that is extra lean (at least 90% lean). Trim or drain fat from meat and remove poultry skin before cooking or eating.”

Beef typically contains more saturated fat than poultry but total fat content may be less. A three ounce skinless chicken breast contains .9 g of saturated fat and 3.0 g of total fat. But there are 29 cuts of lean been that contain less saturated and total fat than a three oz. skinless chicken thigh at 2.6 g saturated fat and 9.2 g of total fat. This includes those steaks that taste so good on the grill!
Food choices have changed over the years and beef consumption has dropped as the emphasis on eating more seafood and meatless meals has increased. However, a 2010 study found that Americans are consuming beef in moderate amounts at an average of 1.7 oz daily. And total fat content of the beef has dropped. For example, a completely trimmed sirloin steak has 34% less total fat than in 1963 and 17% less saturated fat than in 1990.
A recent study, the Beef in an Optimal Lean Diet (BOLD), found that eating lean beef, as part of a heart-healthy diet and lifestyle, can lower LDL cholesterol (bad) by up to 10%, as much as any other recommended heart-healthy diet intervention. One reason for this is that half of the fatty acids in beef are monounsaturated, the type found in olive oil. Beef is also an excellent source of protein, zinc, vitamin B12, B6, niacin and selenium.  Recent U.S. dietary survey data found that fresh beef is the number one source of protein, vitamin B12 and zinc in the American diet.
Is this an advertisement for beef? As a dietitian, I can’t recommend chucking your vegetarian diet or limits on beef consumption. However, we don’t have to feel guilty eating lean cuts of beef. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend: choose a variety of food from the protein foods group. If you choose lean cuts, don’t slather them with butter – yes I know that they do this in restaurants - and pair your steak with lots of low fat fruits and vegetables, beef is an excellent choice.

This material was taken from All statistics found in this article are referenced in the flyer, The Evolution of Lean Beef.

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