Red meat is part of the protein food group, which also includes poultry, fish, beans, peas, eggs, nuts and seeds. This group is your body’s source of protein, but also supplies other nutrients, such as B complex vitamins, vitamin E, iron, zinc and magnesium. Your body uses the nutrients in meat to maintain your health. However, your total protein food intake should include plant-based foods, as well as meat.
Bones, cartilage, skin, blood and hormones are all produced using proteins as the basic unit. To maximize the production rate and product quality, the body needs a steady supply of protein from meat and alternatives, or the protein food group. Your body needs energy to perform different activities, and protein is one source of the calories that the body uses for energy. One gram of protein provides the body with four calories.
The B vitamins that your body gleans from the meat food group are essential for optimal functioning of your nervous system. Much of the body’s energy source comes from the carbs you eat. Your body uses B complex vitamins to access and use the glucose from these carbs so you can have enough energy. These vitamins are also used in burning fat and the manufacturing of sex hormones. Your supply of red blood cells and tissues also depends on these vitamins because the vitamins are used in their formation. The antioxidant function of vitamin E helps to protect your cells from damage that can lead to the development of diseases.
While you only need small amounts of zinc and magnesium, they serve important roles in the body. Zinc supports your immune system and is used in many biochemical reactions, while magnesium prompts your muscles to give up energy when necessary and helps you develop strong bones. Iron is required for moving oxygen throughout your body, and being deficient can cause fatigue, weakness, compromised immunity and cognitive impairment. Meat contains heme iron, a form of iron that you body can easily absorb and use, whereas plants contain forms of iron less easily utilized by the body.
Choosing Your Meat
The nutrients found in the meat and meat alternative protein food group will help your body function well, but you need to choose lean cuts of meat to keep your cholesterol and fat intake down. The higher the fat content of your meat, the more calories you will be eating. Along with the calories from the protein, you will also get 9 calories for each gram of fat in your meat. Choosing lean red meats, skinless poultry and substituting fish, beans, nuts and seeds for some meats will help you maintain a healthy body weight and a healthy heart.
- USDA Food Pyramid: Why Is It Important to Make Lean or Low-Fat Choices from the Protein Foods Group?
- Kidshealth.org: Figuring Out Fat and Calories
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Vitamin B-3
- Centers For Disease Control and Prevention: Iron and Iron Deficiency
- USDA Food Pyramid: Tips to Help You Make Wise Choices from the Protein Foods Group