Nutrition Basics

8 Reasons Why the Nutrition of Meat Might Surprise You


People often think of meat and seafood as a good source of protein. And then, in contrast, we tend to associate high vitamin content with fruits and veggies. Get ready to test your assumptions in this jam-packed feature.

#1 - Meat is packed with B Vitamins!

Seriously!? Yes, meat is jam-packed with B Vitamins, some of which, like B12, you can't get without animal products.

Check out this old advertisement for meat that shows a table of meat's nutritional qualities. It's rated as EXCELLENT in most categories for B vitamins and also good or fair in others.

How does this compare to an apple for example? Well, an apple has almost NO B vitamins. Surprising, right?

I was shocked when I looked at the data.

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#2 - Pork is one of your best (and almost only) sources of thiamin!

According to Medical News Today's website: "Vitamin B1, thiamin, or thiamine, enables the body to use carbohydrates as energy. It is essential for glucose metabolism, and it plays a key role in nerve, muscle, and heart function."

Sounds important right?

One of the BEST sources of thiamin on the planet is pork muscle meat. The other is macadamia nuts, which are also a great food choice.

Bottom line - if you're not regularly eating pork or macadamia nuts, you're probably not getting much thiamin!

I always advocate for the consumption of ethically-raised and ideally pasture-raised meat products. However, eat the best food products you can afford to eat.

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#3 - Meat contains almost NO anti-nutrients!

Here's the big idea about meat, plants, and anti-nutrients. Animals avoid predation via locomotion - movement. Plants can't move, so they avoid predation (being eaten) via CHEMICAL WARFARE. That's right, plants are often LOADED with naturally occurring pesticides, hormone-disrupters, anti-nutrient mineral thieves, semiochemicals, digestive inhibitors, outright toxins/poisons, and much more. Learn more about how plants are complicated in this post. Luckily there are processing protocols that you can use to reduce the anti-nutrient load of plants, but they are time-consuming. Learn more about those protocols here.

I said meats contain ALMOST no anti-nutrients because there is one key exception - ground meats, leftover meats, slow-cooked meats, and organ meats do contain a fair amount of histamines and are often avoided by people with mast-cell activation or histamine sensitivities. That's about as complicated as it gets.

I'm not saying we shouldn't eat plants, but I'm saying more isn't always better. And we know that some people are sensitive to certain plant-produced chemicals. So, it's complicated.

What I am saying is that meat is a nourishing, and less complicated, food choice! And it's yummy!

#4 - Meat is an excellent source of zinc!

Zinc - oh where do I begin!?! Zinc is SO important because it supports immune, mental, and sexual function. It's also a significant enzyme cofactor which means that your body needs it "as an ingredient" to perform all types of other tasks. It's likely that most people are getting inadequate intake.

Two food-sources where you can get decent quantities of zinc are seeds (like pumpkin seeds) and germs (like hemp hearts and wheat germ.) BUT those sources are also loaded with phytic acid which is an anti-nutrient that grabs onto zinc to prevent you from absorbing it. So, they seem to be "zinc-neutral" once you take into account the anti-nutrient load.

That means if you want food-based sources of zinc, your most viable options are meat, seafood, shellfish(!), and dairy. Shellfish, like oysters, are one of the most impressive sources. For people who are dairy intolerant, that really only leaves the meat, seafood, and shellfish as their options.

#5 - Meat has an excellent fatty acid profile!

But wait, isn't' the fat bad for me?? Nope! This is a very comprehensive article on fat. It goes through the history of the demonization of fat and what the growing body of literature describes in terms of the healthful benefits of fat. 

At the end, it revisits the idea that while saturated fats are "fine" that the jury is still out on them. They are, after all, the most controversial type of fat... My personal take is that they are fine (actually quite beneficial) so long as they aren't being eaten in conjunction with high volumes of sugar/refined carbs.

The combo of the two seems to be what’s actually problematic. So, the moral of that story is to eat more meat and seafood and fewer carbs and sugars.

#6 - Meat is an excellent source of selenium!

Selenium according to Medical News Today's website is "Selenium is an essential trace mineral that is important for many bodily processes, including cognitive function, a healthy immune system, and fertility in both men and women. It contributes to thyroid hormone metabolism and DNA synthesis, and it helps protect against oxidative damage and infection."

And according to data from Nutrition Data's website, the best food sources of selenium come from foods like eggs, meat, seafood, mushrooms, nuts. Keep in mind that nuts have phytic acid that binds to selenium and carries it right out of your system. Sardines are one of your best sustainable options. Tuna is the best, but let's keep tuna in the oceans until populations normalize! Not sure how to eat sardines or other sustainable and cost-effective SMASH (sardines, mackerel, anchovies, salmon, and herring) fish? Check out my top 7 favorite recipes here.

So, eat your meat and seafood!

#7 - Meat is an excellent source of HEME iron!

Iron is SO important for the blood, energy and the brain. We've all heard that there are plants, like spinach, that are high in iron.

However, please keep in mind that the form of iron found in spinach and other plants is really not highly bio-available.

When we see iron in animal foods, it's almost always the "heme iron" form which means it's highly absorbable for humans.

On the other hand, heme iron in plant foods is mostly unabsorbable for humans.

Check out our 100 Grams Challenge on bacon vs. spinach here.

#8 - Meat is easy to digest!

Meat is very, very easy for the body to digest. Our stomach is basically designed to be a protein digestion tank.

If you don't believe me, run an experiment and eat a meat-only meal...just meat or seafood and salt. How do you feel afterward? Probably no bloating, no gas, no heartburn, no reflux, etc. I'm not saying we should only eat meat, although there are people thriving on meat-only diets and the indigenous Inuit peoples mostly did that as well. What I'm saying is that it's easy to digest and that you can run an experiment to see for yourself.

There's one exception to this for SOME people. For some people who have low stomach acid production, they may have trouble digesting the protein and that may leave them feeling tired after eating a high protein meal. But the problem here isn't the meat, it's that you need to support your gastric system's needs to get your HCl production back up to snuff, which is possible!

For other people who have bile issues, they may have trouble digesting the fats. But again, their liver and gallbladder systems may need support to optimize fat digestion. The problem isn't meat.

Generally speaking here, meat, seafood and shellfish are very easy to digest.

meat, steak, beef

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