What Meat and Beans Can Do for You
Foods in the meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, and seed group provide vital
nutrients. However, choosing foods from this group that are high in saturated
fat and cholesterol may cause illness.
For more information on the meat and beans group, click here.
Protein, Vitamins, & Minerals
Meat, poultry, fish, dry beans and peas, eggs, nuts, and seeds supply many
nutrients. These include 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
- B vitamins found in this food group serve a variety of functions in the
body. They help the body release energy, play a vital role in the function of
the nervous system, aid in the formation of red blood cells, and help build
- 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. Many teenage girls and women in
their childbearing years have iron-deficiency anemia due to loss of blood
during their menstrual period.
- Magnesium is used in building bones and in releasing energy from
- Zinc is necessary for biochemical reactions and helps the immune system
- Diets that are high in saturated fats raise LDL "bad" cholesterol
levels. High LDL cholesterol, in turn, increases the risk for heart disease.
Some food choices in this group are high in saturated fat. These include fatty
cuts of beef, pork, and lamb; regular (75% to 85% lean) ground beef; regular
sausages, hot dogs, and bacon; some luncheon meats such as regular bologna and
salami; and some poultry such as duck.
- Diets that are high in cholesterol can also raise LDL cholesterol levels in
the blood. Cholesterol is only found in foods from animal sources. Foods in
this group that are high in cholesterol include egg yolks (egg whites are
cholesterol-free) and organ meats such as liver and giblets.
- A high intake of fats makes it difficult to avoid eating more calories than
Why is it important to include fish, nuts, and seeds?
- Varying choices and including fish, nuts, and seeds in meals can boost
intake of healthy fats called 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, trout, and herring) are high in a type of PUFA
called "omega-3 fatty acids." The omega-3 fatty acids in fish are
commonly called "EPA" and "DHA." There is some limited evidence
that suggests eating fish rich in EPA and DHA may reduce the risk for death
from heart disease.
- Some nuts and seeds (flax, walnuts) are excellent sources of essential
fatty acids, and some (sunflower seeds, almonds, hazelnuts) are good sources of