THE IMPORTANCE OF MEAT IN NUTRITION
Today, amongst the food offer, animal products are highly appreciated by the consumers of more or less developed communities, and have always been considered a highly nutritional food associated with good health and prosperity.
In Western countries, meat specifically has a very important role in the human diet. Alongside this, the more developed a country is, the larger is its consumption.
NUTRITIONAL VALUE OF BEEF, PORK AND LAMB
Meat is an essential part of our diet, as it gives our body a wide range of nutrients:
• Water: between 60 – 80% of its weight.
• Proteins: it has between 20 – 25% of protein, basically from the muscular tissue, which is the fundamental part of meats. Meat protein is of high biological value (around 40% of its amino acids are essential, that is to say the body cannot synthesise them and they therefore have to be provided by the diet) and are needed every day. As the animal’s age increases, the quantity of conjunctive tissue does too, which has a smaller amount of methionine and other essential amino acids.
• Non proteic nitrogenised substances: in meat we can also find free amino acids, peptides, nucleotides, creatine, etc.
• Fats: the fat content of meats is highly variable, from 3 to 30% of their composition. The quantity and quality of fat depends on factors such as age, sex, feeding and carcass area. Approximately half of its content in saturated fats (and particularly palmitic and stearic acid), whereas the other unsaturated half is dominated by the monounsaturated fatty acids (principally oleic – pork is especially rich in this -).
Fat is one of the three palatable agents of foods whose presence in the meat, in addition to being a vehicle of liposoluble vitamins, means that we can distinguish the different types of meat and enjoy their consumption.
The meat from ruminants, just like the milk, is a source of Trans natural fatty acid, which according to recent studies does not seem to have the same effect on health as those obtained industrially from vegetable sources to make bakery and pastry products, which have a higher impact on cardiovascular diseases.
Moreover, we mustn’t forget that many meat derivatives such as delicatessen usually have a larger fat content and should therefore be consumed in moderation.
• Vitamins: in meat, we particularly see the content in group B vitamins such as B1 (thiamine), B3 (niacin), B6 and B12, as well as vitamin A in the form of retinol. Meats also have small amounts of other vitamins such as E, pantothenic acid and biotin.
• Minerales: meat is an excellent natural source of iron and zinc with great bioavailability.
Between 30 and 60% of the iron in meat is of high bioavailability (haem iron) and its presence in a daily intake can increase the absorption of iron in other foods. Suitable intake of this mineral plays an important role in preventing iron-deficiency anaemia. It is therefore particularly important that meat should be consumed by people with iron-deficiency anaemia or at risk of having it, as the iron we get from vegetables (lentils, spinach, etc.) is principally non haem, which is of lower bioavailability. Today the average consumption of iron amongst the Spanish population does not exceed 80% of the daily recommendations for women from 20 to 39 (FEN-MARM, 2006).
In the case of zinc, its bioavailability also increases with the presence of proteins. Without the contribution of the meats, nutritional deficiencies of this mineral can appear.
Furthermore, meats contain significant amounts of other minerals such as copper, magnesium, selenium, phosphorus, chromium and nickel.
If we analyse separately the nutritional content of the meats from different animals, we can see certain differences between them.