Americans Eating Less Animal Fat in Dramatic Shift

A lot of Americans are having trouble discerning which foods provide the most saturated fat in their diets, according to a study conducted by the National Academy of Sciences and a Texas researcher who spoke on the subject in Los Angeles recently.

According to the NAS data, between 1965 and 1985 “the shift from animal to vegetable sources of fat in the American diet has been dramatic: fat consumed by Americans from animal sources decreased 22% and fat from vegetable sources increased 64%.” This is due to the fact that fats from vegetable sources are often “hidden” from consumers in processed foods such as donuts, cookies and cakes, the study explained.

“Vegetable oils such as coconut, palm and palm kernel oils are as much or more saturated than most animal fats,” the study stated, “and considerable amounts are used in commercial baking and as frying fats.”

These fats, according to Dr. Margo Denke M.D., Center for Human Nutrition, Southwest Medical Center, University of Texas, account for about 5% of the saturates in the American diet. Cheese, beef steaks, hot dogs and luncheon meats contribute about 7% each, she said. Ground beef and whole milk “top the list,” each contributing about 9% to total dietary saturates, she said.


“A trimmed steak can fit into the diet,” said Denke, “Unfortunately, the majority of red meat consumed is hamburger meat.” Instead, consumers who reduce consumption of ground beef, baked products and include smaller and leaner portions of meat to the diet, may find it easier to comply with the American Heart Assn’s recommendation that fat intake be limited to 30% of the day’s total calories.

Lean Meat Has a Place

A three-ounce cooked serving of lean, trimmed beef derives only 78 calories from fat and only 31 of those from saturated fat. Considering these figures, a person following the 30% fat diet eating 2,000 calories per day, would be allowed 600 calories from fat, no more than 200 of which could be saturated.

“One can easily follow these guidelines and include two three-ounce servings of lean beef in the diet every day,” said Dr. Burdette Breidenstein, director of research for the National Live Stock and Meat Board, “and still fall short of the daily 200 calories from saturated fat limit.


“Animal food products, particularly red meat, can no longer be portrayed as the only source of so-called bad fats,” she said.

Not All Saturated Fats Are Alike

Additional research supporting the return of lean beef to the diet conducted by Scott Grundy, a physician and a doctor of biochemistry at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Dallas, has further demonstrated that not all saturated fats are alike.

In a study published last May in the New England Journal of Medicine, Grundy and his associate, Dr. Andrea Bonanome, noted that the saturated fat in beef (and also in chocolate) known as stearic acid showed a tendency to lower blood cholesterol levels.

While Grundy’s data doesn’t encourage the public to overload on beef fat and cocoa butter, he said, lean beef in moderate amounts “has a place in our diets.”

The following recipes provide the recommended three-ounce serving of beef. This amount is equivalent in size, approximately, to a deck of cards.


1/2 pound Southwestern Beef Steak


1 medium orange, peeled

1 cup julienne-cut jicama

1/2 cup coarsely chopped sweet red pepper

1 cup torn lettuce

Prepared guacamole

Cut Southwestern Beef Steak into 2 1/2-inch strips. Separate orange into quarters, then cut each quarter crosswise into 1/4 to 1/2-inch thick slices. Combine orange slices, jicama and red pepper.

Arrange lettuce around edge of small serving platter. Place orange mixture in center. Top with beef strips and serve with guacamole. Makes 2 to 3 servings.

Southwestern Beef Steak


1/3 cup chopped onion

1/3 cup prepared salsa

2 tablespoons lime juice

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1 pound beef top round steak, cut 1-inch thick

Salt, pepper

Combine onion, salsa, lime juice and sugar. Place steak in plastic bag and add marinade, turning to coat. Tie bag securely and marinate in refrigerator 2 to 4 hours. Remove steak from marinade and pat dry with paper towels.

Pan broil steak in large skillet over medium-high heat 13 to 16 minutes to desired doneness, turning at least once. Carve half of steak into thin slices and serve. Reserve remaining steak for use in Mexi Beef Salad.


1 beef eye round steak, cut 1-inch thick

1 medium green pepper, cut into 1/4-inch strips

1 medium onion, sliced 1/4-inch thick

1/4 teaspoon basil leaves

Salt, pepper

1/4 cup hot water

1/4 teaspoon instant beef bouillon

Partially freeze steak until firm. Cut into 2 (1/2-inch thick) slices. Saute green pepper, onion and basil in non-stick skillet 5 minutes. Remove and reserve. Quickly cook steaks in skillet over medium-high heat 2 to 3 minutes, turning once. Do not overcook.

Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove to warm platter and keep warm. Place vegetables in same pan. Add water and bouillon and cook over medium-high heat 2 to 3 minutes or until tender-crisp. Serve with steak. Makes 2 servings.


1 pound boneless tender beef steak

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1 clove garlic, pressed

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon catsup

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 tablespoon oil

2 stalks celery

1 green pepper, cut julienne

2 teaspoons minced ginger root

15 cherry tomatoes, halved

4 cups shredded lettuce

Cut beef into thin strips. Combine cornstarch, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, sugar and garlic. Stir in beef. Let stand 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine remaining soy sauce with vinegar, catsup, onion powder and 2 tablespoons water. Set aside.

Heat oil in wok or large skillet until hot. Add beef and stir fry 1 minute. Remove meat. Cut celery diagonally into 1/4-inch slices. Add to pan along with green pepper and ginger. Stir-fry 1 minute. Remove wok from heat and stir in tomatoes, beef and soy sauce mixture. Spoon mixture over lettuce. Toss well to combine before serving. Makes 4 to 6 servings.


1/2 pound boneless tender beef steak

1/3 cup bottled stir-fry sauce

1 teaspoon vinegar

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed dried red chiles

1 clove garlic, pressed

3 cups finely shredded lettuce

6 green onions


1 medium eggplant, cut julienne

1 medium carrot, cut julienne

Cut beef across grain into thin slices, then into strips. Combine stir-fry sauce, vinegar, chiles and garlic. Coat beef with 1 tablespoon mixture, then set aside remaining stir-fry mixture.

Line bottom of shallow bowl or large platter with lettuce. Cut green onions into 1 1/2-inch lengths, separating whites from tops. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in wok or large skillet until hot. Add beef and stir fry 1 minute. Remove.

Add eggplant and stir-fry 6 minutes, adding small amount oil if needed. Add carrot and white part of green onions. Stir-fry 3 minutes. Add green onion tops and stir-fry 2 minutes longer. Add reserved stir-fry sauce mixture and beef. Cook and stir just until beef and vegetables are coated with sauce. Spoon over lettuce and toss well to combine. Makes 4 servings.

Note: Bottled stir-fry sauce is available in Oriental section of supermarket.


1 pound green beans, ends trimmed

1 tablespoon oil

3/4 pound flank steak, cut into thin slices

2 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon sesame oil

4 teaspoons roasted sesame seeds

Slice beans into 1 1/2-inch diagonal slices. Parboil 4 to 5 minutes or until tender-crisp. Drain and set aside.

Heat wok over high heat. Add oil and stir-fry 1 to 2 minutes, or until beef is no longer pink. Add beans and stir-fry 30 seconds.

Add soy sauce, sugar and sesame oil. Stir-fry 30 seconds. Remove from heat. Add sesame seeds and toss. Serve hot or cold. Makes 4 servings.