SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — The South Dakota Beef Industry Council is partnering with health care providers like Sanford Health to promote lean beef as part of the diet during February Heart Month.

Mary Aukes, a registered dietitian at Sanford Cardiovascular Institute in Sioux Falls, said the science backs their recommendations regarding lean beef and cardiovascular health.

“The research does show that lean meat and lean beef can be included in a heart-healthy diet,” she said.

In fact, over 20 studies of lean beef in healthy dietary patterns support a role for lean beef in a heart-healthy diet and lifestyle. In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers from Penn State University found that people who participated in the Beef in an Optimal Lean Diet (BOLD) Study maintained healthy blood cholesterol levels while consuming a dietary pattern rich in vegetables, fruit, whole grains, nuts and beans, with lean beef as the primary protein source. The Beef WISE study was also conducted by the University of Colorado Anschutz Health and Wellness Center. It demonstrates that eating lean beef four or more times per week, as part of a healthy, higher-protein diet combined with physical activity, can help people lose weight and fat while maintaining lean muscle and supporting heart health.

During February Heart Month, the SDBIC is also sharing easy lean beef and heart-healthy eating tips. There are more than 36 cuts of beef that meet government guidelines for lean protein and support heart-healthy eating.

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“The area of the beef where you’re going to typically find that leaner cut of meat will be the loin part of that meat or the round,” Aukes said.

Mary Aukes, a registered dietician at Sanford Cardiovascular Institute in Sioux Falls, said the science backs recommendations regarding lean beef and cardiovascular health. (Michelle Rook / Agweek)
Mary Aukes, a registered dietician at Sanford Cardiovascular Institute in Sioux Falls, said the science backs recommendations regarding lean beef and cardiovascular health. (Michelle Rook / Agweek)
She suggests any excess fat be trimmed before serving and that lean cuts be prepared in healthy ways such as broiling, roasting or poaching. Aukes said 96% ground beef is also acceptable. Plus, many of these cuts are certified by the American Heart Association and have the heart-checked logo designation right on the package.

The key, according to Aukes, is to keep a sensible portion size.

“It’s in moderation of course. There’s the research that shows that 3 to 4 ounces is that serving size,” she said.

That is about the size of a deck of cards. Plus, she suggests balancing that lean protein with a variety of food groups.

“Lean beef can be paired with other foods, so that we can also get some colorful fiber-rich fruits and the vegetables and whole grains to balance that plate,” she said.

The advantages of eating a nutrient-dense protein like lean beef go beyond just cardiovascular health.

“The benefits of having beef in the diet, of course, are the protein that it’s going to provide; muscle strength helps in increasing your metabolism," Aukes said. "Beef also provides a good source of iron to help balance our blood.”

Aukes uses Beef Checkoff resources for nutrition consultations with her patients, and they provide research and educational materials in print and online. The South Dakota Beef Council’s website, www.sdbeef.org, and www.BeefItsWhatsforDinner.com provide heart-healthy options for including beef in a heart-healthy diet. The Beef Checkoff has 20 American Heart Association heart-check certified recipes, along with various lean beef and heart-healthy recipes. These recipes feature lean beef paired with fresh fruit, vegetables and whole grains. The websites also provide helpful hints for purchasing lean beef, such as which cuts to look for, proper food safety and cooking times and temperatures for the various cuts.

Plus, during February Heart Month, the SDBIC is partnering with health-focused industries and health care providers on various events. On Feb. 18, they helped sponsor a cooking demonstration at Sanford Health featuring lean beef. The virtual cooking class was held on Feb. 18 and featured chef Jade Fagerland preparing a simple heart-healthy meal with lean beef. The event also included Sanford cardiologists Dr. Adam Stys and Dr. Maria Stys discussing a heart-healthy lifestyle.