There’s a lot of talk out there about how going meatless can be healthy. But before you chuck your chuck roast, consider this: there are a number of nutrients that can only be found in animal products.
Four of these nutrients are extremely important for brain development and function. So whether you’re looking to go vegetarian or simply want to get more of these nutrients, let’s take a look at four healthy compounds you can only get from meat, fish, and eggs.
1. Vitamin B12
Found readily in fish, dairy products, meat, eggs, and shellfish, Vitamin B12 is crucial for the building of proteins and DNA. It’s also a key part of energy metabolism, which is why it’s often an ingredient in energy drinks and supplements.
But less talked about than these first uses of Vitamin B12 is this: Vitamin B12 plays a significant role in the brain and its health and function, especially in terms of age. Studies have found that low levels of Vitamin B12, especially in older populations, tend to lead to age-related memory issues. The cause? The brain itself actually shrinks as a result of B12 deficiency.
2. Vitamin D3
Although our bodies can synthesize Vitamin D, most of us don’t get enough of it because we either spend too much time indoors or live at a latitude that’s too far north or south for the sun to get our skin going.
Inadequate Vitamin D levels, including vitamin D3, have been linked with brain degeneration with age – specifically, Alzheimers disease and general dementia. Fatty fish and fish oil are the best food sources of Vitamin D3, followed by beef liver, eggs, and cheese.
Shown to protect the body from oxidation and inflammation, the antioxidant carnosine likely has protective properties within the brain. This might be able to help with age-related brain changes and cell death that could lead to dementia, cognitive decline, and reduction in vision and hearing acuity.
The name, carnosine, comes from the fact that this antioxidant is only available from meat sources, particularly red meat. It’s unclear whether or not the body can actually use consumed carnosine, because it may be destroyed in the stomach, so supplementation is often recommended for people looking to up their intake.
4. Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA)
DHA is a specific form of the Omega-3 fatty acid that has shown to be extremely important for brain development. In fact, studies have shown that the children of women who consume large amounts of DHA while pregnant tend to have fewer issues with concentration and tended to have more advanced abilities than age mates whose mothers did not consume a lot of DHA while pregnant, at least for the first two years of life.
Preliminary studies have also shown that diets rich in DHA may protect against dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in adults. Like Omega-3s, DHA can be found primarily in fatty fish like Atlantic salmon, tuna, and Pacific cod.
What are your favorite sources of these nutrients? Share your recipes with us in the comments section!