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 and carbohydrates).
  • 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 tissues.
  • 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 muscles.
  • Zinc is necessary for biochemical reactions and helps the immune system function properly.

Bad Foods

  • 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 (Which also have been linked to increased rates of cancer); 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 full-fat dairy products such as whole milk, cream, butter and cheese and organ meats such as liver and giblets.
  • A high intake of fats makes it difficult to avoid eating more calories than are needed.


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 vitamin E. All nuts and seeds contain good-for-you unsaturated fats.


WebMD Public Information from the United States Department of Agriculture Reviewed by Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD on March 22, 2016


SOURCE: United States Department of Agriculture.