Americans have always had a love affair with beef and a recent survey shows that whether celebrating a special occasion or enjoying an everyday meal, Americans love beef. Yet, people are often surprised to learn that lean beef can also be good for their heart. Research shows naturally nutrient-rich lean beef can be an important part of a heart-healthy diet.
- Surprise! A growing body of evidence shows that lean beef, trimmed of visible fat, can be a part of a balanced diet that does not increase heart disease risk factors.
- A nine-month clinical trial suggests lean red meat can be part of a cholesterol-lowering diet.
- A separate research study found that moderately overweight women, who exercised and consumed lean protein as part of a nutritionally balanced, reduced calorie diet, successfully lost weight, lowered bad cholesterol, maintained good cholesterol, and reduced body fat.
- Naturally Nutrient-Rich: On average, a 3-ounce serving of lean beef is only 153 calories yet a naturally rich source of 10 essential nutrients – including protein, zinc, iron and B-vitamins – that are needed for a healthy, active lifestyle. Choline, one of the 10 essential nutrients found in beef, may play a role in breaking down homocysteine, an amino acid in the blood that may be associated with increased risk of heart disease.
The tastiest cuts of beef are often the ones with more fat. But when you're concerned about your health or you're trying to watch your weight, you want the leanest cuts of beef.
You don't necessarily have to sacrifice flavor by choosing lean cuts of beef, though. Use this guide on cuts of beef to make smart choices.
Nutrition labels for cuts of beef
Wondering which cuts of beef are the leanest? Check the label. The labels on cuts of beef are considered nutrition claims, so they're subject to government regulations. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulates whether cuts of beef can be labeled as "lean" or "extra lean" based on their fat and cholesterol content.
Lean cuts of beef
The USDA defines a lean cut of beef as a 3.5-ounce serving (about 100 grams) that contains less than:
• 10 grams total fat
• 4.5 grams saturated fat
• 95 milligrams cholesterol
Extra-lean cuts of beef
The USDA defines an extra-lean cut of beef as a 3.5-ounce serving (about 100 grams) that contains less than:
• 5 grams total fat
• 2 grams saturated fat
• 95 milligrams cholesterol
Note that you might see grades of beef (Prime, Choice and Select) on meat packages. Beef grading is a voluntary program that manufacturers can use to judge the perceived quality of their products. Beef grades are not the same as the "lean" and "extra-lean" labels.
Selecting cuts of beef
Many cuts of beef now meet the USDA's regulations to qualify as lean or extra lean. Of these, the following are considered extra lean:
• Eye of round roast and steak
• Sirloin tip side steak
• Top round roast and steak
• Bottom round roast and steak
• Top sirloin steak
If you still have questions about which cuts of beef are lean or extra lean, ask your butcher or grocer. If you're dining out, ask the restaurant server or chef for recommendations for lower fat options.
Keep in mind that the same cuts of beef can have different names. For example, a boneless top loin steak may also be called a strip steak, club sirloin steak or N.Y. strip steak.
Other tips when choosing cuts of beef:
• Choose cuts that are graded "Choice" or "Select" instead of "Prime," which usually has more fat.
• Choose cuts with the least amount of visible fat (marbling).
• When selecting ground beef, opt for the lowest percentage of fat.
• Limit consumption of organs, such as liver, to about 3 ounces (85 grams) a month.
Every year, about 715,000 Americans have a heart attack, and about 600,000 people die from heart disease -- that's one out of every four deaths. That makes heart disease the leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control.
There's no doubt about it, heart disease is a scary thing, and when it affects you or a loved one, those numbers aren't just statistics; they are your real life. Chances are you or someone you know has suffered from heart disease, and when you're facing a health problem that could steal your life, a patient is willing to do anything to get better, including cleaning up the diet.
A Closer Look: Heart Association Endorses Heart-Healthy Beef
One of the first knee-jerk reactions a heart patient has is to cut red meat out of their diet because of its perception as being high in cholesterol and fat. But, before you give up steaks and burgers altogether, listen to what the American Heart Association (AHA) has to say about beef.
Recently, AHA certified three additional fresh beef cuts to add to its list of approved food items. The AHA stamp of approval is one of the most trusted nutrition icons on food packaging today, with many consumers checking to make sure that the AHA checkmark is on their food products before purchasing.
The six cuts that now meet AHA criteria for heart-healthy include:
• Sirloin tip steak (USDA Select)
• Bottom round steak (USDA Select
• Top sirloin stir-fry (USDA Select)
• Boneless top sirloin petite roast (USDA Select)
• Top sirloin filet (USDA Select)
• Top sirloin kabob (USDA Select)
According to the beef checkoff site, beefretail.org, "More than 83% of consumers have an added awareness of the AHA heart check mark. Nearly 75% of shoppers say the AHA stamp of approval improves the likelihood that they will purchase a product."
Retailers can work with the beef checkoff program to participate in the AHA Food Certification Program by clicking here.
Having the AHA stamp of approval on beef is good news for producers, too, who already know and understand that our product plays an important role in a healthy diet.
The checkoff says there is more to come: "These six cuts are only the start, as we plan to continue adding extra-lean beef choices to the list of AHA-certified cuts as part of the beef checkoff program trade association certification. With many of America's favorite beef cuts already meeting government guidelines for lean, the future is bright for building sales and raising awareness of the positive role that beef, America's favorite protein, plays in a healthful, delicious diet."