A healthy way to eat lean beef

August 20, 2003|by LYNN F. LITTLE

Looking for a nutrient boost? Tired of expensive vitamin-mineral supplements? Bored with bland low-fat meals? Love to eat beef, but think that it is too high in fat? Think again: Today's beef is leaner than ever, and every bite offers a power pack of nutrients.

Eat beef for health. When it comes to nutrition, beef is full of good news. Beef's "skinny seven" cuts (from the round and loin) offer great taste with minimal fat. For delicious, heart-smart meals, choose lean beef cuts like sirloin, tenderloin, top round and round tip. When selecting ground beef, look for lean packages.

Eat beef for zinc. Beef is the top source of zinc for Americans. One three-ounce serving of lean beef, about the size of a deck of cards, provides nearly 40 percent of the zinc most people need in a day for normal growth and development, as well as healthy immune systems, healing and appetite control.


Eat beef for iron. Even a short-term lack of iron can affect physical and mental functioning. Long-term deficiencies may affect brain development and IQ levels in children. The iron in beef (heme iron) is readily absorbed by the body. Heme iron also helps you absorb iron from other foods.

Eat beef for protein. Three ounces of lean beef contains 50 percent of the recommended amount of the daily protein needed for maintaining muscle mass, supporting immune systems and providing long-lasting energy. That's how beef can add ZIP (zinc, iron and protein) to your meals and snacks.

Eat beef for B vitamins. Beef offers a delicious bundle of several B vitamins; all vital to help your body unleash energy from other foods. Calorie for calorie, lean beef is one of the richest sources of many essential B vitamins - like riboflavin, thiamin and B-12 - that your body needs every day.

Eat beef for selenium. Selenium is an anti-aging, antioxidant nutrient that may help to prevent heart disease and certain types of cancers. Just one three-ounce serving of beef, provides 31 percent of the recommended daily intake of selenium.

You can enjoy the taste of beef and follow a healthful eating plan. The key is to choose lean cuts of beef and use low-fat cooking methods.

Low-fat cooking like broiling, grilling, pan-broiling, frying without fat or stir-frying are quick and work well with cuts from the loin. Marinating less tender cuts with slightly acidic seasoned liquids like wine, soy or Worcestershire sauce, for example, tenderizes and adds flavor.

You can reduce the fat in ground beef crumbles by as much as half by using a simple draining and rinsing technique that adds only a few minutes to your preparation time.

  • After browning crumbled ground beef, transfer with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with white, nonrecycled paper towels.

  • Transfer to a colander and rinse with four cups of hot (not boiling) water. Do not use hot water directly from the tap; the pressure from the faucet can change the texture of the meat.

  • You can brown with onion and garlic for added flavor and then rinse. Add dry seasonings after you have finished the rinsing process.

Preparing meals with lean beef is not a daunting task. You can enjoy a beef meal that's nutritious, delicious and quick to fix.

Beef Fajita Pizza

Preparation time: 10 minutes. Cooking time: 13 minutes.

  • 2 teaspoons chili powder

  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

  • 1/2 pound lean, boneless sirloin steak, trimmed

  • 1/2 cup green pepper strips

  • 1/2 medium-size red onion, thinly sliced and separated into rings

  • 1 (16-ounce) Italian bread shell

  • 1/2 cup chunky salsa

  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese

Place a nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot. While skillet heats, combine chili powder and garlic powder; sprinkle over both sides of steak. Add steak to the skillet; cook 4 minutes on each side. Remove steak from skillet; let stand 5 minutes. Slice steak diagonally across grain into 1/4-inch slices.

While steak stands, arrange pepper strips and onion on bread shell. Arrange steak strips over vegetables. Spoon salsa over steak.

Bake at 450 degrees for 8 minutes; sprinkle with cheese and bake 5 additional minutes.

Serves 4.

Serve with salad.

Lynn F. Little is a family and consumer sciences educator at Maryland Cooperative Extension in Washington County.

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