Eating high-protein diets can have a number of health benefits that can help you feel better, lose weight, and have more energy. Meat is a great way to get protein in your diet and today, we are going to discuss how you can reap the rewards of eating meat.
Benefits of Eating Protein-Rich Foods
Protein-rich foods include nuts, beans, eggs, dairy products, poultry, fish, and red meat. Each of these sources provides different forms of proteins that are essential to your body. There are more than 10,000 different proteins in your body, but they all have one thing in common – they need amino acids.
The Essential Amino Acids
There are more than 20 different amino acids our bodies require. Many of these necessary amino acids can be synthesized by the body, however, there are a few that can't. There are nine amino acids that the body can only get from eating food. Histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine are known as Essential Amino Acids.
The best way to get the nine essential amino acids is to eat complete proteins found in meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products.
Benefits of Eating Meat: Fast Facts
- Red meat is a good source of iron, zinc, and B vitamins, particularly vitamin B12. These minerals and vitamins are essential for energy, stamina, and performance. Many types of meat are filling and can help reduce the urge to eat too much.
- White meats, like chicken and turkey breast, are considered to be low-fat foods and provide complete protein types.
- Many types of meat, particularly fish, are high sources of omega-3 fatty acids which can reduce heart disease and cholesterol. Eating enough meat regularly can improve your immune system and help you prevent becoming sick.
- Meat consumption can provide your body with important antioxidants and may reduce inflammation and reduce your risk of certain diseases.
Benefits of Eating Meat: Specific Nutrients
Eating red and processed meats as part of a balanced diet that also includes fruits and vegetables, lean meats, and other valuable sources of nutrients and proteins is a great way to ensure your body gets all the food groups it needs. While we have briefly touched on some of the benefits of eating meat, we are going to get a little more in-depth here and discuss some of the most important reasons that eating meat is good for you.
Minerals in Meat
Raw meat contains numerous important minerals that your body needs. Many of these minerals are resistant to heat, so you won't lose value from cooking meat.
- Iron – Iron is one of the primary minerals in meat. Iron improves circulation and is essential for healthy red blood cells. As such, iron can improve the cardiovascular health benefits of eating meat. People who lack iron in their diets suffer from a condition called anemia.
- Zinc – Zinc is another mineral that is acquired in meat consumption. Zinc is essential for immune system health and for the body to build DNA, heal from wounds, and for growth in children. Zinc found in fresh meat is also important for metabolism.
- Selenium – Another trace mineral that has a wide range of important functions, selenium is associated with improved immune system function and it also can help prevent heart disease and reduce cancer risk. Selenium plays a role in heart health.
- Phosphorus – Phosphorus plays important role in the growth and development of bone health and teeth. It is an important element for healing and recovery, particularly as part of a healthy diet for individuals who are working out to build muscle.
- Magnesium – Magnesium is an essential mineral you can get from eating meat. Magnesium improves brain function and is important for cellular health and growth.
While there are lots of ways to increase the vitamins in your diet, you can eat meat and get many of the essential vitamins.
- B Vitamins – Both red meat and white lean meat offer the benefit of B vitamin complexes. Of particular importance to a healthy diet is B12, which is found in most meats. B12 is essential for cellular health benefits, energy, stamina, and physical performance.
- Niacin is one of the B vitamins that are essential for reducing the risks of heart disease. The body can convert tryptophan often found in turkey, chicken, and other cooked meat into niacin.
- Another important B vitamin is riboflavin, which is B2. It is found in whole grains and plant foods and pink or red meat and is important for digestive tract health, brain health, and skin health benefits.
Benefits of Eating Fatty Meat
For many years, science indicated that there was a possible link between eating red meat and processed meat products and the development of various cancers. Recent studies have found that at least some of these studies failed to account for numerous environmental and social factors that also impact health and may have been more responsible than the authors of the studies anticipated.
In particular, the idea that the saturated fat in marbled beef is unhealthy is beginning to change as studies now show that the saturated fat content may reduce LDL, or bad cholesterol, while the thick fat on the outside of the meat is most likely responsible for bad cholesterol.
Keep reading: Lean Meats vs. Fatty Meat
Nutrition of Cooked Meat
Many of the studies look at the nutrient content of raw meat, but you probably aren't going to sit down and eat a raw steak. Some of the health benefits of eating meat can change when dealing with cooked meat versus raw meat products.
Most of the vitamins and minerals are stable at high temperatures, so they don't break down when cooking, but the cooking process can introduce harmful elements into your diet. Charred and burned meat can contain a wide variety of chemicals that are created when cooking, many of which have potentially carcinogenic dietary factors.
Nutrition of Processed Meat Consumption
Processed meat includes bacon, sausage, jerky, and of course, hot dogs. Many of these products carry a higher risk of introducing harmful chemicals into your diet, so it's best to limit the amount of processed meat you eat. With that said, some processed meat – like jerky for example – is a great way to ensure you have a good source of nutrients and vitamins without having to spend time and energy cooking a meal. It also makes a great, protein-packed, post-workout snack.
Keep in mind that jerky (along with most processed meat products) tends to have a higher salt content than unprocessed meat which can quickly exceed the amounts your body should have. Processed meats tend to be lower in healthy fats and typically have more harmful fat than fattier meat cuts like steak.
One way to reduce the harmful aspects of processed meat is to make your own at home. We've got some great videos on making your own sausage, hotdogs, and jerky so that you can add the ingredients you want and avoid the things you don't want.
How Much Meat is Too Much
There are lots of people with strong opinions about how much meat you should consume on a regular basis. Most of the science indicates that overconsumption of red and processed meats can lead to obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and numerous other health problems, however, there are also dozens of other factors that can impact the health benefits of eating meat.
Nutritionists recommend restricting red meat portions to about 18 ounces per week split into three meals. The issue that comes up is that these portions don't always mean an equivalent meal. For example, a high-quality prime cut of ribeye is going to have higher levels of healthy fats, higher mineral and nutrient amounts, and less harmful fat than something like hamburger meat.
A good way to think about things is to mix in servings of lean red meat, and white meat, and to remember to include fish in your diet. You can also add organ meats like liver to increase your nutrition load while reducing exposure to harmful chemicals.
It's also a good idea to mix up the ways you cook food. We love smoked meats, but there are negative aspects associated with smoking, grilling, and barbecuing that can be mitigated by roasting meat and low-heat methods like sous vide. You can also improve the healthiness of red meats by removing excess visible fat from the surfaces before cooking meat.
Keep it Balances
Understanding that meat has important health benefits is vital to creating the best dietary patterns for your lifestyle. Proper meat intake can help you avoid gaining excess weight, improve stamina, and give you more energy, but you'll also want to mix up your protein sources.
Incorporating dairy, eggs, and fish are particularly important to a balanced diet. You should also make sure that you add protein from a plant-based diet with high-quality protein ingredients like nuts and seeds. These ingredients are also excellent in trail mix and as a snack before or after a workout or when you are getting ready for a demanding mental task.
Healthy living includes meat in your diet and changing how people view meat consumption is going to produce better-quality studies that more fully explain the role that the health benefits of eating meat play in a person's overall well-being.