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Beef: It’s what’s healthy for dinner

Beef dinner

To achieve your healthy-eating goals, it’s important to include foods that you enjoy in your diet, says Rochelle Gilman, a registered dietitian with the Iowa Beef Industry Council.

“If you deprive yourself of the foods you enjoy eating, you are not going to stick with it,” Gilman says.

The reason why high-protein diets are so popular right now is that protein helps you feel satisfied and full longer, so you eat fewer calories, Gilman says.

High-protein diets that include lean beef can help with weight loss, according to the new Beef WISE (weight improvement, satisfaction and energy) study, sponsored by America’s cattle farmers.

“People enjoy eating beef, and now they can eat it and know that they are getting health benefits from that,” Gilman says.

For the Beef WISE study, half the participants consumed four or more servings of beef per week as part of a high-protein diet. The remaining participants didn’t consume any red meat but still followed a high-protein diet.

People in both groups lost equal amounts of body weight and fat mass while preserving muscle, the study found.

One of the key findings, Gilman explains, is that the high-protein diet that included beef helped participants maintain muscle and lose fat. About 80 to 90 percent of their weight loss was fat, she says.

“That’s a key with weight loss diets, because you want to maintain that lean muscle as much as possible. That’s what supports overall strength and keeps you energized,” Gilman says.

The study also found that a high-protein diet that includes beef didn’t have a negative effect on heart disease risk factors. LDL cholesterol (or the “bad” cholesterol) and blood pressure levels all improved, Gilman says.

“People tend to think about beef in terms of what it was 30 years ago, but it’s leaner today,” Gilman says.

“This should give confidence in knowing that you can enjoy eating lean beef in a healthy diet and maintain your muscle and not affect heart disease risk factors.”

Research also shows that eating protein is important as we age to prevent muscle loss, which improves our mobility and helps us stay active and independent, Gilman adds.

Beef is considered a high-quality, or “complete,” protein source because it contains all the essential amino acids that are easily digestible, Gilman says.

Most plant-based proteins are “in­complete” proteins because they lack one or more essential amino acids and are less digestible.

For example, a 3-ounce serving of lean beef, at 150 calories, provides half your daily protein needs and nine other essential nutrients, Gilman says.

It would take about 6 tablespoons of peanut butter, totaling 564 calories, to equal the 25 grams of protein in a 3-ounce serving of beef.

“As a protein source, I really look at beef as a calorie saver. To get the same amount of protein as that 3 ounces of beef, you’re eating considerably more calories with plant-based proteins,” Gilman says.

Gilman recommends spreading out your protein intake throughout the day to help keep you full and avoid blood sugar “crashes.”

“I recommend a lean protein source at every meal and every snack,” Gilman says. “A great snack is beef jerky. It’s portable, it’s low in carbohydrates, it’s high in high-quality protein. There are lots of great beef jerkys and all kinds of flavors and varieties. There are even beef jerky trail mixes that are available.”

Another quick snack or lunch idea is to wrap dried beef or deli roast beef around a piece of string cheese, Gilman says.

She also mixes up batches of beef jerky trail mix (see recipe below) for cattle farmers to snack on when they attend meetings at the Iowa Beef Industry Council. “They’ve loved it,” she says.

While many of us focus on weight loss in the new year, Gilman instead encourages Iowans to make small lifestyle changes to improve your overall health. “Anything drastic, you are not going to stick with,” she says.

These small changes include drinking more water and eating a well-balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and dairy, along with lean protein.

Finding ways to be more active during the day also helps with weight loss and maintenance, Gilman says. Walking is a great activity, and it doesn’t cost any money other than a good pair of walking shoes, she says.

For more information about the Beef WISE study and beef nutrition, visit www.beefitswhatsfordinner.com.

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