The World's Healthiest Foods
Beef, lean organic

Beef is available in a wide variety of cuts throughout the year. The different cuts range in texture and tenderness, as well as fat content, making beef a very versatile food.

Lean organic beef provides a very good source of protein and vitamin B12 and a good source of selenium, zinc, iron, phosphorous and B vitamins without the concern for pesticide, hormone and antibiotic residues that may be found in non-organic varieties.


Health Benefits

Lately, red meat has been getting a lot of bad press. Studies have linked red meat to heart disease, atherosclerosis, and even some types of cancer. But while the greasy, charcoal-burned, bacon cheeseburger served with deep fried French fries is a bad idea, a nice bit of lean beef, added to stews or stir-fries or your favorite burrito recipe, may actually be healthy for you. First of all, lean beef is a very good source of protein providing 64.1% of the daily value for protein in just 4 ounces. But did you know that lean organic beef also contains nutrients that protect your heart and prevent colon cancer?

Cardiovascular Benefits

In addition to being a very good source of protein, lean, organic beef is a very good source of vitamin B12, and a good source of vitamin B6. Vitamin B12 along with vitamin B6 are two vitamins needed by the body to convert the potentially dangerous chemical homocysteine into other, benign molecules. Since high homocysteine levels are associated with an increased risk of heart attack and stroke, getting plenty of these B vitamins in your diet is important (homocysteine is also associated with osteoporosis, and a recent study found that osteoporosis occurred more frequently among women whose vitamin B12 status was deficient or marginal compared with those who had normal B12 status.) A four-ounce serving of lean beef provides 48.7% of the daily value for vitamin B12 plus 24.5% of the DV for B6.

Cancer Protection

Diets high in vitamin B12-rich foods, especially if they are low in fat, are also associated with a reduced risk of colon cancer. And, organic beef is also a good source of the trace minerals selenium and zinc. Selenium, another nutrient in lean beef that helps reduce the risk of colon cancer, is needed for the proper function of glutathione peroxidase, an important internally produced antioxidant that has also been shown to reduce the severity of inflammatory conditions like asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. Selenium is incorporated at the active site of glutathione peroxidase, which is particularly important for cancer protection. Glutathione peroxidase is used in the liver to detoxify a wide range of potentially harmful molecules, which might otherwise wreak havoc on any cells with which they come in contact, damaging their cellular DNA and promoting the development of cancer cells. For this and other reasons, foods rich in selenium are also associated with a reduced risk for colon cancer. Accumulated evidence from prospective studies, intervention trials and studies on animal models of cancer have suggested a strong inverse correlation between selenium intake and cancer incidence. Selenium has been shown to induce DNA repair and synthesis in damaged cells, to inhibit the proliferation of cancer cells, and to induce their apoptosis, the self-destruct sequence the body uses to eliminate worn out or abnormal cells. A four-ounce serving of lean beef supplies 50.3% of the daily value for selenium.

Lean beef is a good source of zinc, which is helpful for preventing the damage to blood vessel walls that can contribute to atherosclerosis and is also needed for the proper function of the immune system, making it a good nutrient for helping to prevent infections or recurrent ear infections. New research suggests that another reason for older men to make zinc-rich foods, such as beef, a regular part of their healthy way of eating is bone mineral density. Although osteoporosis is often thought to be a disease for which postmenopausal women are at highest risk, it is also a potential problem for older men. Almost 30% of hip fractures occur in men, and 1 in 8 men over age 50 will have an osteoporotic fracture. A study of 396 men ranging in age from 45-92 that was published in the September 2004 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found a clear correlation between low dietary intake of zinc, low blood levels of the trace mineral, and osteoporosis at the hip and spine.(October 18, 2004) Four ounces of lean beef contains 42.2% of the daily value for zinc.

So don't think eating healthy means saying goodbye to beef. Lean, low-fat organic beef tenderloin can actually be a healthy addition to a good, whole foods diet.


“Where’s the beef?” is not only a famous advertising slogan. It is a question that one can ask regarding a healthy diet since lean beef provides a vast resource of important nutrients.

Beef is available in a wide variety of cuts that can fulfill many different recipe needs. The different cuts range in texture and tenderness as well as in fat content, making beef a very versatile food. The leanest cuts of beef are taken from the back leg bone, called the round bone. These include eye of round, top round, and bottom round. These cuts are the leanest (most muscular) because the cow uses its back legs as its primary means of movement. The underbelly, including rib, ribeye, spare rib, and brisket, is the site of the fattiest cuts.

In Latin, the scientific name for cow is Bos taurus.


Cows were first domesticated for beef in the regions of Greece and Turkey about 4,000 years ago. Cows and the meat that they provide have been revered in many civilizations throughout history, even being considered sacred in India and some parts of Africa. Beef consumption has long been considered as a symbol of prosperity and wealth.

While people in the U.S. think that hamburgers are the all-American food, beef is a relatively recent introduction to the U.S. Before the 16th century, cows and therefore beef were not known in Western Hemisphere. They were brought to central and south America by the Spanish conquistadors who invaded these regions. Cows and beef later came to North America with the early colonists.

How to Select and Store

There are a few clues you can look for that will help you choose fresher quality beef. Always examine the sell-by date on the label and choose the beef with the latest date. The meat should be a red or purplish color and not brown, which is a signal that the meat has been excessively exposed to oxygen and is spoiled. Purchase beef that has the least amount of fat; any fat that exists should be white and not yellow in color.

As previously explained, the leanest cuts of beef are taken from the back leg bone, called the round bone. These include eye of round, top round, and bottom round. These cuts are the leanest (most muscular) because the cow uses its back legs as its primary means of movement. The round is your best cut for lean, low-fat beef.

Whenever possible, purchase organically grown beef. This will give you more assurance that the beef you are feeding yourself and your family does not have pesticide, hormone or antibiotic residues and that the cattle were raised in a more humane manner.

Since beef is highly perishable, it should always be kept at cold temperatures, either refrigerated or frozen. Refrigerate the beef in the original store packaging, if it is still intact and secure, as this will reduce the amount of handling involved. Length of storage varies with the cut of beef as larger pieces will have a longer shelf life than pieces with increased surface area. Ground beef will keep for about one to two days, steaks for two to three days, and roasts for three to four days.

If you have more beef than you can use within this period of time, you can freeze it in a cold temperature freezer. Using either aluminum foil or freezer paper, wrap the beef carefully so that it is as tightly packaged as possible. Ground beef should be able to keep for two to three months, while steaks should keep for about six months.

How to Enjoy

For some of our favorite recipes, click Recipes.

A Few Quick Serving Ideas:
Healthy sauté thin slices of steak with onions, garlic, fresh basil, lemongrass and chili peppers for a southeast Asian inspired meal.

Add ground beef to tomato sauce and serve over pasta.

Skewer cubes of beef with your favorite vegetables, brush with a little olive oil and grill.

Serve thinly slice cooked tenderloin on toasted whole wheat French bread, and enjoy these open faced sandwiches topped with roasted peppers and onions.

Coat steaks with crushed peppercorns before cooking to create the classic dish, steak au poivre.


Special Handling of Beef

Special safety precautions are important when handling beef. However, the following recommendations should be used as guidelines when handling any animal flesh involved in a meal.

When you are at the grocery store, purchase raw meats last. Since raw meats may contaminate other grocery items, keep fresh meats apart from other items. Put raw meat packages in a plastic bag, so juices won’t drip onto other foods. Pack raw meats in an ice chest if it will take you more than an hour to get home, and keep the ice chest in the passenger area of the car during warm weather. Take meats straight home to the refrigerator or freezer.

Store uncooked beef items together, separate from cooked foods. Refrigerate or freeze fresh beef immediately after bringing it home. Never leave beef in a hot car or sitting out at room temperature. Packaged whole cuts of fresh beef may be refrigerated in their original wrappings in the coldest part of the refrigerator (usually the bottom back) for three to five days after purchase, while ground beef can be stored in the refrigerator (also in the bottom back) for one to two days. Keep beef refrigerated until you are ready to cook it.

Always wash your hands thoroughly with hot soapy water before preparing foods and after handling raw beef. Don’t let raw meat or juices touch ready-to-go foods, either in the refrigerator or during preparation. Don’t put cooked foods on the same plate that held raw beef. Always wash utensils that have touched raw meat with hot, soapy water before using them for cooked meats. Wash counters, cutting boards and other surfaces raw meats have touched. These surfaces may be sanitized by cleaning with a solution of 1 teaspoon chlorine bleach per quart of water.

Thaw uncooked frozen beef in the refrigerator or in cold water. Never thaw beef at room temperature. Thawing by refrigeration requires planning ahead and most likely allowing a 24-hour thawing period. After defrosting raw beef by this method, it will be safe in the refrigerator for up to five days before cooking.

To thaw beef in cold water, leave the beef in its original wrapping or place it in a watertight plastic bag. Change the water every 30 minutes.

Marinate beef in the refrigerator, not on the counter. Discard the marinade after use because it contains raw juices, which may harbor bacteria. If you want to use the marinade as a dip or sauce, reserve a portion before adding raw food.

Never brown or partially cook beef, then refrigerate and finish cooking later, because any bacteria present will not have been destroyed.

Using a thermometer is the only reliable way to ensure safety and to determine the "doneness" of beef and most other foods. To be safe, a product must be cooked to an internal temperature high enough to destroy any harmful bacteria that may have been in the food. Many food handlers believe that visible indicators, such as color changes in the food, can be relied on to determine whether foods have been cooked long enough to ensure bacterial destruction. However, recent research has shown that color and texture indicators are not reliable.

When cooking whole cuts or parts of beef, the thermometer should be inserted into the thickest part of the meat, away from the bone, fat and gristle. The thermometer may be inserted sideways if necessary.

Whole Muscle Meats : The USDA recommends cooking to a minimum internal temperature of 160°F for medium-cooked whole cuts of fresh beef and 170°F for well-done cuts.

Ground Beef: Ground beef must be cooked thoroughly to kill harmful bacteria. Unlike whole muscle meat, whose interior meat is sterile, the grinding process exposes the interior meat in ground beef to bacteria, which may be on the surface, in the air, on equipment or on people’s hands. To kill these bacteria, food safety experts have one major rule of thumb – cook ground beef to at least 160°F. This step, while very simple, offers the best protection that consumers can have for serving ground beef products safely.

Beef and Food Allergy

Although allergic reactions can occur to virtually any food, research studies on food allergy consistently report more problems with some foods than with others. Common symptoms associated with an allergic reaction to food include: chronic gastrointestinal disturbances; frequent infections, e.g. ear infections, bladder infections, bed-wetting; asthma, sinusitis; eczema, skin rash, acne, hives; bursitis, joint pain; fatigue, headache, migraine; hyperactivity, depression, insomnia.

Individuals who suspect food allergy to be an underlying factor in their health problems may want to avoid commonly allergenic foods. Beef is one of the foods most commonly associated with allergic reactions. Other foods commonly associated with allergic reactions include: cow’s milk, wheat, eggs, soybeans, oranges, corn, pork, chicken, peanuts, yeast, strawberry, tomato, and spinach. These foods do not need to be eaten in their pure, isolated form in order to trigger an adverse reaction. For example, yogurt made from cow’s milk is also a common allergenic food, even though the cow’s milk has been processed and fermented in order to make the yogurt. Ice cream made from cow’s milk would be an equally good example.

Nutritional Profile

Introduction to Food Rating System Chart

The following chart shows the nutrients for which this food is either an excellent, very good or good source. Next to the nutrient name you will find the following information: the amount of the nutrient that is included in the noted serving of this food; the %Daily Value (DV) that that amount represents (similar to other information presented in the website, this DV is calculated for 25-50 year old healthy woman); the nutrient density rating; and, the food's World's Healthiest Foods Rating. Underneath the chart is a table that summarizes how the ratings were devised. For more detailed information on our Food and Recipe Rating System, please click here.


Beef Tenderloin, Lean Broiled
4.00 oz-wt
240.41 calories
Nutrient Amount DV
World's Healthiest
Foods Rating
tryptophan 0.36 g 112.5 8.4 excellent
protein 32.04 g 64.1 4.8 very good
vitamin B12 (cobalamin) 2.92 mcg 48.7 3.6 very good
zinc 6.33 mg 42.2 3.2 good
selenium 27.67 mcg 39.5 3.0 good
phosphorus 269.89 mg 27.0 2.0 good
vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) 0.49 mg 24.5 1.8 good
iron 4.05 mg 22.5 1.7 good
vitamin B3 (niacin) 4.44 mg 22.2 1.7 good
vitamin B2 (riboflavin) 0.35 mg 20.6 1.5 good
World's Healthiest
Foods Rating
excellent DV>=75% OR Density>=7.6 AND DV>=10%
very good DV>=50% OR Density>=3.4 AND DV>=5%
good DV>=25% OR Density>=1.5 AND DV>=2.5%


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  • Neale RJ, Obanu ZA, Biggin RJ, et al. Protein quality and iron availability of intermediate moisture beef stored at 38 degrees C. Ann Nutr Aliment 1978;32(2-3):587-96.
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This page was updated on: 2004-11-19 15:13:55
© 2002 The George Mateljan Foundation