Over the past couple of decades, meat and particularly red meat, has been blamed as the cause for several health issues such as heart disease, strokes and cancer. Thankfully science is now proving that this is not the case and the data concerning ill-health from consuming meat is unsubstantiated. In fact we are now starting to appreciate how important animal products can be when added into our diets. Here, I will cover some of the nutritional components that make up animal products and how they positively affect our bodies.
The B vitamins play an important role in healthy energy metabolism (meaning how we use calories for energy), immune function, nerve function, brain function and many more. The bio-availability (meaning the ability to for our bodies to utilise these nutrients) of B vitamins is much more apparent in animal foods than plant foods. In-fact plant foods do not naturally contain any Vit B12 and so vegans need to supplement with this in order to get it. Deficiency in B12 can lead to nerve damage, mental illness, neurological problems and infertility.
Vitamin D helps us to absorb calcium so it's crucial for our bone health. Our skin makes Vit D when exposed to sunlight. The fact that most of us are now confined to office desks means our Vit D levels are in general quite low. Vit D is an important nutrient for regulating our immune system and fighting depression. Eggs, liver, fatty fish are great sources of Vit D.
Meat contains heme iron, the most bioavailable type of iron. Iron deficiency is among the most common mineral deficiency globally. In the US it affects more than 25% of the population. Your body uses iron to make haemoglobin and myoglobin which are red blood cell proteins that help bind and deliver oxygen throughout the body. I don’t need to highlight how important oxygen is to all bodily functions. Red meat in particular has an abundant amount of bioavailable heme iron.
Meat is a great source of highly bioavailable minerals including zinc, magnesium, copper, cobalt, phosphorus, nickel, selenium and many more. Some plants can actually block the absorption of these minerals meaning meat is a better way to get these into your diet. These nutrients and co-factors play a huge role in multiple metabolic pathways in our body. For example, copper is needed for energy production and deficiency can be associated with increased inflammatory responses and high cholesterol. Zinc is needed for protein synthesis and deficiency can be associated with impaired taste or night blindness. Selenium is needed to make glutathione, our body's master antioxidant. Magnesium plays a role in several processes in the body and can particularly help with relaxing muscles.
With so many important functions in our body reliant on several of the bioavailable
nutrients that meat can offer, we can see that it can play a vital role in maintaining
and improving our health.