Red Meat Bad Rap: Beef is Back!
Red meat often gets a bad reputation, but recently it has been making a big comeback, and it’s no surprise with the growing popularity of CrossFitters and fitness and health enthusiasts.
Paleo diets have never been more popular. In fact, they were the most searched diets on Google in 2013. There have been other strong influences towards grain-free, gluten-free diets as well. In 2011, Dr. William Davis exposed the issues with gluten in his Wheat Belly book.
So yes, we are seeing a resurgence in beef consumption. High quality beef is superior to many other protein sources, as calorie for calorie, it is one of the most nutrient-rich foods. Beef contains all of the essential amino acids along with a significant amount of carnitine, as compared to other proteins. It is loaded with zinc, selenium, iron, B12 and other B vitamins. In addition, there are approximately 2 grams of creatine per pound of beef. Creatine forms an energy reserve in the muscles and brain and is found only in animal foods.
Beef typically gets criticized because of its saturated fat content. Indeed, red meat does contain more fat than chicken and other protein sources; however, half the fat in beef is monounsaturated. In addition, about one-third of beef’s saturated fat comes from stearic acid which does not affect blood cholesterol levels.
There is significant debate about whether or not saturated fat in the diet increases risk for heart disease. Lowering saturated fat in the diet will lower LDL cholesterol, but it also lowers the HDL, the good form of cholesterol which is protective against heart disease. So having saturated fat in the diet may improve the ratio of total to HDL cholesterol and actually reduce risk of heart disease.
People need to make informed choices regarding the type of meat and the size of their portions. Consuming beef that is pasture-fed and raised without genetically modified feeds, added hormones or antibiotics is of the utmost importance.
For the best red meat cuts, look for those with “loin” in the name. For example: sirloin tip steak and top sirloin. Also look for round steaks and roasts, such as eye round and bottom round, chuck shoulder steaks, filet mignon, flank steak, and arm roasts. Choose ground beef labeled at least 95% lean. Frozen burger patties may contain as much as 50% fat.
How can you reduce some potential health risks and get the benefits of red meat?
- Buy beef that is raised without added hormones, antibiotics or GMO feed
- Choose lean red meat cuts
- If grilling, cook over medium or indirect heat, rather than over high heat
- Don’t overcook meat
- Supplement with beef protein powder from a highly concentrated, pure beef source that is free of hormones, antibiotics, and artificial sweeteners