Beef gets a bad rap. People tend to avoid it as an unhealthy alternative compared to white meats and seafood. (But see The Performance and Health Benefits of Grass-Fed Beef)
Yet red meat is a great source of protein (offering around 7 grams per ounce) and one of the best sources of iron, a key mineral for athletes because of its role in delivering oxygen to the muscles. Other important vitamins in beef include several B vitamins (including B12), folate, thiamine, and riboflavin, which help convert food to energy. Beef also provides vitamin E, an antioxidant, and vitamin K, which helps with blood clotting
However, since beef is typically high in saturated fat and cholesterol, you do need to mindful of your weekly intake. The USDA recommends that individuals consume only one to two servings per week of lean cuts of beef.
What defines a lean cut of beef?
A 3.5-ounce serving (about 100 grams) is considered lean when it contains less than 10 grams of total fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat and 95 milligrams of cholesterol.
Lean beef selections
Good key words when shopping for beef are "Choice" and "Select"—not "Prime," which usually has more fat. Some grocery stores also label beef with percentages of lean to fat. For example 90/10 means it has 90% lean meat and 10% fat, so that would be a leaner option than beef labeled 80/20.
You can often see the white part of the cut of meat when you select it. This is the visible fat, also known as marbling. Try choosing cuts with the least amount.
Leanest cuts of beef include
- Eye of round roast or steak
- Sirloin tip side steak
- Top round roast and steak
- Bottom round roast and steak
- Top sirloin steak