A sliced steak on a wooden chopping board with the words "health benefits of steak"

Health Benefits of Steak: 13 Surprising Reasons to Indulge

Now, we all love a good steak, right? But are there any health benefits from eating steak?

Actually yes… it’s packed with proteins and essential nutrients, and goodness. It’s regarded as a superfood.

The benefits range from supporting muscle growth to enriching your body with vital minerals. Here we’ll break down the health benefits and the nutrients that create those benefits.

So grab a cup of coffee, or tea, or bone broth… and let’s get digging.

Key Takeaways

  • Steak is nutrient-dense, offering high-quality protein, essential amino acids, B vitamins, iron, zinc, and selenium, all of which contribute to various body functions such as immune support, energy metabolism, and red blood cell production.
  • Grass-fed beef has nutritional advantages over grain-fed beef, containing less total fat, more omega-3 fatty acids, higher levels of CLA and antioxidants like vitamins A and E, which support heart health and reduce inflammation.
  • While steak can be part of a balanced diet and assist in weight management due to its high protein content and satiety-inducing properties, the common advice is to be mindful of portion sizes, cooking methods, and the potential health risks of excessive red meat consumption. Is this warranted?

The Health Benefits of Steak

Ok so let’s get into the meat of it. What are the 13 health benefits of Steak?

1. Aids Muscle Building and Repair

The high-quality protein and creatine in steak support muscle synthesis and recovery, making it a favorite among athletes.

2. Boosts Energy Levels

B vitamins, especially B12 and niacin, in steak help convert dietary energy into physical energy, keeping you active.

3. Enhances Brain Function

Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin B12 found in steak contribute to improved brain health, enhancing memory and cognitive functions.

4. Improves Blood Health

The heme iron in steak is crucial for combating anemia by promoting the production of healthy red blood cells.

5. Strengthens the Immune System

Zinc plays a vital role in immune defense, and steak is a rich source of this essential mineral.

6. Supports Heart Health

The presence of omega-3 fatty acids in grass-fed steak can contribute to cardiovascular health by lowering heart disease risk factors.

7. Aids Weight Management

Protein-rich foods like steak increase satiety, which can help in controlling appetite and supporting weight loss efforts.

8. Promotes Healthy Skin

The amino acids and zinc in steak are key for maintaining healthy skin by supporting repair and regeneration.

9. Enhances Antioxidant Defense

Selenium and antioxidants like glutathione in steak protect against cellular damage and inflammation.

10. Supports Bone Health

Steak provides phosphorus, an essential mineral that works with calcium to strengthen bones and teeth.

11. Improves Mood and Mental Health

Iron and amino acids in steak are linked to improving mood and preventing cognitive decline, due to their role in neurotransmitter synthesis.

12. Regulates Thyroid Function

Selenium in steak is crucial for the synthesis of thyroid hormones, which regulate metabolism and energy use.

13. Reduces Fatigue

Iron, vitamin B12, and other B vitamins in steak play a role in reducing fatigue by improving oxygen transport and energy production.

Steak: A Nutrient-Dense Powerhouse

Steak reigns supreme among nutrient-dense food with regards to nutrient density. It’s a powerhouse of high-quality protein, offering as much as 27 grams per serving, complete with all nine essential amino acids required for your bodily functions.

Not just protein, steak also provides a treasure trove of vital minerals like iron, zinc, and selenium, contributing to functions like immune support and red blood cell production.

But the nutritional benefits don’t end there. Steak is also a lavish source of B vitamins such as:

  • B1 (Thiamine): Helps convert nutrients into energy.
  • B2 (Riboflavin): Important for energy production and cellular function.
  • B3 (Niacin): Plays a role in cellular signaling, metabolism, and DNA production and repair.
  • B5 (Pantothenic Acid): Necessary for fatty acid synthesis and energy production.
  • B6 (Pyridoxine): Plays a role in metabolizing amino acids, creating red blood cells, and producing neurotransmitters.
  • B12 (Cobalamin): Necessary for red blood cell formation, neurological function, and DNA synthesis.

These vitamins play a critical role in a variety of bodily processes ranging from energy metabolism to brain health.

In summary, steak proudly carries a high Nutrient Density Score, providing a good level of essential vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and fatty acids per calorie. This makes it a nutrient-dense choice for a balanced diet.

Essential Amino Acids

As a type of red meat, steak is recognized as a complete protein due to its content of all the essential amino acids the body needs.

This makes it a valuable dietary source of essential nutrients. It’s why our ancestors depended on it, and why it continues to play a crucial role in modern human nutrition.

But it’s not just about the quantity of protein. The quality matters too. The protein in red meat is easier for your body to digest and break down into amino acids than protein from plant sources.

In terms of numbers, a 100g cooked serving of red meat offers over 28g of protein. That’s more than half of the daily protein recommendation for women and around half for men.

The essential amino acids you’ll find in steak include:

  • Histidine: Supports immune function, aids in tissue repair, and is vital for maintaining the myelin sheath, a protective barrier surrounding your nerve cells.
  • Lysine: Essential for collagen production and calcium absorption, lysine helps in building muscle, bone health, and the body’s production of hormones, enzymes, and antibodies.
  • Threonine: Important for protein balance, threonine supports cardiovascular, liver, central nervous system, and immune system health.
  • Methionine: Acts as a powerful antioxidant, methionine aids in detoxification processes and helps with the metabolism of fats, contributing to better liver health.
  • Isoleucine: Plays a crucial role in muscle metabolism, energy regulation, and immune function, isoleucine is important for muscle repair and hemoglobin synthesis.
  • Leucine: Stimulates muscle protein synthesis, supports muscle repair, and regulates blood sugar levels, leucine is key for strength and endurance.
  • Valine: Helps stimulate muscle growth and regeneration, and is involved in energy production, valine supports emotional calm and mental vigor.
  • Phenylalanine: Precursor to neurotransmitters, phenylalanine is important for the synthesis of dopamine and norepinephrine, affecting mood and alertness.
  • Tryptophan: Essential for the production of serotonin, tryptophan helps regulate mood, sleep, and appetite, promoting overall well-being.

That’s a long list of nutrients playing a critical role in everything from muscle growth and tissue repair to hormone production and immune function.

Rich in B Vitamins

Although steak’s protein content often steals the spotlight, its abundance in B vitamins deserves equal attention. B vitamins like B12 play an essential role in:

  • Energy metabolism
  • Brain health
  • Red blood cell production
  • DNA formation

A single serving of steak offers more than 60% of the recommended daily allowance for B12, critical for producing red blood cells.

Yet, there’s more to discuss! Beef steak also provides significant amounts of B vitamins, including:

  • B3 (niacin), delivering 42% of daily values per 100 grams
  • B5 (pantothenic acid), delivering 14% of daily values per 100 grams
  • B1 (thiamin)
  • B2 (riboflavin)
  • B6

These B vitamins support energy production and maintain optimal health.

So, every mouthful of eating steak is not just a flavorful delight but also a step towards the health benefits of eating for better health.

Iron, Zinc, and Selenium

As we continue to admire steak’s nutritional profile, we mustn’t disregard its significant contribution to our intake of minerals. Steak is a great source of:

  • Heme iron is more easily absorbed than iron from plant foods. Iron is crucial for immune function, hemoglobin production, and eliminating fatigue.
  • Zinc is important for immune function, wound healing, and DNA synthesis.
  • Selenium acts as an antioxidant and supports thyroid function.
  • Phosphorus is essential for bone health and energy production.
  • Magnesium is involved in hundreds of biochemical reactions in the body.

Regular consumption of beef can even help prevent iron deficiency anemia.

Steak is packed with zinc and selenium. Zinc plays a pivotal role in regulating gene expression and the structure of proteins and enzymes.

A 200g serving of beef can provide a substantial portion of the recommended daily allowance for zinc, demonstrating beef’s role as a major dietary source of this mineral.

Selenium, on the other hand, is crucial for protecting the body from infection and oxidative stress, and it supports reproductive health, DNA production, and thyroid gland function.

So, the next time you enjoy a juicy steak, remember that you’re also nourishing your body with a host of essential minerals.

Grass-Fed vs. Grain-Fed Beef

Comparison of grass-fed and grain-fed beef

Having outlined the health benefits of steak, it’s time to delve deeper and explore the differences between grass-fed and grain-fed beef.

100% Grass-fed beef comes from cows that consume only grass, while grain-fed beef is from cows fattened on a diet based on corn and soy.

Is there a difference in terms of nutritional value?

Yes, indeed! Grass-fed beef generally contains less total fat and higher amounts of beneficial compounds like omega-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) compared to grain-fed beef.

In fact, grass-fed beef:

  • Can have up to five times more omega-3 fatty acids and about twice as much CLA than grain-fed beef
  • Has higher levels of vitamins A and E, and other antioxidants
  • Grass-fed and grass-finished cows live a much better life than those force-fed grains
  • When reared on regenerative farms, cow farming becomes carbon-negative.

So, choosing grass-fed beef is not only a healthier choice nutritionally but also an ethical one.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

The importance of omega-3 fatty acids is well-known to us. They’re touted for promoting heart health, reducing inflammation, and even improving mental health.

But did you know that grass-fed beef contains up to five times more omega-3 fatty acids than grain-fed beef?

That’s right, that juicy steak can contribute to improved heart health and have anti-inflammatory properties.

Moreover, the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids in grass-fed beef is roughly 1.53, more aligned with the recommended dietary intake, compared to 7.65 in grain-fed beef.

This balance between omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids is crucial in preventing and managing heart disease and other inflammatory conditions.

So, choosing grass-fed steak is a simple way to boost your omega-3 intake.

Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)

A distinctive nutritional advantage of grass-fed beef lies in its elevated content of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA).

CLA is a type of fat that has been associated with various health benefits. It’s been linked to reduced body fat, offering potential benefits for weight management.

CLA possesses several health benefits, including:

  • Anti-carcinogenic properties that may contribute to a lower risk of cancer
  • Improved insulin sensitivity
  • Protection against heart disease and type 2 diabetes

So, enjoying a grass-fed steak not only satisfies your taste buds but also contributes to your health through CLA.

Antioxidants and Vitamins

Grass-fed beef also stands superior in terms of its vitamin and antioxidant content. Beef meat from grass-fed sources has a higher content of vitamins than grain-fed beef.

The elevated levels of carotenoids and tocopherols in grass-fed beef contribute to increased vitamins A and E, which are crucial for vision, skin health, and immune function.

In addition to vitamins A and E, grass-fed beef generally contains higher amounts of antioxidants, such as beta-carotene, compared to grain-fed beef.

Moreover, the higher natural alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E) levels in grass-fed beef not only provide antioxidant benefits but also improve the meat’s shelf-life.

So, choosing grass-fed steak offers you a nutritional advantage and a fresher, longer-lasting product.

Happy Cows: Happy Planet

Grass-fed beef’s benefits go beyond our plates and our health. They reach out to our planet and the cows themselves. Grass-fed cows live a happy life, grazing freely on pastures all their life.

And when it comes to the environment, grass-fed beef, when reared on regenerative farms, has a smaller carbon footprint.

In fact, cow farming can even become carbon-negative, sequestering more carbon than it emits.

So, when you choose grass-fed steak, you’re not only making a healthier choice for yourself but also for our planet and the cows.

The Role of Steak in Weight Management

Whether it’s a hearty BBQ or a gourmet dinner, steak, a versatile dish, is adored by many. But can it fit into a weight management plan?

Absolutely! Steak has a low energy density score, making it useful in preventing and treating obesity without stringent calorie restrictions. Its high protein content can be instrumental in weight loss when included as part of a balanced diet with mindful portion control.

The significant protein content in steak induces feelings of fullness, which can help minimize the likelihood of overeating.

Being carbohydrate-free, steak can support dietary goals to reduce carbohydrate consumption which, when in excess, may contribute to weight gain.

And let’s not forget the Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) found in grass-fed beef that promotes muscle mass and decreases fat cell formation. So, enjoying a delicious steak doesn’t have to derail your weight management efforts.

Satiety and Appetite Regulation

Dealing with hunger and cravings is one of the major challenges in weight management. And that’s where steak, with its high protein content, comes into play.

Proteins are known to help induce satiety, leading to a feeling of fullness and regulating appetite, which is essential for weight loss and maintenance.

Beef strip steaks, a type of lean beef, with a Protein Energy Ratio of 7.7, classify as a high P:E food, potentially enhancing diet quality and aiding in weight management.

Higher-protein diets can lead to greater fat mass loss and preservation of lean mass compared to lower-protein diets, especially during energy restriction for weight loss.

For improved body weight management and muscle mass preservation, a protein consumption of at least 25-30 grams per meal is recommended.

Maintaining Muscle Mass

In the context of weight management, the preservation of muscle mass is of utmost importance. It’s not just about losing weight, but losing fat while maintaining, or even gaining, muscle.

Steak, being a source of complete protein, provides the essential building blocks needed for maintaining and increasing muscle mass.

Having sufficient muscle mass, supported by the complete proteins in steak, can contribute to more effective weight management.

It improves metabolism and helps regulate food intake. So, incorporating steak into your diet not only satiates your taste buds but also supports your body composition goals.

Potential Health Risks Associated with Red Meat Consumption

A heart-shaped red ribbon wrapped around a piece of steak

There’s not much that doesn’t come with a disclaimer or warning these days, and steak is no exception.

Despite its numerous health benefits noted above and being something we’ve eaten for millennia, in recent years, steak has been associated with various life-diminishing and threatening health risks.

There are a few keywords I want you to bear in mind when we look at these. They are words such as ‘linked‘, ‘may‘, ‘potential‘, and ‘associated‘.

These words mean the claims are not certain, they’re a ‘maybe’ – associations do not confirm causation, only that further investigation is needed.

To be clear, none of the following have been confirmed for sure, despite how it’s portrayed in the press and by health experts including the World Health Organization.

So, I’m going to highlight these words in bold to emphasize this. Let’s take a look at the potential health risks…

Heart Disease and Saturated Fat

The association with heart disease is one of the primary health concerns linked to red meat. This association is largely based on the saturated fat content of red meat and its potential impact on cholesterol levels.

But is saturated fat the main culprit? Not necessarily. Recent research has highlighted the role of a compound called Trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO).

TMAO is formed by gut bacteria during the digestion of nutrients found in red meat, and high levels have been associated with heart disease. Interestingly, a study by the Cleveland Clinic revealed that:

  • TMAO levels were substantially higher in participants following a red meat diet compared with those consuming white meat or non-meat protein sources.
  • Contrary to expectations, saturated fat did not increase TMAO levels.
  • The increase in TMAO levels due to red meat consumption is reversible, with significant decreases observed when diets were switched to white meat or non-meat protein sources.

Cancer Risk

An increased risk of certain cancers is another potential health risk linked to the consumption of red meat.

Red meat is associated with an increased risk of colon, rectum, prostate, and pancreatic cancer.

Processed meat, as well as processed red meat, are associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer and potentially stomach cancer.

The increased cancer risk associated with red and processed meats may (or may not) derive from their content of iron, fat, salt, and nitrates/nitrites.

See Paul Saladino’s YouTube video arguing against the above cancer claims.

Also, steak cooked at high temperatures to well-done may increase cancer risk due to the formation of heterocyclic aromatic amines.

Cooking Methods and Health Implications

The way you prepare your steak can also influence its health implications. Cooking meat at high temperatures can result in the formation of substances that may increase the risk of cancer.

Different cooking methods can alter the physicochemical characteristics of steak, affecting both consumer acceptance and potentially impacting health.

For example, pan-frying steak typically results in higher moisture and weight loss, as well as an increased lipid content in the steak compared to other cooking methods.

Cooking a steak to well-done increases cooking losses, likely stemming from protein denaturation and water evaporation due to high temperatures.

A well-done steak may exhibit a higher protein content from nutrient concentration as a result of water loss, but the quality of the protein can be compromised by heat-induced alterations.

When is comes to cooking our steak, I can see how over-cooking or burning it may turn it into something that’s not good for us. We’re eating meat that’s damaged at the end of the day.

Would our meat eater ancestors of even cooked their meat?

Incorporating Steak into Your Diet: The Common Advice vs Common Sense

Having discussed the nutritional profile of steak, its advantages, and potential health risks, the question arises – how should you incorporate it into your diet?

The common advice is moderation and portion control. But what about common sense and individual preferences?

If steak was good for our hunter-gatherer ancestors, shouldn’t it be good for us too?

While some may recommend limiting red meat consumption to two to three servings per week, others argue for daily consumption based on ancestral diets.

So, when it comes to incorporating steak into your diet, it’s not just about following the common advice, but also listening to your body and using your common sense.

Portion Control

In terms of portion control, it’s often suggested that around 3 ounces of cooked lean meat makes an appropriate steak serving within a balanced diet.

But the wonderful thing about steak is its ability to make you feel full. There’s only so much steak you can eat before you feel stuffed, unlike many processed foods that never seem to hit those satiety levels.

Your body will tell you when you’ve had enough.

Many will say to craft a balanced meal that includes steak, it is recommended to fill half of the plate with colorful vegetables and fruits, one quarter with whole grains, and the last quarter with lean steak complemented by low-fat dairy.

I say check out the nutrient content of all these things; in fact, I’ll make it easy for you, take a look at the comparison table below. As you’ll see, steak blows fruit and vegetables out of the water.

Plus, do you see our hunter-gatherer forefathers making sure they eat the rainbow and get grains in their diets?

And, don’t get me started on grains, before 10,000 years ago when bread was invented, grains were essentially inedible. Have you tried eating an unprocessed grain… not the most pleasant.

Frequency of Consumption

Some will say a general recommendation for red meat consumption is to not exceed two to three servings per week.

I say with the clear health benefits as shown above, if you enjoy eating it and you have no negative reactions when you do, then crack on… I eat red meat every day just as humans have for hundreds of thousands of years.

Some will say the standard serving size of red meat is approximately 3 ounces per serving.

I can just see our hunter-gatherer ancestors getting the scales out now… common sense perhaps? It’s very hard to overeat meat, especially red meat that has natural animal fat.

Conclusion

From being a nutrient powerhouse to playing a role in weight management, steak offers numerous health benefits.

While potential health risks like heart disease and cancer are often associated with red meat, these are not confirmed so I urge you to do your own research and use some commons sense.

Grass-fed beef offers additional nutritional advantages over grain-fed beef, along with ethical and environmental benefits.

Now, I’ve had a bit of a rant here, but from personal experience, I went from struggling with chronic fatigue syndrome – living a miserable life – to thriving. All by going from a so-called balanced diet to eating natural unprocessed foods.

And a big part of my diet is eating meat – both muscle, organ meat, and animal fats. Up until recently, I’ve been almost carnivore, although recently I’ve started eating fruits and honey.

Using common sense again, I’m not sure if fruit would have been consumed by our ancestors all year round but definitely would have been seasonal. I suppose it depends on where in the world you would have been.

Ultimately, there’s no denying the nutrient density of steak. It’s been eaten by humans for hundreds of thousands of years and it tastes damn good!

And that’s it… please be mindful that I’m merely giving my opinions. It’s up to you to do what you want with them – you are in charge of you.

Have a nutritious day.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there benefits to eating steak?

Yes, eating steak provides essential nutrients like B vitamins, zinc, selenium, and phosphorus, which are beneficial for a strong immune system, healthy bones, and overall cellular functions.

Is steak the healthiest food?

Steak is considered one of the most nutrient-dense foods, providing various essential nutrients and being associated with health benefits. Liver is considered as the most healthiest food.

Why is steak a superfood?

Steak is considered a superfood because it is a rich source of protein, essential for the body’s cells to function properly.

What’s the difference between grass-fed and grain-fed beef?

Grass-fed beef has less total fat and more beneficial compounds like omega-3 fatty acids and CLA, along with higher levels of vitamins and antioxidants compared to grain-fed beef. It’s a healthier choice for your diet.

Does eating steak help with weight management?

Yes, eating steak can help with weight management by regulating appetite, promoting satiety, and supporting muscle mass.

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