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Lean beef ideal for nutrient-dense diet

On Jan. 31 the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services jointly released the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The guidelines create the foundation of the nation's nutrition policy and are updated every five years. Specifically, the guidelines recommend Americans establish a nutrient dense diet. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said during the announcement that "not every calorie is the same."

Texas medical doctor and cattleman Richard Thorpe said lean beef contributes to a well- balanced, nutrient-dense diet.

"When reading these guidelines, consumers need to realize that protein-packed lean beef accompanied by an increase in fruits and vegetables translates into a healthy choice. These guidelines reinforce the fact that Americans are overfed, yet undernourished," said Thorpe on behalf of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. "Lean beef is a nutrient-rich food that, on average, provides 10 essential nutrients provided in only 154 calories. The guidelines are calling for a well-balanced diet and lean beef is a good place to start. Unless people are heavily relying on fortified foods, it is difficult for average Americans to meet their nutrient needs within appropriate calorie levels without foods like lean beef."

Thorpe said obesity, especially in children, appears to be a priority of this administration and beef contributes significantly to curbing this epidemic.

Thorpe is one of many cattlemen who invest in the Beef Checkoff Program, which allocates roughly $2 million in nutrition research annually. Shalene McNeill, Ph.D., R.D. and executive director, human nutrition research at NCBA, provided more detail about how Americans' diets have gone off track.

"Given today's focus on obesity, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee uncovered a striking finding: Over the last four decades, Americans have consumed nearly 200 calories more each day from flour and cereal products while calories from meat, eggs and nuts have remained virtually unchanged," said McNeill in a statement issued by the beef checkoff.

McNeill said beef is a perfect solution for managing weight as there are 29 cuts of beef that meet government guidelines for lean, including sirloin, flank steak and 95 percent lean ground beef. She also clarified the departments' direction about fish.

"A recommendation to add fish to your diet doesn't mean you should cut back on lean beef. Both sources of protein offer unique yet equally important nutrients," McNeill said. "Beef is a leading source of several nutrients including protein, iron and zinc while cold-water fish, like salmon, are among top sources of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D."

"Although presumably unintentional, by calling for moderate amounts of lean beef, USDA may confuse some consumers who assume this means we are over consuming red meat. We agree with promoting fruit and vegetable consumption but there is no reason to make it sound like meat is over consumed when that is not at all true," said Thorpe. "On average, U.S. consumers eat 1.7 ounces of U.S. beef daily. To stay healthy, we need to eat 5 to 7 ounces from the meat and beans group daily."

NCBA will continue educating all Americans about the important role lean beef plays in a healthy, well-balanced diet and will work with USDA and HHS to help Americans make healthy choices that include lean beef.



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