how much is a serving of beef

Beef provides protein, vitamins and minerals. A typical serving size for beef and other meat is 3 ounces, which is about the size of a deck of cards. A 3-ounce serving of lean ground beef has about 180 calories, 10 grams of fat and 15 percent of the daily recommendation for iron.

When consumed in moderation, beef can improve muscle growth and maintenance. It’s also rich in iron and zinc. But high consumption of beef has been linked to an increased risk for heart disease and cancer.

It is categorized as red meat — a term used for the meat of mammals, which contains higher amounts of iron than chicken or fish.

Usually eaten as roasts, ribs, or steaks, beef is also commonly ground or minced. Patties of ground beef are often used in hamburgers.

Fresh, lean beef is rich in various vitamins and minerals, especially iron and zinc. Therefore, moderate intake of beef can be recommended as part of a healthy diet (1).

Here are the nutrition facts for a 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of broiled, ground beef with 10% fat content (2):

The protein content of lean, cooked beef is about 26–27% (2).

Animal protein is usually of high quality, containing all nine essential amino acids needed for the growth and maintenance of your body (3).

As the building blocks of proteins, amino acids are very important from a health perspective. Their composition in proteins varies widely, depending on the dietary source.

Meat is one of the most complete dietary sources of protein, its amino acid profile being almost identical to that of your own muscles.

For this reason, eating meat — or other sources of animal protein — may be of particular benefit after surgery and for recovering athletes. In combination with strength exercise, it also helps maintain and build muscle mass (3).

The amount of fat in beef depends on the level of trimming and the animal’s age, breed, gender, and feed. Processed meat products, such as sausages and salami, tend to be high in fat.

Beef is mainly composed of saturated and monounsaturated fat, present in approximately equal amounts. The major fatty acids are stearic acid, oleic acid, and palmitic acid (3).

Food products from ruminant animals — such as cows and sheep — also harbor trans fats known as ruminant trans fats (5).

The most common is conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which is found in beef, lamb, and dairy products (5, 6).

CLA has been linked to various health benefits — including weight loss. Still, large doses in supplements may have harmful metabolic consequences (7, 8, 9, 10, 11).

Like plants, meat contains a number of bioactive substances and antioxidants, which may affect health when consumed in adequate amounts.

Beef is a rich source of high-quality protein and various vitamins and minerals. As such, it can be an excellent component of a healthy diet.

It contains all of the essential amino acids and is referred to as a complete protein.

Inadequate protein intake may accelerate age-related muscle wasting, increasing your risk of an adverse condition known as sarcopenia (23).

Sarcopenia is a serious health issue among older adults but can be prevented or reversed with strength exercises and increased protein intake.

The best dietary sources of protein are animal-derived foods, such as meat, fish, and milk products.

In the context of a healthy lifestyle, regular consumption of beef — or other sources of high-quality protein — may help preserve muscle mass, reducing your risk of sarcopenia.

Carnosine is a compound important for muscle function (24, 25).

It’s formed in your body from beta-alanine, a dietary amino acid found in high amounts in fish and meat — including beef.

Supplementing with high doses of beta-alanine for 4–10 weeks has been shown to lead to a 40–80% increase in carnosine levels in muscles (26, 24, 27, 28).

In contrast, following a strict vegetarian diet may lead to lower levels of carnosine in muscles over time (29).

In human muscles, high levels of carnosine have been linked to reduced fatigue and improved performance during exercise (26, 30, 31, 32).

Additionally, controlled studies suggest that beta-alanine supplements can improve running time and strength (33, 34).

Anemia is a common condition, characterized by a decreased number of red blood cells and reduced ability of the blood to carry oxygen.

Iron deficiency is one of the most common causes of anemia. The main symptoms are tiredness and weakness.

Only found in animal-derived foods, heme iron is often very low in vegetarian — and especially vegan — diets (35).

Your body absorbs heme iron much more efficiently than non-heme iron — the type of iron in plant-derived foods (13).

Thus, meat not only contains a highly bioavailable form of iron but also improves the absorption of non-heme iron from plant foods — a mechanism that has not been fully explained and is referred to as the “meat factor.”

A few studies indicate that meat can increase the absorption of non-heme iron even in meals that contain phytic acid, an inhibitor of iron absorption (36, 37, 38).

Another study found that meat supplements were more effective than iron tablets at maintaining iron status in women during a period of exercise (39).

It’s a term for various conditions related to the heart and blood vessels, such as heart attacks, strokes, and high blood pressure.

Some studies detect an increased risk for both unprocessed and processed red meat, a few showed an increased risk for processed meat only, and others reported no significant association at all (40, 41, 42, 43).

Keep in mind that observational studies cannot prove cause and effect. They only show that meat eaters are either more or less likely to get a disease.

It’s possible that meat consumption is just a marker for unhealthy behavior, but negative health effects are not caused by the meat itself.

For example, many health-conscious people avoid red meat because it has been claimed to be unhealthy (44).

Additionally, people who eat meat are more likely to be overweight and less likely to exercise or eat a lot of fruits, vegetables, and fiber (35, 45, 46).

Of course, most observational studies try to correct for these factors, but the accuracy of the statistical adjustments may not always be perfect.

Big Nutrition. Small Package.

This may leave you wondering how beef stacks up against other protein options. When it comes to high-quality proteins, beef provides many nutrients in a smaller serving size than some other choices (with unbeatable taste at that)! For example, you’d have to eat at least 8 oz. of cooked chicken breast (USDA NDB #05064) to get the same amount of iron in just 3 oz. serving of cooked beef (USDA NDB #13364). When comparing zinc, you’d need to eat 20 oz. of cooked chicken breast!.

While we’re on the subject of other protein options, let’s also take a look at a comparison of Ground Beef and Ground Turkey – you just might be surprised by the results! Before you decide to swap Ground Turkey for Ground Beef, check the Nutrition Facts Label to make sure you’re making the best substitution for your health. Ground Beef has more of many essential micronutrients and lean ground beef can be lower in calories, fat and cholesterol than Ground Turkey. Here are the facts when comparing USDA’s data on 93% lean/7% fat cooked patties.

You can feel good knowing that beef is providing so much of what your body needs to perform at its best. And even more good news is how deliciously beef pairs with fruits, vegetables and whole grains—making it even easier to enjoy a balanced diet. Here are some of our favorite recipes to inspire you!

  • Beef Steak and Black Bean Soft Tacos: Salsa-marinated steak sits atop flavorful smashed black beans for a taco taste sensation. Your taste buds and your heart will be happy!
  • Creole Steak with Jambalaya Rice: Classic Creole seasoning gives savory vegetables, brown rice and Sirloin Tip Steaks a kick of flavor in this 30-minute meal.
  • Moroccan Beef and Sweet Potato Stew: Use your slow-cooker to develop sweet and savory flavors in this Moroccan Beef Stew. Its the perfect blend of adventure and comfort.
  • Beef Steak Salad with Dried Cherries: Top Sirloin Steak meets dried cherries, blue cheese and walnuts in a salad that’s big on both flavor and nutrition.

Its easier than you think to build a healthful diet with beef. You may be surprised to hear that a 3-oz. serving of lean beef (about the size of a deck of cards), has about 150 calories on average and is a good or excellent source of 10 essential nutrients like zinc, iron and B vitamins.

  • • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. 2013. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 26. Available at: http://www.ars.usda.gov/ba/bhnrc/ndl. • Zanovec M, ONeil CE, Keast DR, Fulgoni VL, Nicklas TA. Lean beef contributes significant amounts of key nutrients to the diets of US adults: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 1999-2004. Nutrition Research. 2010; 30 (6):375-81. • Cotton PA, Subar AF, Friday JE, Cook A. Dietary sources of nutrients among US adults, 1994 to 1996. J Am Diet Assoc 2004;104:921-30

The Nutrients You Need with a Taste You Love

When it comes to beef and your health, you can rest easy knowing that along with being delicious, beef contains important nutrients that your body needs. In just one 3 oz. cooked serving, you’re getting 10 essential nutrients, including about half your Daily Value for protein!

Food products from ruminant animals — such as cows and sheep — also harbor trans fats known as ruminant trans fats (5).

It’s formed in your body from beta-alanine, a dietary amino acid found in high amounts in fish and meat — including beef.

Anemia is a common condition, characterized by a decreased number of red blood cells and reduced ability of the blood to carry oxygen.

These include colon, breast, and prostate cancer (65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74).

Beef is a rich source of high-quality protein and various vitamins and minerals. As such, it can be an excellent component of a healthy diet.

Beef provides protein, vitamins and minerals. A typical serving size for beef and other meat is 3 ounces, which is about the size of a deck of cards. A 3-ounce serving of lean ground beef has about 180 calories, 10 grams of fat and 15 percent of the daily recommendation for iron.

FAQ

What is a good serving size of beef?

For example, for people who eat meat, the amount recommended as part of a healthy meal is 3 to 4 ounces – it will look about the same size as a deck of cards.

What does 3 oz of beef look like?

3 oz portion is similar in size to a deck of cards ▪ 1 oz of cooked meat is similar in size to 3 dice. A 1-inch meatball is about one ounce. 4 oz of raw, lean meat is about 3 ounces after cooking. 3 oz of grilled fish is the size of a checkbook.

What is 1 portion of beef?

Type of food
Portion Size
What does this look like?
Animal protein
Cooked meat (beef, pork, lamb, mince, chicken, turkey)
90g
A deck of cards
Cooked white fish (cod or plaice) or canned fish
140g
Palm of hand
Cooked oily fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines)
140g
Palm of hand

How much is 4 ounces of meat?

3 oz of steak is 1/4 pound. It’s fairly small, about the palm of your hand, bu not very thick. 4 oz is a quarter pound. Sizewise, it’s about the size of your palm, or a bit less, depending on how big your hands are.

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