There are some facts about beef and fat that don’t seem to make the headlines. Here’s some fast-fat-facts that should be considered when it comes to discussions of beef and health:

Beef’s surprising fat profile

Half of the fat in beef is monounsaturated, the same type of healthy fat found in olive oil and avocados.

55% of the fats found in beef are unsaturated, the fats to focus on when striving for a healthy diet. This translates to approximately 5g (7% DV) of the just over 10g (14% DV) of total fat found in a 100g serving of cooked beef.

Did You Know?

At 10% fat for a composite of beef cuts, beef qualifies to use the Health Canada claim ‘lean’ (CNF 6172, Beef, composite cuts, steak/roast, lean and fat, cooked). NOTE: for ALL ground meats (poultry, veal, pork and beef), as defined by the Standards of Identity, Extra Lean has a maximum fat content of 10%, Lean has a 17% max fat content, Medium has a 23% max fat content, and Regular has a 30% max fat content.

• Beef trimmed of fat is lean, based on the CNF data set 6172, composite of beef cuts, 10% fat meets the qualification of </= 10% fat for beef to qualify as lean. Note that 74 cooked beef products in the Canadian Nutrient Files average 10% fat.

• For ground meats and poultry (ground turkey, chicken, beef and pork), Extra Lean and Lean are defined by CFIA regulation to have a maximum fat content of 10% and 17% respectively.

• Rule of thumb for selecting cuts that are the leanest options: those that have the word ‘round’ or ‘loin’ in their name, and including Flank.

You might also be surprised to know that 14% of the fat in olive oil is saturated fat. The same goes for salmon. And even nuts have small amounts of saturated fats. These are all healthy, wholesome foods. The point is that foods are complex, and they often have a mixture of different fats.

Myth Busters:

A 100g serving of cooked beef contains only 4.3 grams of saturated fat, nearly the same amount of saturated fat you would find in an equal portion of poultry dark meat (4.1g).1,2

On that note, beef also contains additional unsaturated fats Omega-3 and Omega-6, fats that (respectively) contribute to brain, nerve, and eye health and help regulate genes, protect the immune system, and assist with blood clotting.7

Additionally, the most recent studies have found no association between heart disease and saturated fat.4 Over 10 years of research demonstrated that you can enjoy lean, unprocessed beef and manage your cholesterol.5

Myth Busters:

Fresh red meat (beef, pork and lamb) accounts for only 7% of the calories from fat in the average Canadian diet6

The Heart and Stroke Foundation’s position statement on saturated fat did not set a limit on saturated fat, noting “the overall quality of one’s diet, combined with the types, qualities and quantities of foods, have more impact on health than any single nutrient such as saturated fat.”3

If you’re concerned about managing your fat intake, one unique property of beef is that much of the fat is visible and can therefore be trimmed prior to eating. Once trimmed, most cuts of beef are lean. In fact, based on the average composite of beef cuts, beef qualifies for the Health Canada claim ‘lean.’ Most Canadians drain their ground beef after cooking, reducing the amount of fat. Grilling burgers has the benefit of reducing the total fat content by about a third.

Myth Busters:

Consider other sources of fat. Try eating fewer fast foods and sweet baked goods, as these make up almost 50% of the daily calorie intake for many Canadians.5

1 Health Canada, Canadian Nutrient File, 2018. Food code 6172, beef, composite cuts, steak/roast, lean and fat, cooked.
2 Health Canada, Canadian Nutrient File, 2018. Food code 851, Chicken, broiler, thigh, meat and skin, roasted.
3 Heart & Stroke Foundation Position Statement: Saturated Fat Heart Disease and Stroke. August, 2015.
4 Fresh and Processed Meat Intake: A Canadian Perspective (2018). Data derived from the 2015 Canadian Community Health Survey – Nutrition.
5 Micha R, Wallace SK, Mozaffarian D. Red and processed meat consumption and risk of incident coronary heart disease, stroke, and diabetes mellitus: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Circulation 2010; 12 (21): 2271-83.
6 Red Meat Nutrition Brief. April 2019. Data derived from the 2015 Canadian Community Health Survey – Nutrition  LINK: https://secureservercdn.net/
7 Unlock Food: http://www.unlockfood.ca/en/Articles/Fat/What%E2%80%99s-the-difference-between-omega-3-and-omega-6