It seems meat has become a somewhat controversial subject over the last few years, and with all debate currently surrounding it, we thought we'd chip in our two pence and make you aware of the benefits (yes, benefits!) of good quality meat, and what it can do for your health.
Meat can be especially beneficial for those in training or working out often, but even for those of us who are just looking to eat more healthily, there are many benefits. Animal proteins are a high quality protein source, which are often referred to as 'complete proteins'. This means that they provide all the nine essential amino acids, in the right ratios, that your body needs to function properly. This high quality protein is essential in the recovery, growth, and retention of muscle tissue. So, even if you aren't looking to build more muscle, a good amount of protein is important, if only to maintain your current situation.
Let's look at chicken. Chicken breast is one of the most common muscle building foods found on dinner plates throughout the UK, which is mainly due to it's high protein and low fat content (a chicken breast will contain around 19g of protein for every 1g of fat). A typical chicken breast, weighing around 200g, will contain around 214 Calories, 45g of protein, around 2.3g of fat and 0 carbohydrates. That's a lot of protein for very little calories, or fat.
Lean beef also has similar protein content, with around 20g of protein for every 100g of meat.
Nutrients in Meat
However, it isn't just all about the protein you know? Meat is also a great source of vitamins and minerals, including Iron, Zinc, Niacin, Selenium, some calcium, and vitamin B6 and B12.
- Niacin is essential in the conversion of protein, fat and carbohydrate into usable energy.
- Zinc is an immune boosting mineral that will help ward off cold bugs and also supports the production of anabolic hormones.
- Selenium repairs damaged cells and inhibits the growth of cancerous ones. It also helps proper thyroid fuction, which in turn helps keep your metabolism going.
- Iron is needed to deliver oxygen to your muscles
- Vitamin B6 allows you to use carbohydrates (glycogen) stored in your muscles during exercise
- Calcium helps to build and protect bones, helps blood to clot, muscles to contract, and your heart to beat.
- Vitamin B12 helps keep nerve and blood cells healthy, helps make DNA, and also helps prevent anemia, which can makes you tired and weak.
Lean beef is particularly favoured for its high biological value, and bio availability. It is rich in many beneficial minerals including selenium, iron, zinc, and vitamins including thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, B6 and B12. Beef also contains creatine, which helps to supply energy to cells in the body.
This being said, beef does tend to contain more fat than other meats like chicken breast, and although some fat is necessary for the human body, those seeking a lower fat to protein ratio would be best opting for leaner cuts of beef. These include rump steak, and loin cuts, like sirloin steak for example.
Other lean meats, such as turkey breast, and pork loin, have similar nutrient profiles, although often containing less zinc. On the other hand, pork tends to be higher in thiamine.
Liver and other offal/organ meats are also packed full of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A, vitamin B12, iron, and selenium. They also contain important nutrients, like choline, which is important for brain, muscle, and liver health.
Other Benefits of Meat
Amongst the swath of nutritional benefits, as well as the promotion and retention of muscle mass, studies have also shown that a high protein diet can lead to increased metabolism and even reduced appetite. This is attributed to an appetite-regulating protein called peptide, which is produced in higher levels in those on a high protein diet. A high protein diet has also been linked to stronger bones and increased iron absorption. This is due to the fact that heme iron found in meat is more efficiently absorbed in to the body than non-heme iron, like that found in plants.
So there you have it, meat has some important and very real health benefits, especially if you keep it lean. Now, who fancies a sirloin steak?