Steak Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits – Steak might not be the first food to come to mind when putting together a healthy menu. Although red meat has been associated with muscle-building for quite some time, concerns about heart health leave many people unsure about whether or not steak can be a healthy addition to their diet.
In moderation, steak provides benefits that can help meet your nutritional needs. Replacing processed meats with freshly cooked steak (especially when it’s grass-fed) is a good step towards improving your eating habits.
Steak Nutrition Facts
The fat and protein content of steak will vary depending on the cut of meat and how it’s prepared. The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for 3 ounces (85g) of grilled beef tenderloin, with the fat trimmed
Steak is naturally free of carbohydrates, including sugar and fiber.
Steak can be made leaner by trimming the fat before cooking and choosing leaner cuts of meat. Beef contains a mix of saturated and unsaturated fatty acids. As opposed to grain-fed beef, grass-fed beef is lower in total fat and has a more favorable fatty acid profile.2
Remember that cooking method will also influence nutritional values. For example, cooking steak with butter adds 100 calories and 11 grams of fat for every tablespoon of butter used.3
Steak is an excellent source of high-quality protein. As with other animal proteins, beef is a complete protein and offers all of the essential amino acids required by the body.4
Vitamins and Minerals
Beef is a good source of vitamin B12, niacin, selenium, iron, and zinc. Grass-fed beef is higher in the precursors to vitamins A and E than conventionally grown grain-fed beef.2
Eating enough protein is essential, and steak is an excellent source. Research shows that unprocessed meats, like steak, are superior choices when compared to processed meat.
Reduces Muscle Wasting
Sarcopenia is the natural loss of muscle with age. Loss of muscle leads to a higher risk of injury and reduced independence for seniors. Studies have shown that animal protein intake is associated with higher retention of muscle mass, even in older adults who do not exercise.5 Keeping steak on the menu for older adults may help preserve muscle mass and functioning.
Beef offers protein and zinc, two essential nutrients for the immune system.6 Along with washing your hands and eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, a moderate portion of steak can provide nutritional support for fending off colds and viruses.
Lowers Risk of Anemia
Steak provides iron and vitamin B12 which are crucial for the prevention of anemia.7 Symptoms of anemia include fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath, paleness, headaches, and cold hands and feet. Consuming iron-rich foods, like steak, can help prevent anemia for most people.
Provides a Heart Healthier Option
Despite assumptions from the past, it appears that red meat alone is not the cause of heart disease. Studies show that processed meats pose a greater threat to heart health than freshly prepared meats, like steak.8
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Although you shouldn’t necessarily increase your intake of red meat, choosing steak instead of lunch meats, for instance, is a beneficial change with less sodium and preservatives. Balancing your intake of steak with heart-healthy fruits and vegetables will also reduce your risks.
May Prevent Diabetes
Similarly, processed meats appear to cause a greater risk of type 2 diabetes than unprocessed meats, like steak.8 While a meal plan based on seafood, nuts, beans, fruits, and vegetables is preferable to eating lots of red meat, choosing steak instead of cured bacon or processed chicken nuggets appears to be a positive step for disease prevention.
Meat allergies are uncommon, but a strange reaction after tick bites has been shown to produce IgE-mediated reactions to red meat.9 Severe hypersensitivity symptoms, including anaphylaxis, sometimes appear as a delayed meat allergy. If you notice allergy symptoms from eating steak, contact your doctor for a full evaluation.
The American Heart Association recommends limiting your intake of saturated fats to about 13 grams per day.10 While steak generally has less fat than ground beef, it still contributes to your total daily intake. Watch portion sizes and consume leaner cuts of steak to avoid elevating your cholesterol levels.
Steaks come in different varieties based on the cut of meat. Higher fat percentages produce more tender cuts of meat. Meat quality is graded by the USDA as Prime, Choice, and Select.11 This grading system is intended to help consumers determine the quality and expected yield of meat.
- Prime beef is sold in restaurants. It has lots of marbling and comes from well-fed, young cattle. Dry-heat cooking methods (like grilling, roasting, and broiling) works well for Prime cuts.
- Choice beef has less marbling but is still high-quality. Dry cooking Choice beef is fine as long as it’s not overcooked. Choice beef may be prepared by simmering or braising as well.
- Select beef is leaner than Prime and Choice. It’s usually marinated to preserve tenderness.
Studies have shown that muscles from the chuck are more desirable than the round.12 Leaner varieties of steak can be tenderized with certain preparation methods, like marinating and slicing it thin. Because beef gets leaner as it goes from Prime to Select, the protein content goes up and the fat content goes down.
Select beef has 5% to 20% less fat than the same cut of Choice beef. Compared to Prime, Select beef has up to 40% less fat.13 Much of the beef sold in grocery stores is ungraded or considered to be Commercial grade (one level below Select). Although the USDA’s grading system favors fattier cuts of beef, you can still create a flavorful and healthy steak from leaner cuts by using the right preparation methods.
Storage and Food Safety
Always wash your hands before and after handling raw meat. Keep raw steaks apart from other foods in the refrigerator to avoid spreading dangerous bacteria. Use separate utensils and cutting boards for raw meat and wash them well in hot, soapy water after use.
Cooking beef to the proper temperature kills bacteria that can be especially harmful for pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems. Beef steaks must be cooked to 145 degrees Fahrenheit and let to rest for 3 minutes before eating or carving (ground beef should be cooked to 160 degrees).14
Food safety risks for pregnant women. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
How to Prepare
Trim visible fat off of steak before prepping it. You can also ask your butcher to trim the fat or buy steaks that already have the extra fat removed. Choose a lean cooking method such as broiling, grilling, or roasting for a healthier meal. Keep portion control in mind—a single serving of steak is just 3 ounces. Prepare steak as part of a stir-fry dish with vegetables and teriyaki sauce, or fajitas with spices and lots of vegetables to create balanced meals.