Red meat and nutrition: the facts

The nutritional benefits of red meat are often overlooked. AHDB Beef & Lamb is involved in a number of initiatives to educate people about the positive contribution red meat makes to a healthy balanced diet.

Here are some facts you may not know about red meat and nutrition:

  • Lean red meats, including beef and lamb, can play an important part in a healthy balanced diet as they have a high nutrient density. This means that they contain a wide variety of nutrients in a relatively small amount of food.


  • Meat is a major source of protein which helps to improve satiety and fills you up for longer. Protein-rich foods help to control weight.

IronRed meat and nutrition

  • Iron is a vital mineral for red blood cell formation. A deficiency of iron in the diet is the most common dietary cause of anaemia. Currently a quarter of females aged 19 to 64 in the UK have iron intakes below the minimum recommended to stay healthy.
  • The type of iron found in red meat (haem iron) is more easily absorbed and used by the body than the iron in plant foods such as pulses, nuts, seeds and leafy green vegetables (non-haem iron).


  • Red meat is a good source of readily absorbable zinc, which is important for the healthy functioning of the immune system, growth, wound healing and fertility. We get about 30% of our dietary intake of zinc from red meat and meat products.

Other minerals

  • Red meat also provides other minerals such as potassium and selenium. Selenium is an important antioxidant, which has been linked to reducing the risk of heart disease and certain cancers.


  • Red meat is a significant source of B vitamins, including B12, which is not found naturally in foods of plant origin and is important for healthy red blood cells, growth and the production of energy.
  • It has also recently been found to make an important contribution to vitamin D intakes. Vitamin D works with calcium and phosphorous to build strong bones and teeth.


  • Red meat is far lower in fat now than it was 20 years ago. On average fully trimmed raw lean beef contains just 5% fat and fully trimmed raw lean lamb 8%. This compares well with a food such as cheddar cheese which contains an average of 34% fat.
  • These reductions have been achieved by breeding techniques on the farm and new butchery techniques, which trim off most of the fat.
  • About half of the fat found in red meat is in the unsaturated form, which is believed to be healthier. Surveys show that meat is a major contributor of mono-unsaturated fat in the diet.
  • Red meat contains small amounts of omega-3 fats, which help to keep the heart healthy.


  • Fresh red meat is naturally low in salt.

For more information visit the meat and health website.