Myth: Simply cutting meat from your diet will make it healthier


Meat is not an essential part of the diet, but it does offer a number of nutrition benefits that cannot be replaced without other dietary changes. Protein is a necessary part of the diet and meat and poultry are considered complete proteins meaning they provide all the essential amino acids needed for health. You’d have to eat a wide variety of plant protein sources over the course of a day or several days to get all the amino acids you can get from meat in one meal. Meat is also rich in absorbable essential vitamins and minerals. Meat and poultry products are uniquely rich sources of iron, zinc, and vitamin B12 as well as selenium, choline, vitamin B6, thiamine, niacin, and riboflavin. Vitamins like iron and zinc are more easily absorbed from meat than they are from vegetable sources.

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Some people claim that we are eating far too much meat in our diet, but Federal data shows that we’re currently eating the correct amount of protein based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. On average, we eat 6.08 oz of protein a day. The Dietary Guidelines recommend 5-7oz.1 It’s the only category that’s being eaten in the correct amounts.

Research also shows that protein offers weight loss benefits through a higher degree of satiety or “satisfaction” from hunger, which means people are less inclined to snack between meals, compared to carbohydrate or fat.

  1. Pyramid Servings Intakes in the United States, 1999-2002, 1 Day, Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center, ARS, USDA, March 2005 (accessed July 29, 2010).