Is Ground Beef Good for Your Diet?

chopped steaks with rosemary, garlic, egg and thyme
Ground beef patties on a board with an egg, garlic, herbs and spices. (Image: yulia-bogdanova/iStock/Getty Images)

Although ground beef is a good source of protein and provides significant amounts of certain vitamins and minerals, it can also be a major source of fat and cholesterol in the diet. Eating ground beef and other types of red meat may also increase your risk for certain health problems, so it is better to eat red meat only occasionally and rely on other protein sources, such as skinless poultry, seafood and vegetarian protein foods, more often.

Calories, Fat and Cholesterol

Each 3.5-ounce serving of pan-browned 70 percent lean ground beef has 270 calories and 17.9 grams of fat, or 27 percent of the daily value, including 7.2 grams of saturated fat, or 26 percent of the DV. This serving also has 88 milligrams of cholesterol, or 29 percent of the DV. Choose 90 percent lean ground beef instead, and you'll be getting 230 calories, 12 grams of fat, 4.8 grams of saturated fat and 89 milligrams of cholesterol. Consuming too much saturated fat or dietary cholesterol may increase your risk for high cholesterol and heart disease.

Vitamin Content

Ground beef is a good source of B vitamins, with each 3.5-ounce serving of 90 percent lean ground beef providing 34 percent of the DV for niacin, 11 percent of the DV for riboflavin, 21 percent of the DV for vitamin B-6 and 45 percent of the DV for vitamin B-12. Niacin keeps your skin, digestive system and nervous system healthy, and riboflavin is important for heart, muscle and nerve function. You need vitamins B-6 and B-12 for healthy blood cells, and vitamin B-6 helps with immune function.

Essential Minerals

You'll also get significant amounts of some essential minerals if you eat ground beef. Each serving of 90 percent lean ground beef has about 17 percent of the DV for iron, 25 percent of the DV for phosphorus, 12 percent of the DV for potassium, 46 percent of the DV for zinc and 30 percent of the DV for selenium. Iron is important for forming red blood cells; selenium, zinc and phosphorus are essential for forming DNA; and potassium is necessary for nerve and muscle function.

Potential Health Effects

Eating red meat, such as ground beef, isn't the healthiest way to get your protein. A study published in "Current Atherosclerosis Reports" in December 2012 found that eating red meat may increase your risk for Type 2 diabetes. Another study, published in "PLOS Medicine" in December 2007, found that eating red meat may increase your risk for colon, lung, liver and esophageal cancers.

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