South Dakota may boast thousands of acres of soybean fields, but it’s also home to an estimated 4 million head of cattle. That’s nearly five animals for every person in the state! That fact along with its mouthwatering flavor is enough to make us want to throw some steaks on the grill to celebrate.
You can feel good about it too because raising beef cattle is becoming more sustainable and has numerous health benefits. Don’t believe it? We talked with Holly Swee, registered dietitian and director of nutrition and consumer information at the South Dakota Beef Industry Council, who shared five reasons to make beef a regular part of your dinner menu.
Beef packs a big nutrient punch in a small package.
Good things come in tens. One 3-ounce serving of lean beef provides more than 10 percent of 10 essential vitamins and nutrients for less than 10 percent of your daily calories. It also gives you about half of your daily protein.
Can’t say that 10 times fast? Just remember that incorporating beef as a regular source of lean protein in a balanced diet can help with weight maintenance, metabolic health and preventing diseases like type II diabetes.
“Beef is one of those multi-vitamin foods that also tastes great,” said Holly. “It’s very versatile in pairing with other food groups to make balanced meals.”
Raising beef is becoming more sustainable.
Raising beef and growing soybeans are closely connected since cattle eat about 51,000 tons of soybean meal annually. Both are becoming more sustainable everyday thanks to farmers and ranchers who strive for continuous improvements to their farm practices and doing what’s right for the environment for future generations.
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef are working in conjunction with leading agricultural scientists to develop improved sustainability recommendations aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. For example, scientists are using computer models to evaluate the environmental impacts of beef production, from growing the feed to processing the meat.
Beef is part of a heart-healthy lifestyle.
In 2011, scientists compared the health effects of different balanced diets, including one called the Beef in Optimal Lean Diet (BOLD). They discovered that participants who ate lean beef as part of a BOLD diet reduced both their total and LDL cholesterol levels. BOLD dieters ate foods like meatballs with marinara, fajitas, chili and pot roast alongside fresh fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy items.
Beef plays a role in early childhood nutrition.
Babies usually begin to try their first solid foods around 6 months of age. These are called “complementary foods” because they complement the nutrition provided by breast milk and formula. When your child is ready, pediatricians recommend trying pureed or cooked beef as a first food because it is rich in zinc and iron, both of which are necessary for a strong start in life.
Holly recommends that parents look for signs that their babies are ready to consume complementary foods from 6 months of age through toddlerhood.
Beef helps you stay strong as you age.
Beef keeps us strong later life as well. As we age, we run the risk of losing muscle mass unless we boost daily protein intake. Beef offers an excellent, nutrient-dense source of protein that can be eaten every day.
“The really neat story beef has to tell is that it’s a source of protein with a unique nutritional profile that can help people throughout their lifespan,” said Holly.
Ready to cook up some beef for dinner? Here are tips for selecting cuts of meat from your local experts at Uncle Ed’s. Then head over to our recipe page for a delicious ideas, including Beef Bulgogi with Coconut Sticky Rice.
Hungry for Truth is an initiative about food and farming funded by the South Dakota soybean checkoff. The goal is to connect South Dakotans with the farmers who grow and raise their food.