Beef – Why include it in your diet and which ways are healthiest?
There are many myths regarding the consumption of beef that make many of us avoid eating it, and especially avoid feeding it to our children. It’s fattening, rich in cholesterol, high in saturated fat which is bad for the heart, and very far from being healthy. Is this true?
What is the truth about levels of fat and cholesterol in beef?
When we hear the word ‘beef’ we imagine a 400g steak, dripping with fat.
However, beef has less fat and cholesterol than we think. There are even cuts that contain only 5% fat, after the visible fat has been removed (cuts 4, 5, 6, sirloin and fillet).
From this we can deduce that not all cuts of beef are the same, and a little knowledge and understanding can steer us towards making the correct, beneficial, healthy and tasty choices.
Today it is clear that it is possible to eat lean beef as part of a well-balanced diet with reduced fat and cholesterol, and furthermore, beef can even reduce the cholesterol levels in our blood and maintain a healthy heart.
It is therefore important to remember several facts:
- There are a number of cuts of beef that contain less fat than chicken. For example, a 200g serving of brisket with the visible fat removed, contains approximately 7g fat. For comparison – a skinless chicken thigh weighing 200g, contains 4g fat. A 200g portion of cooked beef brisket that has had all the visible fat removed contains 120g cholesterol. For comparison – a skinless chicken thigh weighing 200g contains 160g cholesterol, and a 200g portion of chicken breast contains 125g cholesterol. On the basis of these facts it is clear that lean beef can be part of a low cholesterol diet if the correct cuts are selected and the visible fat is removed.
- For a person who consumes 2000 calories a day, the recommended maximum daily allowance of fat is 67g and the recommended maximum daily allowance of cholesterol is 300mg. A 200g portion of chuck roast, for example, with no visible fat, contains approximately 250 calories, 10g fat and 110mg cholesterol, which is a third of the daily recommendation.
- The quality of the beef should also be taken into consideration, not only the quantity. Over a third of the fat found in beef is unsaturated, like what can be found in olive oil. Unsaturated fat has a positive effect on rates of blood fat and has been proven to lessen the risk of heart disease.
Why should we eat beef?
Beef contains nutrients which are important to our health, such as protein, iron and vitamin B12.
Eating beef after removing all visible fat can be part of a healthy diet, and even of a weight reducing diet.
The recommended daily beef allowance is 100g after cooking. Leaner cuts include fillet, sirloin, mock tender roast, neck fillet, chuck/eye roast and the blade. It is recommended to remove the visible fat before cooking.
It is further recommended to prepare the beef by roasting or braising, without adding large quantities of oil. It is common to eat meat more often on the weekend, as it is considered a treat. What could be simpler than thinly sliced roast blade? One serving contains very few calories, as it is a cut reduced in fat. Removing the visible fat after cooking makes it even better for your health, without compromising the flavour.
Stews are suitable for the weekend, even for those that observe the Sabbath, because they can be put in the oven or on a hot-platter to cook low and slow throughout the Sabbath. Furthermore, you needn’t wait for the weekend or for a night out to enjoy a good steak. All you need are a heavy pan, a little oil, salt and pepper. Job done.
Why is it recommended to include beef in children’s menus?
Every parent wants their children to be healthy, develop well and do well in school. The abilities to think, remember and solve problems are attributed to heredity and external influences. In recent years it has been proven that an unbalanced diet and a lack in iron, vitamin B12 and zinc, have a direct correlation to our immune systems and on children's learning ability.
Red meat is the biggest source of iron and zinc, and both are vital for learning.
It is also a good source of protein, and the B-complex vitamins, including B12.
These are the building blocks of healthy development.
One portion of red meat contains the recommended daily intake of vitamin B12 and zinc, and 30-40% of the daily recommended intake of iron (depending on your age).
Why is iron important for children?
Beef consumption in Israel is one of the lowest in the world. Consequently, it is common, among other things, for children in Israel to have an iron deficiency. Around 10% of babies up to the age of two are anaemic, an ailment caused by an iron deficiency. This is three times more than many other western countries. Additionally, another 10% of children are not anaemic, but do suffer from a milder form of iron deficiency.
Not only does an iron deficiency in infancy cause anaemia (decrease of red blood cells), but it could also be detrimental to the cognitive development and the proper development of the immune system. Children who suffer from an iron deficiency are often tired, find it harder to concentrate, and are more susceptible to infection and disease.
Spinach, vegetables, green leaves, lentils and whole grains are a good source of iron, but the quantities of iron that can be absorbed from these foods are significantly lower than the iron that can be absorbed from red meat.
Beef is the best source of iron in terms of both quality and quantity.
In 100g of beef there is approximately 2.5mg of iron, which is one-third of the daily recommended intake for infants aged 1-3, and a quarter of the daily recommended intake for children aged 4-8!
How to enrich children’s diet with beef
Sometimes we think that the healthiest, most correct, easiest and simplest thing to do is to grab a schnitzel from the freezer, heat it up and serve it to our children with some pasta or rice, and that takes care of lunch.
However, this is not necessarily the healthiest or most nutritious option.
We also tend to think that it is complicated to include beef in our menus, because it takes time and know-how.
The good news is: it is simple and easy, important, vital and healthy to include beef in both ours and our children’s diets.
Most children do not eat steak… (Some tastes are acquired with age…). It is possible to include beef in our children’s diets in roundabout ways, and also to teach them a love of beef. Children generally love meatballs, spaghetti Bolognese, and stews served on couscous or rice.
It is possible to include a serving of lean beef in our diet without consuming more than the daily recommended intake of fat or cholesterol, and moreover, to benefit from an excellent source of iron, zinc, protein, vitamin B12, and other nutrients that are vital to our health.