During these holiday months many Americans will spend quality time with family enjoying a variety of meals and hopefully also enjoying the satisfying flavor that beef provides.
It is also very important to remember the numerous benefits that beef provides to human nutrition. As a nutrient dense red meat, beef contains a number of nutrients that are critical to the development and maintenance of key functions in the human body.
In fact, several of these nutrients are not found in any other type of food in the abundance and correct proportion that human physiology demands.
Nutritionists argue that the most common nutritional deficiency on the planet is iron deficiency. It is estimated that 2/3 to 3/4 of the human population is deficient in iron to some extent.
Beef is a very good source of iron, with perhaps the highest concentration of iron than any other commonly consumed meat. Additionally, the iron in beef is more biologically available than iron from other sources. Since this iron is already in the heme form needed by mammals, upwards of 1/4 of the iron in beef is absorbed by the human body, as opposed to 1-2 percent from non-heme iron sources, such as green vegetables.
Another common human nutritional deficiency is zinc, with an estimated 1/4 of the population deficient. Foods that are rich in zinc are also typically rich in iron. Thus, beef is a very good source of zinc, with approximately 25 percent absorbed by the human body. Moreover, beef provides a notable amount of selenium to the diet, a nutrient critical to the human antioxidant defense system.
Vitamin B12 is essential to development and can only be found in animal derived foods such as beef. Additionally, vitamin B6 is necessary for the absorption of amino acids, the building blocks of proteins.
Beef is a good source of both of these B vitamins. Additionally regarding amino acids, red meats such as beef are a dense source of these protein precursors, and are in the same proportion needed by humans. Access to high quality protein sources such as beef allows for the proper development of the major structure and functional systems in the human body.
Fat consumption has a negative stigma, but a closer evaluation indicates that properly proportioned fat consumption plays a very important role in the maintenance of human physiology and development.
There has been a great deal of recent interest in the beneficial effects of the very long chain polyunsaturated acids, in particular eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). Anti-atherogenic, anti-thrombotic and anti-inflammatory effects have been noted with consumption of these specific nutrients.
Additionally, there is some evidence that increased maternal polyunsaturated fatty acid intake during pregnancy may produce beneficial effects.
Impact on human health is among the primary concerns of the consumer when considering consumption of beef and other red meat products. Lean beef not only provides a positive eating experience, it is a very nutrient dense food with many benefits to human health.
With high concentrations of nutrients such as biologically available iron and vitamins needed for proper metabolism, beef also contains a noted amount of healthy fats that are important to human functions.
During these holiday months, remember these numerous benefits and enjoy the numerous eating opportunities that beef provides.
Visit the University of Minnesota Beet Extension page at www.extension.umn.edu/beef or www.extension.umn.edu/meatscience for further questions regarding beef or meat science.