The iron and zinc from animal products are more easily absorbed than those from plant based foods. Nuts, seeds and legumes contain these nutrients as well, however they not as easily absorbed by us due to a number of factors. Having foods that contain vitamin C (most fruits) with the less bioavailable form of iron from plant based foods will help with absorption.
For infants, adolescent girls, pregnant women, menstruating women and endurance athletes, iron is especially important.
Surprisingly, most Australians are getting enough protein each day and in Australia, most adult men are eating too much red meat. In contrast to this, a lot of children and some women aren’t eating enough protein. Like the other food groups, we should be thinking more about variety. Limiting the number of times that you eat red meat to twice a week is recommended. There is a lot of evidence emerging about why this is, but that’s another topic altogether, and it deserves more time than I have to give to it today. I’ll definitely follow up on this subject in the New Year.
Legumes have been added to this group as well as the vegetable group because they contain many of the nutrients found in lean meat, poultry, fish and eggs. They are essential for people following vegetarian or vegan diets to get enough nutrients without eating animal based foods.
How many serves should you have each day from this food group?
Women 19 to 50 yrs. 2 ½ serves per day
Women 51+ 2 serves per day
Pregnant women 3 ½ serves per day
Lactating women 2 ½ serves per day
Men 19 to 50 yrs. 3 serves per day
Men 51+ 2 ½ serves per day
Toddlers (1 to 2 yrs.) 1 serve per day
Girls 2 to 3 yrs. 1 serve per day
Girls 4 to 8 yrs. 1 ½ serves per day
Girls 9 to 18 yrs. 2 ½ serves per day
Boys 2 to 3 yrs. 1 serve per day
Boys 4 to 8 yrs. 1 ½ serves per day
Boys 9 to 18 yrs. 2 ½ serves per day
How much is a serve?
- 65g cooked lean red meats such as beef, lamb, veal, pork, goat or kangaroo (about 90-100g raw)
- 80g cooked lean poultry such as chicken or turkey (100g raw)
- 100g cooked fish fillet (about 115g raw) or one small can of fish
- 2 large (120g) eggs
- 1 cup (150g) cooked or canned legumes/beans such as lentils, chick peas or split peas (preferably with no added salt)
- 170g tofu
- 30g nuts, seeds, peanut or almond butter or tahini or other nut or seed paste (no added salt)*
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