The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently released their 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The new guidelines recommend limiting consumption of animal fat, but also contain recommendations that fit well with beef’s position as a naturally nutrient-rich food. A key message conveyed by the new dietary guidelines, according to the Cattlemen’s Beef Board, is that Americans should select nutrient-rich foods from all food groups, and lead more active lives, rather than rely on special diets as a path to good health.

Last year, the Beef Board joined with several other food organizations to promote and educate nutritionists and consumers about foods that serve as natural, concentrated sources of important nutrients. The “Naturally Nutrient Rich” approach, according to the Beef Board, is based on a long-standing principle in nutrition guidance — nutrient density. This approach emphasizes “power calories” and choosing foods within each food group that are nutrient rich, to get more nutrients per calorie consumed. Rather than focusing on “good foods” or “bad foods,” calories or individual nutrients, this concept focuses on the total nutrient package.

Beef fits well in this approach toward nutrition. A 3-ounce serving of lean beef, according to the Beef Board, contributes less than 10 percent of calories in a 2,000-calorie-per-day diet, yet supplies more than 10 percent of the daily value for nine essential nutrients including protein, iron, zinc and many B-vitamins. Three ounces of lean beef provides as much zinc as 11 3-ounce servings of tuna, as much vitamin B-12 as seven skinless chicken breasts and as much iron as three cups of raw spinach. Meanwhile, research indicates that a high percentage of American diets do not meet the recommended daily requirements for these and other important nutrients.

In agreement with the new dietary guidelines, the Beef Board recommends that people eat balanced diets based on nutrient-rich foods including colorful fruits and vegetables, lean meats, low-fat dairy products and whole grains.

Last March, the Beef Board joined nutrition experts and researchers participating in the Naturally Nutrient Rich scientific symposium in Washington, D.C. Several other food organizations participated in the symposium and agreed to work together to promote this concept to consumers. Foods represented, in addition to beef, included pork, dairy, citrus fruits, tomatoes, wheat, strawberries, eggs, blueberries, avocados, potatoes and kiwifruit.

Clearly, beef plays a role in healthy diets. Many Americans need to exercise more, consume fewer calories and include a wider variety of nutrient-rich foods in their diets. This concept favors beef, and we can expect the Beef Board and your state beef councils to continue promoting nutrient density, power calories and health benefits of a balanced diet that includes beef.