Today's lean beef supplies 14 essential nutrients. Beef is an excellent source of protein, niacin, vitamin B12, selenium and zinc. It is also high in iron, riboflavin, vitamin B6 and phosphorus. Beef is also a source of magnesium, potassium and vitamin D.
The iron in beef is in a form called "heme" iron, which the body more readily absorbs than the iron found in plant foods (e.g. spinach, cereals, legumes) or eggs.
On average, today’s Canadian beef has less than 8g of fat (per 100 g), when trimmed of external fat, and only 82 mg of cholesterol. Fresh beef is also a low sodium option for Canadians. On average, 100g of raw beef contains only 64mg of sodium. This is considered “low sodium,” and represents less than 3 per cent of the recommended Daily Value for sodium.
Lean Canadian beef is a great choice for healthy living and is part of Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide. Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide recommends 2-3 servings of Meat and Alternatives each day for adults. A serving of beef is 75 grams, or approximately the size of a deck of cards. For adults, the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI) state that between 20-35 per cent of your total calories should come from fat. This is the range associated with reduced risk of chronic disease while providing intakes of essential nutrients. It is also recommended that, for adults, no more than 10 per cent of total daily energy should be saturated fat.
For a person who consumes 2,000 calories daily, this translates into a maximum of 78g grams of total fat and 22 grams of which could be saturated fat.
Lean beef fits well within these guidelines. For example, a 100 gram serving of braised sirloin tip steak, trimmed of visible fat, provides 218 calories, 4.5 grams of fat, and 1.9 grams of saturated fat.
Some other interesting facts you might want to consider:
- The fat in beef is not all saturated – about half the fat in beef is actually healthy unsaturated fat, most of it the same type we find in olive oil.
- Even other healthy foods like salmon have some saturated fat. In fact, an equal-sized serving of beef sirloin tip and sockeye salmon have the same amount of saturated fat, 1.4 grams per food guide serving.
- Most Canadians don’t eat too much beef. On average, we only eat about half a cup a day (74g / day) - and that’s just one Food Guide serving of Meat and Alternatives.
According to the Canadian Community Health Survey (Nutrition Cycle 2.2, 2004), adults get almost a quarter of their fat from processed foods and sweetened baked goods, and 22 per cent of their total calories from “other foods,” which offer little or no nutrient value. Beef in contrast, is a ‘nutrient-rich’ food. Bite for bite, nutrient rich foods provide the most vitamins, minerals and other important nutrients for the fewest calories.