The importance of meat in diet

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Lately, an increasing number of people, including doctors, nutritionists and vegetarians are highlighting the undesirable health effects of meat consumption. But can it really 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 casseroleIt’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 take a quick look at what’s good about meat, besides its taste.

Protein

Meat is the best source of protein even if there are many vegetables that 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.

VitaminsVitamin 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 the 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 there are several types that have in moderate amounts such as chicken, duck, and fish meat but also in liver (beef, turkey, pork, chicken).

Conclusion

The list of nutrients found in meat gets even bigger if we choose to study individual types of meat. Meat is blamed for many things, including obesity, increased risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease, mainly because of its high content of fat. If you truly want to benefit from what it has to offer, make sure to choose lean cuts, trim excess fat and last but not least, use healthy ways to cook meat.