By Eryn Carter on October 2, 2019

The Dish on Animal Protein

Why It Should Be a Part of a Healthy Diet

Cooked Steak

The idea of eliminating animal meat products from the diet to promote better health, specifically heart health, has been a popular topic within recent years. Before you decide to cut meat out of your diet, meat in moderation can be a healthy addition to your diet. The problem doesn’t lie with animal meat, rather the balance and amount of saturated fat within the total diet. Animal meat products add many essential nutrients to the body in an efficient, condensed source and can be a great addition to a healthy diet. The key here is what is important with almost everything; moderation.

Animal protein plays an essential role in your diet – literally. Protein sources are rated with the consideration of their digestibility and utilization of amino acids in the body. Generally, animal protein sources score well on rating scales due to their amino acid make up. Animal meat products contain all nine essential amino acids that your body cannot produce but needs in order to function. In addition to amino acids, animal meats also contain vital nutrients the body uses to function. These nutrients are essential for energy production, proper hormone function and transport of other elements in the body. Consumption of animal protein can also be beneficial for satiating appetite – keeping you fuller longer –which helps promote eating regular meals and maintaining a healthy weight.

There are many great benefits to eating animal proteins but be sure to keep saturated fat in mind. According to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, less than 10 percent of daily calories should be consumed from saturated fats. This is important to note as animal proteins can be higher in saturated fat, which when eaten in excess can potentially contribute to risk of heart disease. It is also important to note this guideline does not say saturated fats should be eliminated from the diet completely. This is where balance comes into play. Eating animal meats in moderation while also maintaining a diet high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains can keep saturated fat content low while giving your body all the benefits that meat proteins have to offer. Here are a few other suggestions to balance animal protein consumption:

Portion size

When choosing meat portions, consider the size of the palm of your hand. This is a good general guideline.

Leaner more often

While all cuts of animal meats can be included in a healthy diet, choosing lean meat cuts more often can help limit saturated fat intake. Cuts such as the loin and round, as well as 10 percent fat or less ground beef are typically leaner options.

Balancing other sources of saturated fats

Animal proteins are not the only sources of saturated fats. Check ingredient labels for coconut and palm kernel oils. Limiting these sources of saturated fat in the diet can help keep you within that 10 percent daily limit.


Dietary Guidelines 2015-2020 Executive summary (n.d.). Retrieved September 30, 2019, from here

  • Eryn Carter

    Eryn Carter

    Eryn is a Kansas raised Registered Dietitian who is passionate about food from farm to table. She believes nutrition begins at the root and values agriculture for aiding the public in having a well-balanced diet.