Ground Beef Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Ground beef

Verywell / Alexander Shytsman 

Ground beef is a convenient way to include protein in your diet, and it contains important vitamins and minerals. It is the primary ingredient in many favorite foods from hamburgers to meatballs. But ground beef can be high in calories and saturated fat, and a high intake of red meat can come with health risks. The key to including it in your diet is moderation and managing portion size.

Ground Beef Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for 3 ounces (85g) of cooked ground beef (85% lean), pan-browned, with no added fat or sodium.

  • Calories: 218
  • Fat: 13g
  • Sodium: 76mg
  • Carbohydrates: 0g
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Sugars: 0g
  • Protein: 24g

Carbs

Ground beef contains no carbohydrates or fiber.

Fats

Many of the calories in ground beef come from fat. There are 13 total grams of fat in a 3-ounce serving of cooked 85% lean ground beef. Of that total, 5 grams are saturated fat. The American Heart Association recommends limiting consumption of saturated fat to 5% to 6% of daily calorie intake. That translates into about 13 grams of saturated fat per day if you eat a diet of 2,000 calories per day.

For context, a classic hamburger is typically somewhere between a quarter pound (4 ounces) to 6 ounces, which would yield 6.7g to 10g saturated fat per burger patty.

Healthier fats in ground beef include monounsaturated fat (6 grams) and polyunsaturated fat (0.4 grams).

Protein

Ground beef is a good source of protein, providing 22 grams per 3-ounce serving.

Vitamins and Minerals

Beef is a good source of carnitine, zinc, selenium, iron, and B vitamins. 

Health Benefits

The primary health benefits of beef come from the significant protein that it provides, as well as its vitamins and minerals.

Helps Build Cells

Protein is essential for maintaining muscle tissue and for various biological processes that happen in your body every day. This macronutrient helps your body build bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood. The selenium in beef is also essential for DNA synthesis.

Boosts Immune System

Beef contains several B vitamins, including thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pyridoxine (B6), folate (B9), and cobalamin (B12). These B vitamins, along with the zinc that's also found in beef, are important to maintaining a healthy immune system. Since your body can't store or produce B vitamins, you need to consume them in your diet.

Supports Hormone Production

The B vitamin niacin also aids in the proper function of many body systems, including the production of sex hormones. Selenium is essential for thyroid function.

Replenishes Iron Stores

Your body needs iron to help make red blood cells, among other functions. Dietary iron comes in two forms, non-heme and heme—which is found in beef and other animal proteins. Heme iron is easier for the body to use, so you don't need to consume as much of it (vs. non-heme iron) to help stave off anemia and other problems stemming from low iron.

Allergies

It is possible to be allergic to beef. Those with a meat allergy may experience symptoms including hives, itchy skin, headaches, asthma, or in severe cases, anaphylaxis. Your healthcare provider can provide a wide range of tests to determine whether or not you have a meat allergy, and help you manage it if you do.

Adverse Effects

Eating a diet high in red meat has been associated with cardiovascular and other health problems, including an increased risk of colorectal cancer. These health risks apply to all types of red meat, but are worse for processed red meats such as lunch meat and sausages (which may be made with beef or pork). Therefore, doctors recommend limiting the consumption of red and processed meats. 

Varieties

Grass-fed beef appears to have a healthier fat profile, with more beneficial fatty acids, than meat from cattle fed corn and soy feed. But there isn't much published research available on the specific health benefits of grass-fed beef.

Ground beef is available in a range of lean/fat ratios, from 70% lean/30% fat to as little as 3% fat (97% lean). Calorie and fat totals change accordingly. The following nutrition information is for 3 ounces of ground beef, broiled, and is provided by the USDA.

  Calories Total Fat (g) Saturated Fat (g)
70% lean 235 16 6.2
80% lean 230 15 5.8
90% lean 184 10 3.9
97% lean 130 3.8 1.9

Storage and Food Safety

There is a risk of foodborne bacteria in ground beef as the grinding process can expose more of the meat to any bacteria that are present. The USDA recommends storing ground beef at 40°F or below and using or freezing within two days. To destroy harmful bacteria, always cook ground beef to a minimum internal temperature of 160°F. Avoid partially cooking ground beef, as this allows bacteria to survive and multiply. Use safe food handling practices, such as washing hands, surfaces, and utensils regularly.

Once cooked, refrigerate ground beef promptly, especially if the weather is hot. The beef will keep for three or four days in the refrigerator. Frozen, cooked ground beef can be stored for about four months.

How to Prepare

For best nutritional balance, limit your portion size of beef and combine it with healthy portions of vegetables and/or grains. Try one of these preparation ideas to maximize nutrition:

  • Make a beef sauté. Stir-frying and sautéing are both methods of cooking that use a small amount of hot oil. A healthy stir-fried or sautéed meal would include 3 ounces of lean beef for each person plus lots of different vegetables and seasonings. The vegetables add volume to your meal, and the seasonings add flavor without added sugar.
  • Add beans and grains to chili. If your favorite chili recipe calls for ground beef, cut back on the amount you use and replace with beans and/or whole grains, such as quinoa, for more fiber and protein.
  • Start with salad. Begin with a big bed of your favorite lettuces and greens and add lots of vegetables, a little cheese, some nuts, and even fruit. Sprinkle on a small amount of cooked ground beef or thinly sliced lean steak. Add a small amount of salad dressing made with olive oil or canola oil. The fresh vegetables add lots of volume and antioxidants; the oils add healthy fats.
  • Make a healthier hamburger. To cut the saturated fat in your burger, combine lean ground turkey with beef. Choose a whole-grain bun and add lots of lettuce, sprouts, tomato slices, mustard, or pickles.

Recipes

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Article Sources
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