To Beef or Not To Beef: Nutrition Facts about a Misunderstood Food

By Amanda Van Dall, ASU Nutrition Student

It’s about progress, not perfection. We are all on divergent paths with different goals. Yet we share similar situations, such as nourishing ourselves with a proper breakfast for the long day’s journey. Which should be simple. However, even basic needs can be laden with multiple difficulties. While the social media revolution has imbued us with a wealth of information, it also demands a hefty investment of our time. We often spend our breakfast paying more attention to the latest article on nutrition rather than to our food, which waits patiently as it cools slowly.

Nutrition education is a laudable topic. But an information overload can have deleterious side effects, especially when conflicting information is presented. The morning ritual of breakfast itself is the ideal metaphor for our obsession with Nutrition, with a capital N. This preoccupation should be replaced with the reality about food. In the past, orange juice was considered a healthy start to a wonderful day. Now we know the detrimental effects of excess sugars. Eggs were dietary grenades, waiting to kill you with cholesterol. Currently, they have renewed approval from peer-reviewed health journals and prosaic kitchen tables. Even opinions on breads and grains can be as polar as any political debate. Yet the center of the dietary debate revolves around our favorite food: beef. Few foods have been acclaimed and vilified as often as meat. Who would have thought there would be so much argument over a little sausage?

For this article, we shall focus on the nutritional constituents of beef. The goal here is to reveal beef as less of a mercurial entity and more of the dietary superstar that it is.

  • Vitamins and Minerals:
  • B3 (niacin) – Contrary to widespread belief, beef may help prevent heart disease. This is due to the abundance of niacin in each serving. This valuable B vitamin has many uses throughout the body, but one of its main functions is the maintenance of coronary health.
  • B12 (cobalamin) – This B vitamin, which is essential in dozens of enzymatic reactions ranging from neuronal function to blood production, is found in only one dietary source: meat, especially red meat. In addition, B12 is the most potent methylating B vitamin.
  • Iron – The iron which is redolent in red meat is in the heme form, which is assimilated more easily and readily by the body.
  • Phosphorus – The best source of this mineral, which is essential for growth and development, is from food.
  • Selenium – The importance of this potent micromineral is not simply due to its minuscule size. Although supplementation of selenium is of paramount importance, the supplement itself may prevent proper assimilation. When selenium is paired in a pill which contains larger macrominerals such as calcium and magnesium, absorption is often blocked due to size preference. Which is why maintaining a steady supply of selenium via food sources is crucial.
  • Zinc – This mineral maintains health as well as facilitates growth. Due to soil nutrient depletion caused by unsustainable farming, the true nutrient content of fruits and vegetables has become an estimate instead of a statement. Zinc deficiency has a long list of deleterious side effects, which is why it may be prudent to add portions of zinc-reach beef into one’s dietary regime.

 

  • Essential amino acids (all 8), especially:
  • Creatine – An energy source for working muscles.
  • Taurine – An essential amino acid for cardiac muscle health.
  • Glutathione – A master detoxifier which is essential for healthy living.
  • Protein in general, which provides the building blocks for everyone from athletes recovering from surgery to older adults who aim to allay sarcopenia.

 

3) Good fats and good cholesterol:

  • Major fatty acids, including oleic acid, palmitic acid, stearic acid – Which the body stores as energy reserves for efficient functioning.
  • CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) – An energy source which goes to where it is needed while avoiding traditional areas of fat accumulation, which has given it a dubious reputation as a fat loss aid.
  • Although further research is warranted, current research is stating that dietary cholesterol has little effect on blood cholesterol. Since cholesterol is vital to several biological functions, including arterial maintenance, consuming grass-fed beef products will help provide the body with the materials it requires.

 

The list of health benefits could continue for miles, but we’ll end here while the outlook is sunny. The are several paths on the road to proper health. During our journey, we each must determine which diet works for us to fuel our quest to become our best. Utilize all available resources and technology to decide which foods work for you. But also use information responsibly. Any food, including beef, should be properly researched, instead of automatically discarded due to fallacious public opinions. It is an option, not an answer. Use food wisely, and you shall become wise.

 

About Amanda:  Amanda is a past allopathic medical student who is vacillating between completing a naturopathic medical degree or becoming a registered dietitian. She’s been graced with the good fortune of being formed amongst the beautiful rural communities between Colorado and Wyoming, then being polished amidst the sagacious states of Massachusetts and New York. Her halcyon country days and elucidating urban experiences have given her a balanced and unique perspective on topics, including the unwarranted vilification of certain supplements and foods (especially beef).

 

In the past, she’s been drifting between vocations such as health coach, personal trainer, supplement seller, part-time cowgirl, and aberrant traveler (including a brief stint with the Tamil Nadu, India branch of the International Alliance for the Prevention of AIDS). Currently, she’s preparing for a permanent move to Berlin.

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