Is beef healthy? It’s a question that keeps coming up, fueled by research and high-profile campaigns by advocacy groups on both sides of the debate.
Is beef healthy?
Beef is the meat of cattle (Bos taurus).
It is categorized as red meat — a term used for the meat of mammals, which contains higher amounts of iron than chicken or fish.
Humans have been eating beef for thousands of years. The first domesticated cattle lived in the Middle East almost 10,000 years ago before migration brought them to Africa.
Nutritionists and health experts have spent years debating the benefits and risks of eating beef in an attempt to determine whether it is good or bad for health. So far, results have been mixed.
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Nutritionists say that beef contains important nutrients, including protein, vitamin B-12, and iron. However, there is evidence to suggest that eating a lot of beef can raise a person’s risk of certain cancers, heart disease, and other health concerns.
I will be telling you what nutritionists say about the official dietary recommendations, and what amount of beef might be healthful.
Health Benefits of Consuming Beef
Beef is a good source of protein and other nutrients but is also high in cholesterol and saturated fats that can cause fatty deposits to build up in the blood.
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Beef can be a healthy part of your diet but should be eaten in moderation. According to experts, “an accumulated body of evidence shows a clear link between high intake of red and processed meats and a higher risk for heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and premature death.”
Eating beef does increase your health risks overall. However, there are some benefits to eating beef if you eat it in small portions and choose lean cuts.
Beef is an excellent source of iron. The iron in beef helps your body produce hemoglobin, a protein that helps your blood carry oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body. Not consuming enough iron can put you at risk of iron deficiency anemia, meaning your body isn’t getting enough oxygen. You might feel tired, listless, weak, and mentally foggy.
Eating beef can help prevent iron deficiency anemia in people who are at risk.
Immunity and healing
Beef is a good source of zinc, which the body needs to heal damaged tissue and support a healthy immune system. Children and adolescents also need healthy amounts of zinc to make sure they thrive and grow.
Protein is essential for muscle health. It rebuilds the muscle tissue that is naturally lost in the wear and tear of daily life. Protein also helps you build more muscle and is especially helpful if you’re working on strength training.
A single serving of beef supplies the recommended daily amount of protein, helping to prevent lost muscle mass. Losing muscle mass can make you feel weaker and may make it difficult to keep your balance.
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Beef is primarily composed of protein and varying amounts of fat. The nutritional profile of beef changes a bit depending on how you cook it.
Here are the nutrition facts for a 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of broiled, ground beef with 10% fat content (2Trusted Source):
Protein: 26.1 grams
Carbs: 0 grams
Sugar: 0 grams
Fiber: 0 grams
Fat: 11.8 grams
A serving of beef also gives you 12% of the recommended daily dose of iron, as well as the following vitamins and minerals:
- Vitamin B12. Animal-derived foods, such as meat, are the only good dietary sources of vitamin B12, an essential nutrient that is important for blood formation and your brain and nervous system.
- Zinc. Beef is very rich in zinc, a mineral that is important for body growth and maintenance.
- Selenium. Beef is generally a rich source of selenium, an essential trace element that serves a variety of functions in your body.
- Iron. Found in high amounts in beef, meat iron is mostly in the heme form, which is absorbed very efficiently.
- Niacin. One of the B vitamins, niacin (vitamin B3) has various important functions in your body. Low niacin intake has been associated with an increased risk of heart disease.
- Vitamin B6. A family of B vitamins, vitamin B6 is important for blood formation and energy metabolism.
- Phosphorus. Widely found in foods, phosphorus intake is generally high in the Western diet. It’s essential for body growth and maintenance.
How does beef affect health?
Beef is a good source of certain nutrients, especially vitamin B-12 and iron. The human body needs these nutrients to produce new red blood cells. Beef is also high in protein, which is necessary for building muscle, bone, other tissues, and enzymes.
However, some nutritionist has linked regular consumption of beef to several health problems, such as heart disease, some cancers, kidney problems, digestive issues, and mortality.
To further complicate the issue, some suggest that the type of beef a person eats makes the most difference.
Many different studies have suggested that eating beef regularly can lead to a higher risk of heart disease. For years, experts have believed that the link between beef consumption and heart disease is due to the saturated fat that is present in beef which can raise a person’s cholesterol levels and increase their risk of heart disease. They, therefore, recommend that humans limit the amount of beef they consume.
How to Prepare Beef
To get the nutritional impact of beef with less cholesterol and saturated fat, choose leaner cuts. Look for cuts labeled “extra lean” or “lean,” and always choose pieces with the least visible fat.
Cut off as much visible fat as you can before you cook beef. The cooking process will cause much of the rest of the fat to melt away. Choose a cooking method like grilling, broiling, or roasting, where the beef is sitting on a rack and the fat can drip away into a pan.
How much beef is too much?
The guidelines for how much beef is healthful vary.
Some nutritionists suggest that if you consume beef, you should limit your intake to 3 servings per week. They also say to eat little, “if any,” processed meat.
They explain that beef can be a valuable source of nutrients, but that you do not need to eat beef— red or otherwise — to be healthy. They say that you can obtain adequate protein from a mixture of pulses (legumes) and cereals (grains).
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The Bottom Line
Beef is one of the most popular types of meat. But It is difficult to link one food or food group to health problems. This is because a range of other factors — including genetics, environment, health history, stress levels, sleep quality, lifestyle, and other dietary factors — may play a role in whether or not a person develops a specific condition or disease.
Still, the body of evidence claiming that eating high amounts of beef, especially processed meat, could lead to health problems is growing.
For this reason, you may want to cut back on red and processed beef and focus on foods that contain antioxidants and nutrients — such as fruits and vegetables — that can help prevent health problems.