The world of ribs can be confusing. Common cuts are often labeled differently depending on the grocery store and the area of the country: Spare ribs are an example. Beef spare ribs are more accurately known as beef back ribs. These are taken from the cow's rib section and are the long ribs most often associated with barbecued beef ribs. Short ribs, however, are beef ribs taken from the plate cut. The two require different cooking methods. While back ribs can be braised, roasted or grilled, short ribs are best braised; they can be grilled but only after an initial braising. Both types of ribs are sources of essential nutrients such as protein, vitamins and minerals, but spare, or back, ribs are a fattier -- and less healthy -- choice.
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Back Ribs Higher in Fat
A 3-ounce serving of cooked beef short ribs contains approximately 204 calories and 11.8 grams of total fat, while a 3-ounce serving of cooked beef back ribs has 254 calories and 17.4 grams of fat. Back ribs contain slightly more saturated fat per serving -- 6.9 grams compared to the 5.5 grams in short ribs -- though they have about 10 milligrams less cholesterol than short ribs in every 3 ounces. Short ribs may be a lower-fat choice, but neither cut is considered lean. To include them in a balanced diet, enjoy ribs in moderation and only occasionally.
Similar in Protein Content
Short ribs provide 24.5 grams of protein in every 3-ounce serving. This amount supplies 43 percent of a healthy adult man's daily recommended intake of protein, and 53 percent of a woman's daily protein requirement. Back ribs have nearly an equal amount of protein per serving: approximately 24.1 grams in 3 ounces. The Harvard School of Public Health cautions that you should consume red meats like beef no more than twice a week to lower your risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
Excellent Sources of Different B Vitamins
While both short ribs and back ribs contain vitamin B-12, vitamin B-6, niacin, riboflavin and thiamine, the two rib cuts have higher amounts of different nutrients. Short ribs are especially rich in vitamin B-12. With 3.3 micrograms in a 3-ounce serving, these ribs fulfill over 100 percent of the 2.4-microgram recommended daily allowance of the nutrient for healthy adult men and women. Adults should have 1.3 milligrams of vitamin B-6 daily. A 3-ounce serving of cooked back ribs contains 0.5 milligram of vitamin B-6, or 38 percent of the required daily intake of vitamin B-6 for an adult.
Short Ribs a Better Choice for Minerals
Back ribs and short ribs are sources of a wide variety of minerals, including magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorus and copper. Short ribs, however, contain around 28 micrograms of selenium in every 3-ounce serving, or 49 percent of an adult's requirement of the mineral per day, while back ribs have 24 micrograms. They are also a superior source of zinc. Each 3-ounce serving of cooked short ribs has 10 milligrams of zinc -- over 100 percent of the RDA for women and nearly as much for men -- while back ribs have just 5.1 milligrams per serving.