DEAR DR. BLONZ: Lean ground beef costs quite a bit more than regular. The fat drains out when you cook it anyway, so is it worth it, health-wise, to buy the more expensive type? -- C.S., Kansas City, Mo.
DEAR C.S.: To best answer your question, we will need to do some math. Let's start with two quarter-pound patties of uncooked hamburger (113 grams each). The first is of meat that is 75 percent lean, and the second is 95 percent lean. The 75 percent lean meat contains about 28 grams of fat, 18 grams of protein, 85 milligrams of cholesterol and 66 grams of water. The 95 percent lean patty contains 5.6 grams of fat, 24 grams of protein, 70 milligrams of cholesterol and 83 grams of water. At this point, we see that the leaner meat has more water and protein, but less fat and cholesterol.
The cooking process will cause both patties to lose both water and fat.
The 75 percent lean meat drops from 113 grams to 70 grams in weight (a 38 percent decrease). After being cooked, it will contain about 13 grams of fat (a 54 percent decrease), 18 grams of protein (no loss here), 62 grams of cholesterol (a 15 percent decrease) and 39 grams of water (a 41 percent decrease).
The 95 percent lean meat will drop from 113 grams to 82 grams in weight (a 27 percent decrease), and will contain 5.4 grams of fat (a 4 percent decrease), 22 grams of protein (an 8 percent decrease), 62 milligrams of cholesterol (an 11 percent decrease), and 54 grams of water (a 35 percent decrease).
They both weighed the same before cooking, but after cooking, the 75 percent lean meat weighs 70 grams and contains 189 calories. The 95 percent lean meat weighs 82 grams and contains 137 calories.
The patty made from the leaner ground beef gives you more to eat, and while they both contain a comparable amount of cholesterol, the lean beef provides more protein and less fat.
As to which is worth it health-wise, much depends on the rest of the foods you have on your plate that day. Then there are other considerations such as your food budget, where the beef came from, and how that rancher treated the animals and the land on which the cattle were raised. Granted, this is big-picture stuff, but I believe it all deserves consideration.
DEAR DR. BLONZ: What is the bioavailability of the calcium carbonate in almond milk, given that there's no lactose in that kind of milk? And what's the bioavailability of calcium in real cow's milk if I pour it on cooked nine-grain cereal? Does the wheat in this cereal somehow limit the amount of calcium the body can absorb? -- R.L., Berkeley, Calif.
DEAR R.L.: There will be slightly less bioavailability with the calcium in fortified milk substitutes, such as almond or soy milks, than with the calcium in dairy milk. Breakfast cereals, when served with any calcium-containing beverage, enhance calcium intake by the very inclusion of that source of calcium. A whole-grain cereal may decrease calcium absorption to a minor degree, but many cereals are fortified with their own calcium. None of these factors should in any way be considered game-changers.
Send questions to: "On Nutrition," Ed Blonz, c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO, 64106. Send email inquiries to email@example.com. Due to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.