Beef, especially ground beef, generally has a bad reputation in the nutrition world due to its saturated fat content. Because the saturated fat is ground into the meat, it’s more difficult to remove than with a steak or whole piece of beef from which the fat can be easily trimmed away. Fortunately, ground beef is a good source of protein and other essential nutrients and can be part of a well-rounded, wholesome menu. The most important rule of thumb is to keep ground beef consumption within recommended daily allowances for calories, protein and fat.
Calories and Protein
A 3-ounce portion of pan-browned 93 percent ground beef contains roughly 180 calories and 24 grams of protein. Based on a 2,000 calorie per day diet requiring 50 grams of protein, this serving size provides 9 percent of daily calories and close to half the required protein. It’s important to note that individual calorie and protein needs vary based on a person’s age, weight, height and activity level, but most people get more than enough protein on a daily basis. Ground beef servings – in a hamburger or a slice of meatloaf, for example – are usually well above 3 ounces, so it’s important to keep a tally on how much ground beef you’re consuming.
The same 3-ounce portion of 93 percent ground beef also contains about 8.2 grams of total fat, with 3.4 grams as saturated fat. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines from the USDA recommends healthy adults consume no more than 20 to 35 percent of daily calories from fat, and the preferred fat is unsaturated. The 8.2 grams of fat in this serving provide about 74 calories. Based on a 2,000 calorie per day diet, the fat content in this serving of ground beef is 3.6 to 6.3 percent of the recommended 20 to 35 fat percent per day.
According to ChooseMyPlate.gov, ground beef that is 90 percent or more lean is an acceptable lean beef choice. However, even lean beef contains some saturated fat. Excessive dietary intake of saturated fat may lead to high cholesterol levels and heart disease. For the healthiest possible menu, the American Dietetic Association recommends sticking to 3-ounce portions of beef. If you have difficulty limiting your portion size to 3 ounces, it’s best to eat beef less often than other protein sources, like poultry, fish or legumes.
Vitamins and Minerals
A 3-ounce portion of 93 percent lean ground beef contains around 2.6 milligrams iron, 23 milligrams magnesium, 5.8 milligrams zinc and 18 micrograms selenium, helping to support good health, cell growth, energy balance and immunity. This serving fulfills roughly 40 percent of the iron, 8 percent of the magnesium, 77 percent of the zinc and 40 percent of the selenium needed by an average healthy adult.