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Nutritional Value of Meats

By Tamara Moffett

Meat products -- including beef, pork, poultry and fish -- belong to one of the six major food groups. While it is important to make meat a part of your daily diet, you should eat meat -- especially red meat -- in moderation. The American Heart Association recommends limiting your daily consumption of meat products to 6 oz.

Vitamin Content

Meat products contain traces of several different vitamins. This includes vitamin E and vitamins B-1, B-2, B-3 and B-6. Vitamin E serves as an antioxidant, helping to stop free radicals from damaging your cells. All B vitamins work together to convert the food you eat into energy. Vitamin B-1 helps promote healthy muscles, nerves and a healthy heart. Your body uses vitamin B-2 to manufacture red blood cells. Vitamin B-3 helps promote good digestion. Your body uses vitamin B-6 to manufacture protein.

Mineral Content

Meat products contain several minerals including magnesium, iron and zinc. Your body needs magnesium to build and maintain strong bones. Iron helps your body transport oxygen through your blood. Zinc is important for maintaining a healthy immune system.

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Protein Content

Meat products are an excellent source of complete proteins. Complete proteins are proteins that contain all of the amino acids that your body needs to function properly. Adequate protein intake is important for producing and maintaining healthy muscles, bones, skin, hair, blood, organs and glands. Your body also uses proteins to repair damaged cells and to manufacture new cells.

Unsaturated Fat Content

Some meat products contain high amounts of healthy unsaturated fats like omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats that can have a positive impact on your cardiovascular health. Adding omega-3 fatty acids to your diet can help lower your LDL cholesterol levels, blood pressure levels and triglyceride levels. This may decrease your risk of developing cardiovascular disease or an arrhythmia. According to the American Heart Association, fish species like salmon, herring and trout have the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids.

Saturated Fat Content

Some meat products such as pork, lamb, beef, sausage, lunch meats and organ meats like liver contain high levels of unhealthy saturated fats. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a 3.5-oz. serving of lean beef contains less than 4.5 g of saturated fat. Eating too much saturated fat raises your risk of developing high cholesterol and cardiovascular disease. The fatty parts of meat cuts contain the most saturated fat. To reduce your fat intake, choose leaner cuts of meat like roasts, round steaks, pork loin, skinless chicken breasts, turkey cutlets, lean ground beef and low-fat lunch meats.

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