What’s Great about Lean Ground Beef

meatloaf muffinsWhen it comes to nutrition, lean ground beef — defined by the USDA as ground beef with no more than 10 percent fat — might take you by surprise. While mostly recognized for its high protein content, lean ground beef also boasts a bounty of vitamins and minerals that do a body good.

But let’s begin first with protein, its most abundant nutrient. A small 3-ounce lean patty (about the size of a deck of cards) delivers a whopping 25 grams of complete protein, which, for many, fulfills about half of the daily recommended amount. That’s a lot of protein for less than 200 calories! Indeed, choosing lean beef to meet or bolster your protein intake may actually be a calorie-saver, as it often takes more than twice the calories to get 25 grams of protein from beans, nuts and grains. A powerhouse nutrient, protein is essential for growth, tissue repair, energy and proper immune function.

Lean ground beef sizzles with impressive amounts of several B vitamins, including niacin, vitamin B12 and vitamin B6. Niacin helps improve circulation and may lower the risk of heart disease and Alzheimer’s; vitamin B12 is essential for keeping nerves and red blood cells healthy; and vitamin B6 is especially important for regulating mood and preventing mental fatigue. All B vitamins help the body convert food to energy.

This popular beef also rocks with zinc, knocking off about 40 percent of our daily needs in one serving. Immune-boosting zinc helps expedite wound healing, calm out-of-control inflammation, and promote testosterone production.

No surprise: The leaner the ground beef, the more you’ll save on calories, total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol. Go grass-fed if you’d like to save a little more on cholesterol and shield yourself from hormones and antibiotics. Although most grain-fed ground beef contains hormones and antibiotics, some major chains offer grain-fed ground beef that has neither.

Tasty Meatloaf Muffins
Adapted from myrecipes.com Serves 5-6

1 teaspoon canola oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium carrot, shredded
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup low-sodium tomato sauce
1 pound lean ground beef
½ cup whole wheat breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Frank’s Hot Sauce (optional)
¼ teaspoon coarse black pepper
½ teaspoon salt
1 large egg
Preheat oven to 350°.

Heat the canola oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add diced onion and shredded carrot; sauté for about five to eight minutes. Add dried oregano and minced garlic; sauté one minute more. Cool.

In a medium bowl, combine onion mixture, ¼ cup tomato sauce, and the remaining ingredients. Mix well.

Lightly coat five muffin cups with canola oil (if making smaller muffins, prep 10). Spoon the meat mixture into the muffin cups, press lightly, and bake accordingly: for larger muffins, bake for about 35 minutes; for smaller muffins, bake for about 25 minutes. No matter the size, the muffins should register 160F when tested with a meat thermometer.  Let stand for five minutes before serving.

Helpful tips

Use freshly ground beef one to two days after purchase; ground beef that’s been frozen will last about three to four months. Ground beef that’s gray on the outside but red on the inside should be fine to eat: being covered with plastic wrap is the benign culprit. Ground beef that’s gray throughout, however, usually indicates spoilage and should be tossed or returned. Prevent potential food poisoning by always cooking your ground beef to 160F. Hosting a party with hamburgers or a ground beef casserole? According to the USDA, the cooked ground beef should not be left out for more than two hours.

Anne Palumbo is a lifestyle columnist, food guru, and seasoned cook, who has perfected the art of preparing nutritious, calorie-conscious dishes. She is hungry for your questions and comments about SmartBites, so be in touch with Anne at avpalumbo@aol.com.