From our sponsor the Colorado Beef Council
Delicious. Satisfying. Keeps me strong.
These words are often used to describe the protein-rich foods we love and that help fuel our active lifestyles. But not all protein sources are created equal. Animal proteins, such as lean meats, eggs and lowfat dairy products are complete high-quality proteins that contain all the essential amino acids, or building blocks, the body needs to stay healthy. It’s those types of foods that provide the body with the right mix of nutrition to build and maintain muscle mass that plays a key role in giving you the strength to live well.
Complete vs. Incomplete Proteins
Not all foods contain the same type of protein. Lean meats, eggs and dairy products are considered complete high-quality sources of protein that provide the full package of essential amino acids needed to stimulate muscle growth and improve weight management. Plant proteins such as grains, legumes, nuts and seeds are incomplete proteins in that they do not provide sufficient amounts of essential amino acids. In fact, research indicates that increasing consumption of high-quality complete proteins may optimize muscle strength and metabolism, and ultimately improve overall health.
Heme vs. Nonheme Iron
Lean meats contain heme iron, which is much more easily absorbed by the body than nonheme iron found in plant foods. Heme iron is an important dietary component for promoting cognitive health, including memory, ability to learn and reasoning. Heme iron is particularly beneficial for growing children because research indicates that some toddlers are at higher risk for iron deficiency, and childhood iron-deficiency anemia is associated with behavioral and cognitive delays. Through an effect known as the “meat factor,” beef helps the body absorb nonheme iron. Unlike plant proteins, beef is the food supply’s most easily absorbed source of iron. In addition, beef is an excellent source of readily available zinc. The absorption of zinc from beef is about four times greater than that from a high-fiber breakfast cereal. As with iron, including meat in your diet also improves the absorption of zinc from other foods.
The Caloric Cost of Plant Protein
• A 3-ounce serving of lean beef offers the most protein with the fewest calories when compared to plant proteins such as peanut butter, black beans and tofu.
• A 3-ounce serving of lean beef is about 180 calories. You would have to eat 670 calories of peanut butter (more than 7 tablespoons) to get the same amount of protein.
• A person would need to consume two to three times the calories provided in a 3-ounce serving of beef to get an equivalent amount of protein from a veggie burger.