I was recently clicking through an email with the latest research updates when I came across a journal article on red meat and heart disease. Like many other studies, this one indicated that people eating the most red meat and processed meats were the most likely to suffer from chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer. The final discussion session was filled with information on the dangers of eating too much meat, while lauding the environmental and health benefits of a vegetarian diet. While I am no means a vegetarian, I could see their point; there is definitely a correlation between chronic diseases disease and eating high-fat and processed meats too frequently. However, red meat is also a great source of protein, iron, zinc, and some B-vitamins…nutrients that many Americans do not consume sufficient quantities of in their regular diets. What’s the answer? The key to this particular study was that the people that ate too much, too frequently were the ones suffering ill effects, not everyone who enjoyed a steak or a reuben sandwich on occasion. It all comes down to moderation…red meat is a nutrient-dense food, just like prunes are healthy; but both beef and prunes can have some negative consequences if one eats too much too frequently. Think Cut, Portion, and Frequency when adding red meat, particularly beef, to your diet.
Choose lean cuts of beef, such as the “round” and “loin” and trim off all visible fat. A sirloin steak has much less fat than prime rib. If you can see a lot of marbling in the meat it probably has a lot of fat in it, and while it may be more tender, it can also be tougher on your cardiovascular system.
Enjoy a 3oz portion (about the size of a deck of cards) as a ground sirloin burger topped with lots of lettuce and tomato, broccoli and beef stirfry, or even cold leftover steak sliced thin on top of a spinach salad with a raspberry vinaigrette dressing. Consider red meat to be a garnish or small part of the meal, rather than the foundation of the plate. When making soups or stews add slightly more beans and less meat to save money and fat.
How often should you eat red meat? The general rule of thumb is once a week; less than that if you already have heart disease and are sedentary, or up to 2-3 times a week if you are younger, iron-deficient, and/or very active.
For more beef ideas and nutrition info, check out the Texas Beef Council.
Now how about the environmental effects of eating beef? Yes, that cow did have to eat about seven pounds of corn to make that delicious 12oz T-bone steak.That is in addition to the processing, shipping, cold storage, and other energy-consuming activities it took to make the steak safe and tasty. To minimize the environmental effects, choose organic or grass-fed sources for red meat, eat what you buy (wasted food is incredibly costly to the environment), and eat red meat less frequently than chicken, turkey, or beans.
Another article I read talked about how less than 8% of Americans eat beans on any given day. I love beans. I think it’s time for them to make a comeback, especially during this recession. If you want to eat healthy and save some big bucks,