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Heart-healthy and satisfying

Beef kabobs

If you’ve been watching what you eat over worries about cholesterol and heart health, you don’t have to only eat boneless, skinless chicken breast, nutrition experts say.

The latest research shows that our dietary cholesterol doesn’t have as big of an impact on our blood cholesterol levels as previous thought.

As a result, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines have changed and no longer place a limit on the number of eggs you should eat in a day.

The guidelines also recommend including lean cuts of meat, like beef, in a healthy diet.

That’s good news for those of us looking to adopt a heart-healthy diet or to lose weight, says Rochelle Gilman, a registered dietitian with the Iowa Beef Industry Council.

“Beef is so satisfying. And if you can eat foods that you enjoy and feel satisfied, that helps you stick with a healthy lifestyle,” says Gilman, who recently spoke to a group of Iowa cardiologists about the benefits of beef and other lean meats in a heart-healthy diet.

Gilman cited new research that looked at how lean meat can fit into the Mediterranean Diet, a widely respected and popular eating plan that’s recommended for heart health.

The research found that people who follow a Mediterranean-style eating plan that includes 18 ounces of red meat per week, along with poultry and fish, can improve their heart-disease risk factors, Gilman says. These improvements include lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Widely recommended for its heart-healthy benefits, the Mediterranean Diet is rich in fruits and vegetables, nuts, whole grains and healthy fats, such as olive oil.

Perhaps surprisingly, people in Mediterranean countries actually eat just as much – and sometimes more – meat than Americans do, Gilman says.

However, unlike Americans, who typically eat their beef burgers with fries, Mediterraneans eat more healthy sides, like vegetables, olives and nuts, she says.

“When you include those healthy fats in your diet, it helps keep you satisfied, and that’s a big part of trying not to eat too many calories is feeling satisfied and full,” Gilman says.

One-half of the fat in beef is mono-unsaturated fat, the same fat that’s found in olive oil, Gilman notes.

The American Heart Association also recommends lean beef as part of a heart-healthy diet.

Lean beef includes cuts from the round and loin, which also happen to be the most popular cuts in the grocery store, Gilman says. These cuts include the bottom round steak, sirloin tip steak and extra lean ground beef.

And if you’re trying to lose weight, the protein in beef can help you feel full longer and help maintain muscle mass while losing fat, Gilman says.

A 3-ounce serving of beef is just 150 calories and is packed with essential nutrients, like iron, protein, zinc, selenium and choline (for brain health), she explains.

“It’s all about lifestyle,” Gilman says. “Try to increase (physical) activity; try to get to a healthy body weight. Protein is so important to help people feel full longer. It allows them to help control their appetite and reach their weight loss goals.”

Gilman recommends checking out www.beefitswhatsfordinner.com for heart-healthy Mediterranean Diet recipes, including Greek steak wraps, which she says are a hit even with the meat-and-potatoes farmers in her family.

“Healthy food can really taste good,” Gilman says. “That’s my challenge as a dietitian, to show that healthy food can taste good and be satisfying.”

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