Nutrients in Meat

Meat is a major source of five of the B-complex vitamins: thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12. Meat is not a good source of folacin but it does contain biotin and pantothenic acid. The B-vitamins are found in a wide variety of other foods.

Thiamin- Thiamin acts in conjunction with other B-vitamins to promote and regulate the many chemical reactors necessary to promote growth and maintain health. Thiamin plays an essential role in regulating the metabolic reactions necessary to produce energy, particularly from carbohydrates. Low intakes of thiamin may cause fatigue, loss of appetite, constipation, depression and irritability.

Most meat is a very good source of thiamin, pork, in recommended serving sizes, provides more thiamin than any other food commonly eaten. Brewer’s yeast, fish and legumes are also sources of thiamin.

Riboflavin- Riboflavin is essential for the release of energy from carbohydrates, fats and proteins. It helps maintain good vision and healthy skin. Riboflavin is also needed for the conversion of tryptophan (an amino acid) to niacin. Adequate riboflavin in the diet is believed to promote iron absorption and utilization.

Liver and brewer’s yeast are the best food sources of riboflavin. Other meat, poultry, milk, yogurt, cheese and green leafy vegetables are also good sources.

Niacin- Together with other B-vitamins, niacin functions in a variety of intracellular enzyme systems, including those involved in energy production.

“Niacin equivalents” are the measure of actual niacin present in a food plus the potential niacin from the conversion of tryptophan. Tryptophan, an essential amino acid, is a precursor for niacin formation. Approximately 1 mg of niacin is produced by the body from every 60 mg of dietary tryptophan. All complete proteins (meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk) provide niacin and tryptophan.

Vitamin B6- Vitamin B6 is a component in the enzyme system that converts the amino acid tryptophan to niacin.  The active from of vitamin B6 is pyridoxal phosphate. Pyridoxal phosphate functions as a coenzyme in numerous biochemical reactions, most of which involve amino acids. For this reason, human requirements for the vitamin are related to protein intakes.

Good sources of pyridoxine include meat, whole grain breads and cereals, beans, peas, poultry, fish and fresh vegetables.

Vitamin B12- Vitamin B12 is necessary for the synthesis of DNA deoxyribonucleic acid, the gene-containing component of cell nuclei and is essential for growth and development.

Vitamin B12 is found only in foods of animal origin, therefore, vegans (strict vegetarians who consume no animal products) may need to supplement their diets with this vitamin. Individuals who do not consume vitamin B12 or who have pernicious anemia (the inability to absorb vitamin B12 from food) can be treated successfully with injections of the vitamin.

Veal, liver, beef and lamb are especially high in B12. Some other sources are fish, oysters, cheese and egg yolk.

Other vitamins- Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin necessary for the maintenance of healthy tissues and for maintaining normal vision. Green and yellow vegetables provide most of the vitamin A consumed in the U.S. it occurs in the form of carotene (a precursor which the body converts to vitamin A). Milk and margarine are often fortified with vitamin A. Liver is the greatest single food source of vitamin A on a per-portion basis (783 RE in a three-ounce portion of veal liver).

Liver is also a good source of the fat-soluble vitamins D and K. However, meat is not an important source of vitamin E and with the exception of liver, is not a particularly good source of fat-soluble vitamins.

Source: Lessons on Meat

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