Whether you’re looking for a quick bite of information or want to drop some knowledge on your dinnertime companions, here’s our Featured 5 of the Week!
It’s no secret that many consumers are integrating a plant-based option into their diets. And, although increasing your vegetable intake is never a bad thing, it’s important to know what nutrients you may be lacking without meat. Meat is a natural source of many vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, and has very specific protein compounds. Let’s dive deeper and see what natural nutrients meat has that plants simply do not.
5. Vitamin B12
The B12 vitamin is almost exclusively found in animal foods, including fish, meat, and eggs.
B12 is crucial to maintain a healthy body. It aids in the development of red blood cells and helps to keep all our cells healthy. It also supports and maintains nerve and brain function. B12 increases our energy levels by preventing megaloblastic anemia, which makes people tired and weak.
The average daily recommended amount of B12 for adults is 2.4 micrograms, according to the National Institutes of Health. It’s also important to note that plant foods do not naturally contain any vitamin B12 unless they’re fortified.
4. Vitamin D
We’ve recently heard more about vitamin D and its relationship to Covid-19. But vitamin D is essential in our diets no matter what.
Vitamin D comes in two forms – D2 in plants and D3 in animal foods – and both are important. In our bodies, vitamin D, in both its forms, promotes calcium absorption, helps bone growth and cell growth, reduces inflammation, and works to maintain proper immune function. And, although both forms of vitamin D are vital, a vitamin D3 deficiency has been linked to an increased risk of cancer, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, and Covid-19.
So, if you’re interested in increasing your vitamin D3 intake, the best sources are fatty fish and egg yolks.
DHA, otherwise known as Docosahexaenoic is an omega-3 fatty acid that’s essential for brain function.
For infants, DHA is vital for brain development, and adults, for maintenance and normal brain function. Deficiencies in DHA have been linked to cognitive decline and an increase in the risk of developing Alzheimer’s, cancer, and depression. One study found that a low-fat diet with less DHA increased women’s plasma triglycerides, and the severity of Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
The best source of DHA is in fatty fish, but there are algal oil supplements you can take if you are following a plant-based diet.
2. Complete Proteins
There are two types of proteins – complete and incomplete – and they differ based on their amino acid profile.
There are over 20 types of amino acids and nine essential amino acids. Complete proteins contain all nine, while incomplete proteins are lacking one or more. This is important because our bodies can’t make these essential amino acids themselves, they must come from food.
Animal-based foods, such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy, are all sources of complete proteins. Plant-based foods, like fruits and veggies, seeds, nuts, and grains, lack one or more essential amino acids, making them incomplete proteins and not a good sole source of protein in your diet.
However, you don’t necessarily have to eat animal-based foods to get your amino acids, but you do have to be strategic. You can mix and match incomplete proteins to create a complete one. For example, rice and beans, when consumed together, create a complete protein. So do peanut butter and whole wheat bread. Below is a chart to help guide you on what foods contain certain amino acids and what they are lacking.
We know that plant and animal proteins are different because they contain different amino acids. But, they also differ when registered in the body.
It takes the body 36 to 72 hours to properly break down protein into its amino acids where they can be absorbed. Since plant proteins have to link up with other foods that contain the amino acid they’re lacking, digestion and absorption take much longer compared to animal proteins. How fast a protein is absorbed directly affects our metabolism. Plants’ lack of essential amino acids, specifically branched-chain amino acids (BCAA), provide a lower anabolic effect, meaning lower digestibility.
What this means is that animal-based proteins may be superior to plant-based since they are digested and made available to be absorbed into the body faster.
The Bottom Line
We are not saying that you need to eat animal-based foods. We believe everything should be consumed in moderation. However, it’s critical to know what your body may be lacking if you cut certain foods from your diet. We need every vitamin, mineral, and amino acid to be healthy and maintain proper functioning.