Meat and Nutrition: Unpacking the Dietary Benefits

Many people, including doctors, nutritionists, and vegetarians, are highlighting the undesirable health effects of meat consumption. But can it be the meat alone that’s not healthy? Or do we have to take other factors into account, such as its quality and quantity, how it’s cooked, other popular foods we choose to eat, the foods we don’t eat enough etc.

Family eating steak casserole

It’s hard to believe that one of the main foods that sustained our primitive ancestors into becoming what humanity is today was in fact the wrong kind of food. Either way, meat does provide several beneficial nutrients, but just like any other food eating too much of it can have adverse effects.

That’s why it’s very important to eat meat the right way. That means you should use the healthiest ways to cook meat, always see if the meat you buy is of good quality, eat various types of meat for a complete array of benefits, and include plenty of vegetables and fruit in your meals.

So let’s quickly look at what’s good about meat regarding nutrients.

The most beneficial nutrients in meat

Protein

Meat is the best source of protein, even if many vegetables also contain it. The main difference is that meat, in fact contains “complete protein, in other words, all of the essential amino-acids required by the human organism to survive. The only non-meat comparable sources of protein are soybeans and eggs.

Iron

There are two types of iron available in food: heme iron and non-heme iron. Heme iron is found in meat and it’s absorbed by the human organism easier than non-heme iron which can be found in many vegetables such as soybeans, lentils, spinach, and pumpkin seeds.

Zinc

The human body needs zinc for a large variety of purposes. The multitude of zinc’s functions include building and repairing cells and tissues (including immune cells), bone mineralization, enabling the function of vitamin A and its role as an antioxidant. To sum it up, there’s no way we could do without it.

With the expected variations, all types of meat are good sources of zinc. Some of the highest levels are found in red meat, oysters, shellfish, poultry, and pork, but there are also non-meat sources such as eggs, dairy products, and several types of edible seeds like sesame and pumpkin seeds.

Vitamins

Vitamin B

Meat is particularly rich in vitamin B12, but it also provides other B vitamins such as B1, B2 and B6.  Vitamin B12 plays an important role in blood cell production and proper functioning of the nervous system and the brain.

Vitamin A

Since vitamin A is one of the most “popular” vitamins, most people know its importance concerning its antioxidant activity, vision, and skin health, but it also plays an important role in new cell growth, immunity, and bone metabolism. Not all meat is high in vitamin A, but several types have in moderate amounts, such as chicken, duck, and fish meat, but also in liver (beef, turkey, pork, chicken).

Is meat actually beneficial for my health?

The list of nutrients found in meat gets even bigger if we study individual meat types. Meat is blamed for many things, including obesity, and increased risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease, mainly because of its high fat content. If you truly want to benefit from what it has to offer, make sure to choose lean cuts and trim excess fat.

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