In this week’s column, Nonie De Long continues her series on the 10 most asked nutritional questions.
Dear readers, this week’s column features the seventh of the top 10 nutrition questions I get asked. As discussed last week, a plant-based diet has gained momentum as a health trend, as it is believed to be more ethical, more sustainable, and better for our health. We discussed each of them and learned why plant-based doesn’t necessarily equal healthy. This week we are going to look at the health effects of eating meat.
When deciding which foods to include and which to eliminate from our diet, I think the most important rubric to use is nutrient density. In other words, how many nutrients does the food product contain? When we look at food in this way, instead of looking at how “clean” or “green” a food is, we can discern how beneficial the food is to human health.
Let’s look at meat products through this lens.
Red meat has been much criticized by traditional dietetics, however, it is very rich nutritionally. Beef contains several essential nutrients. It is a complete protein, which means it contains all the essential amino acids. Remember that amino acids are the building blocks of structures and tissues in our body and are essential for the functioning of neurotransmitters, enzymes and cells. This results in brain and nervous system health, digestive health, cellular health, and muscle and tissue health.
Additionally, beef contains heme iron, which is the form of iron most easily absorbed and used by the body. It is only available by eating animal flesh. It is also a good source of many minerals, including zinc, selenium, phosphorus, magnesium, and calcium, as well as many vitamins, including vitamins B2, B3, B5, B6, and B12.
Aside from D3, the most common deficiencies I see clinically are Bs and minerals. B12 and zinc deficiencies are particularly common (10-35% of Canadians have insufficient intake) and many women (16-19%) have insufficient iron intake. (source) Adding a little beef to a meal helps increase iron not only through the iron in beef, but by increasing the absorption of other irons in the meal. We also know that more than a third of all Canadians are deficient in magnesium. Beef meets all of these needs.
In fact, compared to any other food, beef liver is one of the most nutritionally dense foods, if not the most dense foods on the planet. One serving contains more than 100% of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin A in its fat-soluble and most easily absorbed form. Vitamin A is responsible, among other things, for good vision, beautiful skin and a healthy immune system. Beef liver is also rich in vitamin K, essential for bone health. Vitamin K helps keep calcium in the bones and out of our arteries. Many people would benefit from more of this little-known vitamin.
Beef liver is also full of iron and vitamin B12, both of which are important for anemia. The old standard medical treatment for pernicious anemia was to consume beef liver. When the heart health hypothesis took hold (high saturated fat intake = heart disease), liver consumption was no longer recommended. But now we know that assumption was incorrect. Leading functional medicine practitioners have returned to recommending beef liver, even calling it nature’s most potent superfood.
Beef fat is made up of saturated and unsaturated fats, depending on how high it is. Grass-fed beef has a higher ratio of omega-3 fatty acids, as opposed to 6. This is best for reducing inflammatory conditions in the body. Adding fish oils to the diet can help balance this out if you’re not buying grass-fed foods.
Contrary to popular belief, Canadians don’t eat too much red meat. Recent dietary data showed that 48% of Canadian women aged 31 to 50, 69% of women aged 70 and over, and 56% of adolescent males do not eat the recommended amount (grams or servings ) meat and protein substitutes. .” (The source)
Like beef, pork contains all the essential amino acids. Also, like beef, fat content depends on the cut and fatty acid levels depend on how the pork is fed. It is rich in selenium, iron, zinc and phosphorus and also rich in vitamins B1, B3, B6 and B12. If pork is not restricted for religious reasons, it is a nutrient-dense food to eat.
Poultry, like chicken, contains all nine essential amino acids. They also contain a range of B vitamins, as well as zinc, iron and magnesium, as well as fat-soluble vitamin E. The amounts vary by bird, with the turkey having higher amounts of tryptophan, for example. They are an excellent source of nutrients.
Mutton (lamb/mutton meat) also contains all essential amino acids. Compared to many other types of meat, it is high in fat, both saturated and unsaturated. It is a good source of vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9 and B12, and contains vitamin D, vitamin E and a good amount of vitamin K. It is also a good source of many minerals: potassium, phosphorus, zinc, magnesium, copper and iron.
Goat meat is similar in that it contains all of the essential amino acids. It is rich in vitamins B1, B2, B3 and B12, with some vitamin E. It also contains phosphorus, potassium, sodium and more than 100% of the daily recommended amount of zinc, copper and iron. It is leaner than mutton, with a higher protein rate.
Fish and seafood:
Fish is another source of all essential amino acids. Depending on the fish, it can be lean (tuna) or fatty (salmon) and can be high in omega-3 essential fatty acids and vitamin D. Cold-water fish have more vitamin D than cold-water fish. warm; salmon is the highest, followed by halibut, sardines, tilapia and flounder. Salmon is the richest in omega-3s, followed by sardines, Atlantic mackerel, cod and herring. Fish is also an excellent source of minerals.
Seafood is known to be high in protein, healthy fats, and nutrients. Three ounces of oysters contain 100% of the recommended daily allowance of zinc.
There are now many other types of meat on the market, from ostrich and emu to bison and quail. There are many options not only due to expanding global markets, but also due to food intolerances and a renewed interest in agriculture. If you haven’t tried lesser-known meats yet, I encourage you to try something new. If you’re feeling adventurous, try organ meats, as they’re much more nutritionally dense than muscle tissue from the same animal and help ensure that the whole animal is utilized.
In summary, meat is a very nutrient dense food. It is a superior source of protein and fat, with the fatty acid profile varying depending on how it is grown and cut. Meat is rich in minerals, often the B vitamins, and often contains fat-soluble vitamins, which are the most common deficiencies today. Organ meat is particularly rich in nutrients, beyond other cuts.
I hope this is helpful. As always, if you have your own nutrition-related question, email me at [email protected] If you want to read more articles like this, you can find me here.