What You Miss Without Meat
Americans are increasingly overfed yet undernourished, so it’s essential that we get the most nutritional value from the foods and beverages we enjoy. In fact, the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) MyPyramid encourage people to “get more nutrition from their calories” by choosing nutrient-rich foods first, within and among all food groups, including colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low- and nonfat dairy, and lean meats.
The Meat & Beans group includes many nutrient-rich foods that provide essential vitamins, minerals and protein needed throughout the lifecycle; however, a common myth is that people are eating too much from the Meat & Beans group. In fact, many Americans are not meeting the recommended servings from the Meat group each day, based on caloric intake, placing them at risk for nutritional deficiencies. In particular, more than 70 percent of females age 20 and older and more than 80 percent of girls ages 2-11 are not eating the recommended servings from the Meat group each day. In addition, nearly 80 percent of boys ages 2-11 are not eating the recommended servings from the Meat group each day.
Kaiti Roeder, a Registered Dietitian and Director of Nutrition and Education at the Nebraska Beef Council said, “Lean beef is a naturally nutrient-rich source of several essential vitamins and minerals we need to live well and prevent chronic disease. A three-ounce serving of lean beef is an excellent source of protein, zinc, vitamin B12, selenium and phosphorus; and a good source of niacin, vitamin B6, iron and riboflavin.”
Scientific research shows that each of the nutrients that beef provides is important in its own unique way. For example:
A three-ounce serving of lean beef is an excellent source of protein, supplying more than half the protein most people need each day. In addition, the protein in beef is a complete, high-quality protein, which means it supplies all of the essential amino acids, or building blocks of protein, the body needs to build, maintain and repair body tissue. Muscles also form hormones and enzymes, and increase resistance to infection and disease. A growing body of scientific evidence suggests that eating more protein can benefit weight loss, muscle mass maintenance, cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and satiety.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), iron deficiency is a common nutritional deficiency worldwide among young children and women of child-bearing age, including those who are pregnant. In fact, four million U.S. children are iron-deficient, and childhood iron-deficiency anemia is associated with behavioral and cognitive delays. Beef is a good source of iron, and unlike plant proteins, beef is the food supply’s most readily available and easily absorbed source of iron. Iron not only helps red blood cells carry oxygen to body tissue, it also plays an important role in cognitive health, including memory, ability to learn and reasoning.
One three-ounce serving of beef is an excellent source of zinc, which is an essential nutrient that fuels thousands of bodily processes, including building muscles and healing wounds, maintaining the immune system, and contributing to cognitive health.
Beef contains a significant amount of several B vitamins including vitamins B12 and B6, niacin and riboflavin. One three-ounce serving of beef is an excellent source of vitamin B12, which is needed for normal functioning of body cells and of the nervous system; and one three-ounce serving of lean beef is a good source of vitamin B6, which is important for a healthy nervous system and helps the body fight infection. In addition, both vitamins B12 and B6 play important roles in lowering blood levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that increases risk for heart disease and dementia. A three-ounce serving of beef is a good source of niacin, which promotes healthy skin and nerves, aids digestion, and fosters normal appetite; and one three-ounce serving of beef is also a good source of riboflavin, which helps the body use energy and promotes healthy skin and good vision.