Beef IS Part of A Healthy Diet

Students (all seniors) enrolled in AGRI 610 Beef Cattle Production and Management this past spring semester were asked to choose a topic about beef production and write a short article to share with the public about that topic.  The topics could cover anything from a description of their own ranch operations to a specific aspect of beef, such as its nutritional value. These articles are also being shared with each student’s local hometown newspaper.

By Thane Barker

You are sitting in the doctor’s office, knowing that high cholesterol runs in your family, and you have decided it is time to be tested. One of many things that come to your mind that worries you is that your doctor will tell you that you need to cut red meat out of your diet. This for a steak lover like yourself is very concerning. As he comes into the room you are preparing yourself for this and many other things. However, he begins to tell you that not only can you still eat beef but that it plays a vital role in the diet.

According to Penn State University, the well-known and accepted as the standard for heart healthy diets is the DASH diet – Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. This diet utilizes plant protein foods, chicken and fish while only allowing small portions of lean beef. This diet, along with the BOLD, Beef in an Optimal Lean Diet, and BOLD+, Beef in an Optimal Lean Diet plus other sources of protein, were put to the test at Penn State. DASH allowed 1 ounce of beef, BOLD allowed four ounces and BOLD+ allowed 5.4 ounces. The participants within the BOLD and BOLD+ diets both experienced a decrease in total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol, the bad kind, in the five-week trials.

Cardiovascular disease is closely correlated with high cholesterol and lipid levels in the blood. CVD is present in one of three American adults and is the highest cause of mortality. Dietary standards are set by professionals to develop the correct levels of blood lipids and cholesterol, thus decreasing the chance of CVD by regulating levels of total fat, saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol. Lean beef meets these recommendations as it contains less than 10 grams of total fat, below 4.5 grams of saturated fats and 95 milligrams of cholesterol per 3-ounce serving. Where beef gets a bad reputation is in its fatty acid profile. However, more than half of the fatty acids within lean beef are monounsaturated or polyunsaturated, both of which are thought to be acceptable by health experts, as explained in the National Cattlemen’s Association research article “Lean Beef and Heart Health.”

Not only does this benefit the heart, it also fuels the body in many other beneficial ways. A publication of the National Beef Board and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, titled “Proteins Are Not Created Equal,” shows that lean beef is a highly acceptable source of protein, B12, selenium, zinc, niacin and B6. Possibly the most important and advantageous is protein. A 3-ounce serving of lean beef contains half of the daily recommended value of protein, providing 25 grams.

The protein in lean meat is considered a complete protein, containing a full package of essential amino acids. Protein produces stronger and leaner bodies by allowing you to get more out of exercise, by repairing and building muscles. Protein in the diet also shows a correlation to a decreased appetite. People who consume a high protein diet show less overeating as they feel fuller after a meal. The proteins found in the foods you eat are not all made equal.

The other nutrients in beef should not be overlooked. Information from the “Lean Beef and Heart Health” article by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association says 37 percent of the recommended daily value of vitamin B12 can be found in a 3-ounce serving, along with 16 percent of the B6.

Iron is also found in a considerable amount in lean beef. The iron in beef is heme iron, rather than the nonheme iron found in plants. Heme iron is more easily absorbed by the body and promotes cognitive processes such as memory and the ability to learn. This is valuable to children as research shows that toddlers are more likely to be affected by iron-deficiency anemia which in turn relates to behavioral and cognitive delays.

To say that lean beef is the only dietary means of controlling high cholesterol or staying heart healthy would be a reach, but to say that it has no place in the diet of a high CVD risk or high cholesterol person is also incorrect. Many variables are present in this equation, such as genetic makeup and environment. Individual bodies respond differently to dietary changes.

Lean beef holds its place in a healthy diet. The BOLD and BOLD+ findings of Penn State University research support this and the nutrient values of beef itself. Beef in the diet benefits many different people, from an an athlete who needs to build muscle, to a person battling a family history of cholesterol, or a child who is simply growing up.

Thane Barker, a 2015 Lebo High School graduate, is a senior majoring in animal science at Fort Hays State University. He is the son of Todd and Mary Barker, Lebo.

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