The most tender cut of beef comes from the middle of the cow. This area, the central spine portion, between the shoulder blade and hip socket does very little work during the cow's life. Known as beef tenderloin, this section of beef can be cut into various portions, each portion having its own name in the culinary industry. Full of calories, fat and cholesterol, this high-quality meat also packs in quite a large amount of protein per ounce, but contains very little sodium.
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Beef tenderloin can be cut into various sized pieces, and each piece can also be trimmed to leave different amounts of fat. The thickness of the fat left on the cut does not influence the total calories as much as the grade of beef. For all prime tenderloins, a cut leaving 1/8 inch of fat contains about 78 calories per ounce while those with 1/4 inch of fat contain about 80.5 calories per ounce, and cuts with 1/2 inch of fat contain about 81.6 calories per ounce, a difference of about 4 calories between cuts with the most and the least amount of fat. However, a 35 calorie per ounce difference exists between the highest grade, or Prime, beef, and the lowest grade, or Lean Only, beef, because Prime grades contain a significantly higher degree of marbling, which is fat interspersed with the lean portions of the meat. Prime grade tenderloin with 1/8 inch of fat contains about 78 calories per ounce. The lean only variety contains about 43 calories per ounce. Prime beef has the most abundant marbling while Choice, Select, Standard and Lean Only have, in that order, relatively less.
Different cuts of tenderloin contain different amounts of fat. The total fat in beef tenderloin ranges from 1.85 g per ounce to almost 7 g per ounce. A single serving of tenderloin consists of about 3 or 4 ounces of meat. That translates to about 28 g of total fat, almost half your daily recommended allotment. Of this total fat in a Prime cut of tenderloin, about 42 percent is saturated fat. Saturated fats tend to increase your total cholesterol level by increasing the levels of LDL or "bad" cholesterol in your blood. High cholesterol levels increase your risk of heart attack and stroke. The American Heart Association's Nutrition Committee recommends limiting total fat intake to less than 25 to 35 percent of your total calories each day. For a Prime cut of beef tenderloin, 72 percent of the calories come from fat.
Beef tenderloin also contains a significant amount of cholesterol per serving. A Prime cut contains about 20 mg of cholesterol per ounce, or about 80 mg per 4 oz. serving. The American Heart Associates recommends limiting your cholesterol intake to less than 300 milligrams a day, if you are a healthy adult, and less than 200 mg per day if you have coronary heart disease or your LDL cholesterol level is 100 mg/dL or greater. Beef tenderloin provides 33 to 40 percent of that amount in a single serving. A high dietary intake of cholesterol, similar to a high fat intake, can raise your blood cholesterol levels, particularly your levels of LDL cholesterol, increasing your risk for heart disease, heart attack and stroke.
Beef tenderloin contains about 5 to 6 g of protein per ounce, or about 20 to 24 g per 3 to 4 oz. serving. The recommended protein intake for healthy adults per day is about 50 g. A single serving of beef tenderloin provides just about half that amount. For most healthy people, a high-protein diet is generally not harmful if followed for a short time. The problems usually result from carbohydrate restriction or from the type of protein consumed, rather than the high protein intake. Insufficient carbohydrate consumption often accompanies insufficient fiber intake, leading to constipation, diverticulitis, and the potential for an increased risk of certain types of cancer. High-protein diets consisting of red meat, instead of lean chicken, fish, or beans can increase your risk of heart disease as a result of the high levels of fat and cholesterol in red meat.
Sodium and Potassium
Beef tenderloin contains very little sodium, only about 14 mg per ounce. A typical 4 oz. serving contains 56 mg sodium, far less than the amount in some vegetables such as spinach or in many processed snack foods. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the Institute of Medicine both recommend that healthy adults limit sodium intake to no more than 1,500 mg to 2,300 mg per day. Beef tenderloin provides only about 2 percent of this amount. Beef tenderloin also provides a significant amount of potassium, about 90 mg per ounce or about 350 mg per serving. Diets low in sodium and high in potassium and calcium can help lower your blood pressure and prevent and treat osteoporosis.