Let me introduce you to Mr. Brad Briggs:
My name is Brad Briggs. I’m a third-year pharmacy student at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, but I also have a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in animal science from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. To a lot of people, these might seem like two totally different worlds, but they actually have a lot in common. Pharmacy wants to keep patients healthy while keeping the cost of healthcare to the most reasonable level possible. Farmers and ranchers focus on producing products that are safe, affordable, and the highest possible quality. We both care about the consumer in terms of safety, affordability, and quality of our products and services. Pharmacists and farmers both want their consumers to be happy and healthy.
We spend hours upon hours in pharmacy school learning drugs, interactions, side effects, treatment algorithms etc. to treat our patients in the most effective manner possible, but we also focus on non-pharmacological interventions including healthy eating habits. A large part of what keeps you healthy is what you choose to put in your cupboard and refrigerator. Sometimes certain meats, like beef, can get a bad rap when it comes to things like heart health. I love beef, and I also care about heart health. The two things are not mutually exclusive. My goal in this article is to talk about dietary recommendations for fat and sodium intake in regards to heart health while making recommendations on cuts of beef that help you stay within those goals.
First I would like to start with some basic definitions (I was a high school science teacher for two years, bear with me). Saturated fats are simply fats that don’t have any double bonds between carbon atoms. That just means that most saturated fats are solids at room temperature. Examples of saturated fats are butter, cheese, and various other animal fats. Trans fats are fats with kinks in their chemical structure. In many cases, they are artificially produced. The restaurant industry commonly uses trans fats in their deep fryers because they can be used longer without having to change the oil. Some places like New York have outlawed the use of trans fats in food preparation because they have such a negative impact on health. Trans fats raise bad (LDL) cholesterol and lower good (HDL) cholesterol. Trans fats are commonly found in baked goods like donuts, pie crusts, and biscuits among other things. Lean beef is defined by the USDA as 3.5 ounces or 100 grams of cooked beef that contains less than 10 grams total fat, 4.5 grams saturated fat, and 95 milligrams of cholesterol. Extra-lean beef is defined as a 3.5 ounces or 100 grams of cooked beef that contains less than 5 grams total fat, 2 grams saturated fat, and 95 milligrams of cholesterol.
29 cuts of lean beef that have a total fat content that is between that of a skinless chicken breast and a skinless chicken thigh. A safe bet for lean beef when shopping is to look for “loin” or “round” on the package. You can always ask the butcher if you have questions as well. The butcher at my local chain grocery store is extremely friendly and helpful.
The American Heart Association gives us our basic guidelines for fat and salt intake for a heart healthy lifestyle. The recommended intake of saturated fat for someone trying to lower their cholesterol is 5 to 6% of their total daily calories. For someone eating 2,000 calories a day, that is about 13 grams of saturated fat total per day. To put that into beef terms, that
is about 6.8 ounces of top sirloin steak or 5.6 ounces of 95% lean ground beef which are both considered lean cuts of beef. The American Heart Association does not have a specific value for trans-fat consumption. Best practice would be to generally avoid anything that has added trans-fat by reading the nutrition labels. Excessive trans-fat should not be a major concern when purchasing beef products. As far as salt, the AHA recommends less than 2,300 milligrams a day. Ideally an adult would consume less than 1,500 milligrams of salt per day, but even reducing whatever your current sodium level is by 1,000 milligrams a day can have a very positive impact on blood pressure and heart health. The naturally occurring sodium in beef is negligible ranging from about 30 to 60 milligrams for a 3-ounce serving.
Beef can be a heart friendly meat choice, but like in most aspects of life, moderation is the key. It is important to have a healthy diet as well as some sort of exercise routine in order to have a healthy heart. Your pharmacist or other healthcare provider can always answer any questions you may have about food choices or salt substitutes that might be right for you. It has been my pleasure to be your future pharmacist at the meat counter.