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What Nutrients in Meat Help the Body to Function?

By Melinda L. Secor

Meat provides a range of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients essential to a number of vital body functions. However, meat also contains saturated fats, and overconsumption of these fats can have detrimental effects on health. Choosing lean meats over fattier options can give the body essential nutrients while minimizing saturated fat intake.

Vitamins

Vitamins available through meat consumption include vitamin A, B-complex vitamins and vitamin K. Vitamin A is vital to the proper function of the immune system and helps to maintain skin and eye health. B-complex vitamins are essential to a number of bodily systems and functions. These include the production of red blood cells and bone marrow, support and maintenance of the cardiovascular and nervous systems, cell growth and division, digestion and energy metabolism. Vitamin K is necessary for blood clotting, a function vital to the body's wound-healing process.

Minerals

Meat is rich in several minerals crucial to human health and well-being. The body more easily absorbs and uses the iron in meat products than iron obtained from vegetable sources. Iron is essential to the function of red blood, helping to ensure transportation of oxygen to cells throughout the body, while selenium activates enzymes you need for cell function. Beef provides ample amounts of iron -- 29 percent of the recommended daily intake for men and 13 percent for women -- and also contains selenium. However, other meats also provide you with iron and boost your selenium intake.

Protein

Meat contains complete proteins, meaning it provides all the essential amino acids required by the body for good health. Protein is crucial to the production and maintenance of virtually all tissues in the body, including muscle, skin, bone, hair, nails, blood and internal organs. The body also requires protein for the production of hormones and enzymes.

Considerations

While meat is a rich source of many vital nutrients, it also contains saturated fats. Thus, you should eat it in moderate amounts as part of a well-balanced diet. High intake of saturated fats can contribute to a range of health problems, such as cardiovascular disease, obesity and certain types of cancers. The U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Pyramid recommends that opt for lean meat. Consume up to 6 ounces of protein foods -- the group that contains meat -- each day.

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