Information Leaflet: Beef and Nutrition

1.    Who eats beef in India?

15% of Indians (180 million) consume beef in India. This includes dalits, Muslims, Christians, Other Backward castes (OBCs) and adivasis.  Some people who eat beef may not disclose it in public because of social stigma that has been created around this food.

 In Indian villages, the meat of a killed animal  is shared among many families. When this meat is dried or pickled it can feed the family over many days. It is protective against starvation.

2. What is the cost of beef in Karnataka?

Beef is one of the cheapest sources of animal foods and one kg is about Rs. 250/kilogram compared to mutton which is about Rs. 800/kilogram.

3. What nutrition do you get from beef?

  • Protein in beef – Superior quality protein comprise almost 26-27% of beef and 100 gm of lean beef provides almost 54% of the daily requirement of protein, containing all the nine essential amino acids, important for building muscle mass, other tissues, enzymes, hemoglobin, cartilage, ligaments, antibodies, hormones etc. With poor dietary quality or quantity of proteins, functioning of all these are adversely affected. Beef has high quality protein (add bioavailability) which helps muscle growth and muscle mass. Although soya bean contains high quantity of protein, this has poor bioavailability and digestibility. 
  • Calcium is required for the development and maintenance of the skeleton and teeth, but also for many essential functions such as muscle and heart contraction, nervous system, blood clotting etc. Leafy vegetables contain oxalates which form insoluble calcium that cannot be absorbed. This is similar to phytates in cereals. Betel leaves with lime (calcium hydroxide) can provide some calcium. Vitamin D helps in absorption of calcium and can be obtained by exposure to the sunlight for about 15-20 min everyday twice a week without sunscreen. Low levels of Vitamin D can cause rickets in children and osteomalacia/osteoporosis in adults. Osteomalacia can cause severe bone pain and deformity while osteoporosis can increase the risk of fractures.  Deficiency of Vitamin D due to quarantine/self isolation during the Covid pandemic, has been known to aggravate complications
  • Zinc is an essential trace element in the body required for growth, fertility, immune function, taste, smell, wound healing. Animal foods are the most abundant sources of zinc and lean red meat can give approximately 40 mg zinc/kg. Green leafy vegetables and fruits are the poorest sources of zinc with concentration of <10 mg/kg.
  • Vitamin A is required for immune function, vision and reproduction. Preformed Vit A has better bioavailability and found in food from animal sources. Subclinical VAD in preschool children in India is 62% and  inadequate dietary intake is the most important cause. Beef liver is one of the richest natural sources of preformed Vitamin A.
  • Iron – Beef contains heme iron which is better absorbed than non heme iron from plant foods which has inhibitors like phytates, polyphenols, calcium and phosphates etc. Apart from iron, Vitamins A, B2, B6, B12. C,E and folate along with zinc and selenium must be present in adequate quantities for hemoglobin synthesis. All these are present in beef. So just replacing iron in the form of tablets is not good practice, inspite of being followed diligently by medical doctors.   Iron deficiency anemia (IDA)  during pregnancy leads to increased maternal haemorrhage and premature birth and in children, serious consequences for cognitive, psychomotor, physical and mental development.
  • Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) is found only in animal foods, particularly organ meats. It is important for mood, cognition, brain/neural regeneration, sleep, skin, sleep etc. In low quantities, it can cause depression, sleep disturbances, mental health issues and neurological manifestations.
  • Fatty acids are required for cellular energy, biosynthesis of tissue membrane, hormones etc. Fat, as part of the diet, is also essential for absorption of fat soluble vitamins like A,D,E and K. (It cannot be taken separately as a kashaya or tablet)  100 gm beef can provide almost 46 mg of omega 3 fatty acids and 401 mg of omega 6 fatty acids.
  • Pyridoxine or Vitamin B6 is vital for metabolism of fats, proteins and carbohydrates.  It helps in synthesis of neurotransmitters and hemoglobin. 100 gm of beef provides almost 21% of the daily requirement (0.6 – 2.5 mg) of this vital nutrient.
  • Riboflavin deficiency can cause redness and burning of the tongue, cracks (and bleeding) at the angle of the mouth, scaling of skin between the nose and angle of lips.  Cereals are a particularly poor source of riboflavin and diets devoid of animal source foods cannot provide adequate quantities of this vitamin. Of the daily requirement of 0.7-2.2 mg per day, 100 gm beef provides 0.2 mg or  approximately 10 – 15%.
  • Fatty acids are required for cellular energy, biosynthesis of tissue membrane, hormones etc. Fat, as part of the diet, is also essential for absorption of fat soluble vitamins like A,D,E and K. (It cannot be taken separately as a kashaya or tablet)  100 gm beef can provide almost 46 mg of omega 3 fatty acids and 401 mg of omega 6 fatty acids.

 100 gm of lean beef provides

Nutrient (in gms)Gms% Of daily requirement
Protein2754%
Riboflavin0.2 mg10.6%
Niacin6 mg29%
Vitamin B6/Pyridoxine0.5 mg21.2%
Vitamin B122.8 mcg48%
Phosphorus225 mg22.4%
Potassium380 mg10.6%
Zinc6.4 mg42.4%
(Source USDA SR-21)

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