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Facts About Food: Meat & Beans

While many of us find it difficult to avoid a juicy steak, keep in mind this category includes many foods that are high in saturated fat and cholesterol, which, if eaten in excess, may lead to serious health implications. All foods made from meat, poultry, fish, dry beans or peas, eggs, nuts and seeds are considered part of this group. You want to make sure that your meat and poultry choices are lean or low-fat. Fish, nuts and seeds contain healthy oils, so choose these foods frequently instead of meat or poultry. While this food group is extremely important, you don't need a lot from this group to get the full benefit . For a snapshot of the recommendation for your age/sex group, click here


  • Meat, poultry, fish, dry beans and peas, eggs, nuts and seeds supply many nutrients to your body including Protein, B vitamins (niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, and B6), vitamin E, iron, zinc and magnesium.
  • Proteins function as building blocks for bones, muscles, cartilage, skin and blood. They are also building blocks for enzymes, hormones and vitamins. Proteins are one of three nutrients that provide calories (the others are fat and carbohydrates). But beware; too much of a good thing is not always good for you.
  • B vitamins found in meats and beans help the body release energy and play a vital role in the function of the nervous system and aid in the formation of red blood cells.
  • Vitamin E is an antioxidant that helps protect vitamin A and essential fatty acids from cell oxidation.
  • Iron is used to carry oxygen in the blood and is very important for women.
  • Magnesium is used to build bones and release energy from muscles.
  • Zinc is necessary for biochemical reactions and helps the immune system function properly.

Health Implications

  • Some food choices in this group are high in saturated fat which can raise "bad" cholesterol levels in the blood. The "bad" cholesterol is called LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol. High LDL cholesterol, in turn, increases the risk for coronary heart disease.
  • Varying choices including fish, nuts and seeds in meals can boost intake of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). Most fat in the diet should come from MUFAs and PUFAs. Some of the PUFAs are essential for health-the body cannot create them from other fats.
  • Some fish such as salmon are high in a type of PUFA called "omega-3 fatty acids," and other fish like trout and herring provide more modest amounts. The omega-3 fatty acids in fish are commonly called "EPA" and "DHA." There is good evidence that eating fish rich in EPA and DHA may reduce the risk for mortality from cardiovascular disease, and the American Heart Association recommends at least two servings a week. If you are not a fish eater, consider adding a supplement of omega-3 fatty acids to your healthy diet.

To learn more about the meats group, click here

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