Benefits of beef


Source: Beef 101: Nutrition Facts and Health Effects (healthline.com)

Beef is the meat of cattle (Bos taurus).

It is categorized as red meat — a term used for the meat of mammals, which contains higher amounts of iron than chicken or fish.

Usually eaten as roasts, ribs, or steaks, beef is also commonly ground or minced. Patties of ground beef are often used in hamburgers.

Processed beef products include corned beef, beef jerky, and sausages.

Fresh, lean beef is rich in various vitamins and minerals, especially iron and zinc. Therefore, moderate intake of beef can be recommended as part of a healthy diet (1Trusted Source).

This article tells you everything you need to know about beef.

Nutrition facts

Beef is primarily composed of protein and varying amounts of fat.

Here are the nutrition facts for a 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of broiled, ground beef with 10% fat content (2Trusted Source):

  • Calories: 217

  • Water: 61%

  • Protein: 26.1 grams

  • Carbs: 0 grams

  • Sugar: 0 grams

  • Fiber: 0 grams

  • Fat: 11.8 grams

Protein

Meat — such as beef — is mainly composed of protein.

The protein content of lean, cooked beef is about 26–27% (2Trusted Source).

Animal protein is usually of high quality, containing all nine essential amino acids needed for the growth and maintenance of your body (3Trusted Source).

As the building blocks of proteins, amino acids are very important from a health perspective. Their composition in proteins varies widely, depending on the dietary source.

Meat is one of the most complete dietary sources of protein, its amino acid profile being almost identical to that of your own muscles.

For this reason, eating meat — or other sources of animal protein — may be of particular benefit after surgery and for recovering athletes. In combination with strength exercise, it also helps maintain and build muscle mass (3Trusted Source).

Fat

Beef contains varying amounts of fat — also called beef tallow.

Apart from adding flavor, fat increases the calorie content of meat considerably.

The amount of fat in beef depends on the level of trimming and the animal’s age, breed, gender, and feed. Processed meat products, such as sausages and salami, tend to be high in fat.

Lean meat is generally about 5–10% fat (4Trusted Source).

Beef is mainly composed of saturated and monounsaturated fat, present in approximately equal amounts. The major fatty acids are stearic acid, oleic acid, and palmitic acid (3Trusted Source).

Food products from ruminant animals — such as cows and sheep — also harbor trans fats known as ruminant trans fats (5Trusted Source).

Unlike their industrially-produced counterparts, naturally-occurring ruminant trans fats are not considered unhealthy.

The most common is conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which is found in beef, lamb, and dairy products (5Trusted Source, 6Trusted Source).

CLA has been linked to various health benefits — including weight loss. Still, large doses in supplements may have harmful metabolic consequences (7Trusted Source, 8, 9Trusted Source, 10Trusted Source, 11Trusted Source).

Vitamins and minerals

The following vitamins and minerals are abundant in beef:

  • Vitamin B12. Animal-derived foods, such as meat, are the only good dietary sources of vitamin B12, an essential nutrient that is important for blood formation and your brain and nervous system.

  • Zinc. Beef is very rich in zinc, a mineral that is important for body growth and maintenance.

  • Selenium. Meat is generally a rich source of selenium, an essential trace element that serves a variety of functions in your body (12Trusted Source).

  • Iron. Found in high amounts in beef, meat iron is mostly in the heme form, which is absorbed very efficiently (13Trusted Source).

  • Niacin. One of the B vitamins, niacin (vitamin B3) has various important functions in your body. Low niacin intake has been associated with an increased risk of heart disease (14Trusted Source).

  • Vitamin B6. A family of B vitamins, vitamin B6 is important for blood formation and energy metabolism.

  • Phosphorus. Widely found in foods, phosphorus intake is generally high in the Western diet. It’s essential for body growth and maintenance.

Beef contains many other vitamins and minerals in lower amounts.

Processed beef products, such as sausages, may be particularly high in sodium (salt).

Other meat compounds

Like plants, meat contains a number of bioactive substances and antioxidants, which may affect health when consumed in adequate amounts.

Some of the most prominent compounds in beef include:

  • Creatine. Abundant in meat, creatine serves as an energy source for muscles. Creatine supplements are commonly taken by bodybuilders and may be beneficial for muscle growth and maintenance (15Trusted Source, 16Trusted Source).

  • Taurine. Found in fish and meat, taurine is an antioxidant amino acid and a common ingredient in energy drinks. It’s produced by your body and important for heart and muscle function (17Trusted Source, 18Trusted Source, 19Trusted Source).

  • Glutathione. An antioxidant found in most whole foods, glutathione is particularly abundant in meat. It’s found in higher amounts in grass-fed beef than in grain-fed (20Trusted Source, 21Trusted Source).

  • Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). CLA is a ruminant trans fat that may have various health benefits when consumed as part of a healthy diet (7Trusted Source, 8).

  • Cholesterol. This compound serves many functions in your body. In most people, dietary cholesterol has little effect on blood cholesterol and is generally not considered a health concern (22Trusted Source).

Health benefits of beef

Beef is a rich source of high-quality protein and various vitamins and minerals. As such, it can be an excellent component of a healthy diet.

Maintaining muscle mass

Like all types of meat, beef is an excellent source of high-quality protein.

It contains all of the essential amino acids and is referred to as a complete protein.

Many people — especially older adults — don’t consume enough high-quality protein.

Inadequate protein intake may accelerate age-related muscle wasting, increasing your risk of an adverse condition known as sarcopenia (23Trusted Source).

Sarcopenia is a serious health issue among older adults but can be prevented or reversed with strength exercises and increased protein intake.

The best dietary sources of protein are animal-derived foods, such as meat, fish, and milk products.

In the context of a healthy lifestyle, regular consumption of beef — or other sources of high-quality protein — may help preserve muscle mass, reducing your risk of sarcopenia.

Improved exercise performance

Carnosine is a compound important for muscle function (24Trusted Source, 25Trusted Source).

It’s formed in your body from beta-alanine, a dietary amino acid found in high amounts in fish and meat — including beef.

Supplementing with high doses of beta-alanine for 4–10 weeks has been shown to lead to a 40–80% increase in carnosine levels in muscles (26Trusted Source, 24Trusted Source, 27Trusted Source, 28Trusted Source).

In contrast, following a strict vegetarian diet may lead to lower levels of carnosine in muscles over time (29Trusted Source).

In human muscles, high levels of carnosine have been linked to reduced fatigue and improved performance during exercise (26Trusted Source, 30Trusted Source, 31Trusted Source, 32Trusted Source).

Additionally, controlled studies suggest that beta-alanine supplements can improve running time and strength (33Trusted Source, 34Trusted Source).

Anemia prevention

Anemia is a common condition, characterized by a decreased number of red blood cells and reduced ability of the blood to carry oxygen.

Iron deficiency is one of the most common causes of anemia. The main symptoms are tiredness and weakness.

Beef is a rich source of iron — mainly in the form of heme iron.

Only found in animal-derived foods, heme iron is often very low in vegetarian — and especially vegan — diets (35Trusted Source).

Your body absorbs heme iron much more efficiently than non-heme iron — the type of iron in plant-derived foods (13Trusted Source).

Thus, meat not only contains a highly bioavailable form of iron but also improves the absorption of non-heme iron from plant foods — a mechanism that has not been fully explained and is referred to as the “meat factor.”

A few studies indicate that meat can increase the absorption of non-heme iron even in meals that contain phytic acid, an inhibitor of iron absorption (36Trusted Source, 37Trusted Source, 38Trusted Source).

Another study found that meat supplements were more effective than iron tablets at maintaining iron status in women during a period of exercise (39Trusted Source).

Therefore, eating meat is one of the best ways to prevent iron deficiency anemia.

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