Red meat nutrition

Red meat - beef, veal, lamb and mutton - is high in protein and a valuable source of essential nutrients, making it a leading meal for Australians.

Red meat provides a unique bundle of nine essential nutrients including:

    • Iron – carries oxygen around the body;
    • Zinc – helps to keep the immune system strong;
    • Vitamin B12 – important for the nervous system;
    • Omega-3s – supports normal brain function; and
    • Protein – for growth and development
    • B group vitamins (niacin, riboflavin, vitamin B6) and Phosphorus – for producing energy from food

    Facts about red meat

    While we need to be careful about making health claims, here are some facts:

      • Red meat is one of the best dietary sources of iron and zinc in the Australian diet.
      • It is easily absorbed by the body.
      • Without enough iron you may feel tired, irritable or lack concentration – that’s why red meat is recommended three to four times a week to help meet our iron needs.
      • Red meat is consumed three times a week by most Australians and steak and vegetables are one of the most popular evening meals.
      • With less than 4% saturated fat, red meat trimmed of visible fat has the Heart Foundation’s Tick of Approval.
      • Regular consumption of red meat provides Australians with nine essential nutrients.

      Does red meat cause cancer, diabetes, obesity or high cholesterol?

      Because people eat red meat in many different ways it is important to consider the risk of diseases and medical conditions in the context of the total diet and lifestyle.

      Australians tend to eat their red meat as fresh beef and lamb, trimmed of fat and with vegetables. 

      There is evidence that eating trimmed red meat three to four times a week as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle, which includes regular physical activity, is effective in managing and even reducing risk factors for type 2 diabetes, including obesity, blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose. The CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet is an example of a healthy red meat diet shown to be successful in achieving weight loss.

      The red meat industry provides resources to help people eat red meat as part of a healthy diet.

      Do we eat too much red meat?

      The latest nutrition surveys conducted in adults in 1995 and children in 2007 show that mean intake is 88g/day for men and 45g for women (cooked meat) and 40g for boys and 29g for girls.

      In fact, many women and girls are not eating enough red meat and studies suggest that low red meat intake is associated with lower iron and zinc levels, particularly in toddlers and young women. About one-third of women have iron deficiency.

      It is well established that red meat is a good source of iron and that is why it is recommended 3 to 4 times a week to meet iron requirements.  Haem iron, found only in meat and fish, is absorbed four times better by the body than non haem iron, found in plant foods. 

      It is also a good source of other nutrients and makes an important contribution to intake of key nutrients in the Australian diet such as zinc, B vitamins and omega-3. This is particularly important for those trying to lose weight where nutrient dense foods like red meat make it easier to meet nutrient requirements.

      Is red meat high in fat?

      In Australia, most people eat their meat trimmed of fat, so that means it has less than 4% saturated fat.  In the latest 2007 Children’s survey red meat alone contributed to 4% of total energy intake and 6% of total fat intake.

      More information

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