Beef offers protein, weight loss solutions

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February is a month all about hearts. The first thing most people generally think of related to February and hearts is Valentine’s Day. But along with this holiday, February is heart health month and this year, it is also home to the beef industry’s “I Heart Beef” campaign.

Valentine’s Day is filled with romance, love and for many people, a good steak. According to the Cattlemen’s Beef Board website, sponsored by the Beef Checkoff Program, 62 percent of Americans indicated in a recent survey that their top meat choice in February is beef. Some reasons behind this include about 40 percent of Americans associate steak with “love,” “romance” and “passion,” more than any other protein source. A Feb. 2 article in “Beef Magazine” also stated that over half of Americans identify filet mignon as their top choice for a romantic candle-lit dinner.

Galen Fink, owner of Fink Beef and partner of Little Apple Brewing Company, said, “I like peanut butter and other protein products too, but nothing satisfies like a good steak.”

Along with taste buds, Fink also believes consumers choose beef for ease of preparation and even for weight loss.

“I’ve lost quite a few pounds from time to time by replacing unhealthy snacks with lean beef jerky as part of a high protein diet,” Fink said.

With all of this romantic beef consumption, a question often arises, “Is beef safe and healthy for consumption?”

A consensus from nutritionists, beef producers and experts alike seems to be that yes, beef can be part of a safe and healthy diet.

The main recommendation from all sources seems to be that a moderate amount of red meat in a diet is healthy.

The beef industry has put millions of dollars into beef product safety, and over $350 million is spent every year on inspections and testing of beef products, according to the Explore Beef website, www.explorebeef.org.

BeefNutrition.org states that lean beef provides 10 essential nutrients-including zinc, vitamin B and iron in only 154 calories, while it would take two to three times the amount of calories for plant-based protein products to provide the same amount of nutrients.

“With today’s focus on obesity, lean beef is a solution that satisfies our appetites and provides more nutrients for fewer calories than many other foods,” said Cheryl Hendricks, a registered dietitian with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

Information attained from Heidi Wells, director of nutrition for the Kansas Beef Council and the

Missouri Beef Industry Council, states that beef is considered a “complete protein” because it provides all essential amino acids for muscle growth and weight management.

Michael Dikeman, professor of animal science and industry, said that the saturated fatty acid in beef is called “stearic fatty acid.” This acid is converted to a monounsaturated fatty acid when consumed by humans. He also said beef contains a small amount of a healthy fatty acids called “conjugated linoleic fatty acid.”

It is also suggested that consuming lean beef may help lower the risk of heart disease.

“Choline, one of the 10 essential nutrients found in beef, may play a role in breaking down homocysteine, an amino acid in the blood that may be associated with increased risk of heart disease,” Dikeman said.

The American Heart Association recently identified three lean cuts of beef that qualify as part of their Food Certification Program. These cuts include boneless top sirloin petite roast, top sirloin filet and top sirloin kabob. These three cuts will now display the American Heart Association’s heart-check mark on their packaging.

The American Heart Association established the heart-check mark in 1995 to give consumers an easy, reliable system for identifying heart-healthy foods as a first step in building a sensible eating plan. Approximately 800 products that bear the heart-check mark have been screened and verified by the association to meet criteria for saturated fat and cholesterol, according to heartcheckmark.org.

“The bottom line is that lean beef is a safe, wholesome, nutrient-rich protein source that can fit into the healthy lifestyle of all consumers,” Wells said.

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