Where's the Beef?
"The 'no red meat' revolution is over."
Hopefully on your plate! Beef, or red meat, has received a bad rap lately. There are so many opinions out there about fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol that have turned people away from eating beef when dieting. Not all beef is unfit for the fit! There are many essential vitamins and nutrients in beef that are hard to get in any other foods, especially if you are a vegetarian. Some of these nutrients include iron, zinc, and vitamin B12. The 'no red meat' revolution is over. Start enjoying those mouth-watering steak dinners you've been craving. So, hey, steak lovers, this article is for you.
Just follow these guidelines to ensure you are getting the leanest, best cuts of meat. First, look for meat labeled 'choice' or 'select'. These are the leanest cuts. You do not want the cuts with a lot of fat marbling, or those labeled 'prime'. These are usually cheaper to buy also. You'll notice the white lines or veins running through the meat, and there will be a thick fat ring around the outside of the cut. The tenderloin, and/or top loin, are the leanest and most tender cuts of the beef. They have much less fat and are mostly red muscle. The redder the meat, the better! You can always ask your butcher to explain to you the different cuts of meat, or to help you in making the leanest choice. Second, only eat small portions, approximately 4 oz. at a meal. This is enough to supply you with your daily dose of iron, zinc, and vitamin B12. Small, frequent meals are the way to go anyway, so a 4 oz. portion along with some veggies and 1/2 a cup of fibrous carbohydrate would be a perfect meal. Last, but not least, make sure you remove as much fat as you can before you begin cooking. This can be done by trimming all visible fat yourself or asking the butcher to do it before you even buy the meat. Another way to help with fat removal is to grill the meat so the fat drippings are not soaked back into the meat while it cooks. Grilling also adds to the flavor, and in my opinion, is much easier to clean up.
Removing the fat only makes the meat more nutritious by lowering the fat and cholesterol content. The most important aspect of the meat remains the same, regardless of the fat content. The most important aspect of the beef is the unparalleled bioavailability of its nutrients. The excellent supply of iron, zinc, and vitamin B12 cannot be duplicated in any chicken, fish, egg, or magic pill. Bioavailability refers to how easily the body is able to use a nutrient. The more bioavailable something is, the better it is broken down, absorbed, and used by the body. For example, if you take a calcium pill with 800 mg of calcium, but your body only absorbs, or uses, 200 mg of the calcium, then the calcium pill was not very bioavailable. Red meat would give a quick fix to person with low iron because the body uses the iron in the meat so readily. Now, let me quickly brief you on the benefits of the important nutrients found in red meat.
First, protein is the building block for all muscle, skin, hair, internal organs, etc. Without the proper amount of protein, these parts of the body can suffer. Beef is a perfectly protein dense food. Many other sources of food can give us protein, but just not in a dense, bioavailable form. Beef also contains the eight essential amino acids we need to consume to build muscle and bone, without having to eat large amounts of it. Once eaten, it also helps our bodies to produce the non-essential amino acids that we need. (Non-essential doesn’t mean unimportant. It means the body can make these amino acids itself. They do not have to be consumed in food or supplement form.) The iron, zinc, and vitamin B12 are three nutrients that are essential for red blood cell formation, cognitive development, and immune function. I'm sure you've heard about people who are anemic, or low-iron. They are often tired, have little energy, and don't feel too good. Iron supplies the blood with oxygen, which is why you wouldn't feel good if you didn't have enough of it. Your body isn't getting the oxygen it needs to operate. Many of these people take an iron supplement to help with the anemia. They should also be sure to eat red meat daily to enhance the absorption of the supplement (and to, of course, supply their own iron).
In conclusion, just remember that beef is not the horrible, fattening, cholesterol raising, monster we've been scared away from. It can be a part of a very healthy, low-fat diet, and be an excellent source of important nutrients for proper functioning of the body. We mammals are meat eaters for a reason!
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