"Beef fits into the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which call for balance, variety and moderation of all foods," the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) said today in anticipation of the release of the 2000 edition next week.

"It's a question of balance when it comes to a healthy diet," said NCBA Executive Director of Nutrition Mary K. Young, MS, RD. "We need to learn to balance high-fat, high-calorie foods with low-fat, low-calorie foods and nutrient-rich foods with low-nutrient foods. It's not what we are eating, but what we are not doing and not eating that is missing from our lifestyles. One thing we are not doing is being physically active and we applaud the Dietary Guidelines Committee and the USDA and HHS for the increased emphasis on physical activity."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) are required to update the guidelines, designed to help Americans lead healthier lifestyles, every five years. The recommendations are developed by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, which reviews current scientific evidence and input provided by the public through a series of public forums. The recommendations are provided to the USDA and HHS Secretaries for final approval and release.

"Americans are eating well within the guidelines for beef and other protein sources," said Young. "But we are not eating enough grains, fruits and vegetables. Americans need to eat more of these foods, but not at the expense of beef because you will lose out on beef's power pack of important nutrients that often are deficient in Americans' diets."

Government data shows that 75 percent of the population is not getting enough zinc. And, according to the Centers for Disease Control, iron deficiency anemia is the most prevalent nutrient deficiency in the United States, affecting 7.8 million adolescent girls and women of childbearing age and 700,000 children who are 1 to 2 years old. Sufficient amounts of these nutrients are important to cognitive development, learning ability, immune function, and can help prevent pre-term and low-birth weight babies.

"A 3-ounce serving of beef contributes less than 10 percent of calories to a 2,000-calorie diet, yet supplies more than 10 percent of the recommended daily value for six important nutrients including protein, iron, zinc, niacin and vitamins B6 and B12," Young said. "You would have to eat 5 1/2 3-ounce chicken breasts to equal the amount of zinc in one 3-ounce serving of beef, and 3 chicken breasts to equal the same amount of iron in 3 ounces of beef."

The recommendation to limit total fat to 30 percent of calories and saturated fat at 10 percent of calories is not expected to change from the 1995 edition.

"What has changed is the understanding of fat in our diet. It's important to note that, due to the beef industry's response to the demand for lower fat foods, there are many lean beef choices available to consumers today that fall well within the government's guideline for lean. Look for beef cuts with loin or round in the name to identify the leaner cuts," Young said. "Furthermore, half the fatty acids in beef are monounsaturated, the same heart-healthy fat found in olive oil that is championed by health professionals for its cholesterol-lowering ability. The saturated fat in beef is unique. Almost a third is stearic acid, which has a neutral effect on blood cholesterol levels. When taken into account, the amount of saturated fat in lean beef is comparable to that of chicken and fish."

"The proposed guidelines clarification from 'Choose a diet low in fat, saturated fat & cholesterol,' in the 1995 edition to choose a diet low in saturated fat, cholesterol & moderate in total fat' in the 2000 edition recognizes that people have interpreted the original fat guideline too strictly," Young said. "In order to avoid this kind of misinterpretation, government, health professionals, media and industry should increase efforts to help consumers meet the guidelines in ways that make diet and exercise enjoyable rather than avoidable."

The beef industry will do its part to help Americans understand and implement the guidelines through its participation in the Dietary Guidelines Alliance, a long-standing public/private partnership of government, health organizations and food industry. The Alliance developed the It's All About You campaign to provide positive, simple and consistent messages to help Americans follow the guidelines.

Based on extensive consumer research, the It's All About You messages include:


* Be Realistic: Make small changes over time in what you eat and the level of activity you do. After all, small steps work better than giant leaps.
* Be Adventurous: Expand your tastes to enjoy a variety of foods.
* Be Flexible: Go ahead and balance what you eat and the physical activity you do over several days. No need to worry about just one meal or one day.
* Be Sensible: Enjoy all foods, just don't overdo it.
* Be Active: Walk the dog, don't just watch the dog walk.

The 2000 Dietary Guidelines for Americans are expected to center around general themes including: aiming for a healthy weight and engaging in physical activity; using the Food Guide Pyramid to guide food choices including a variety of grains, fruits and vegetables daily; and choosing foods sensibly to ensure a diet moderate in overall fat and low in saturated fat, sensible amounts of salt and sugar and moderate alcohol intake.

Producer-directed and consumer-focused, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association is the trade association of America's cattle farmers and ranchers, and the marketing organization for the largest segment of the nation's food and fiber industry.

Beef industry nutrition education efforts are funded by beef producers through their $1-per-head check-off program and are managed for the Cattlemen's Beef Board and state beef councils by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. The 110-member Cattlemen's Beef Board is appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture to oversee the collection of the $1-per-head check-off, certify state beef councils, implement the provisions of the Federal Order establishing the check-off and evaluate the effectiveness of check-off programs.