What are the Nutrients That You Can’t Get From Animal Foods?

Updated on September 28th, 2020
Nutrients You Can't Get From Animal Foods

Plant foods and animal foods have several differences. This is particularly true for their nutritional value, as many nutrients are specific to either animal or plant foods. For optimal nutrition, it makes sense to stick to a balanced diet that includes both. This article lists common nutrients that are impossible or difficult to get from animal sources.

These are the Nutrients You Can’t Get From Animal Foods:

1. Vitamin C

It is the only essential vitamin that is not present in proper quantities in cooked animal foods. It is a potent antioxidant that is critical for the maintenance of connective tissue. It also works as a co-factor for multiple enzymes in our body.

Moreover, vitamin C deficiency can cause scurvy, a condition initially characterized by fatigue and spotty skin. Advanced scurvy can cause loss of teeth, yellow skin, bleeding, and, eventually, death.

A diet of exclusively animal foods usually doesn’t contain adequate vitamin C. For this reason, people need to get it from vegetables, fruit, supplements, or fortified food. However, adequate amounts of vitamin C can be acquired from the fish roe, raw liver, and eggs.

Lower amounts are also present in fish and raw meat. Since most people are already getting adequate vitamin C from their diet, supplementation is generally unnecessary. Nevertheless, various studies indicate that high vitamin C intake may:

  • Reduce blood pressure.
  • Protect against age-related mental decline.
  • Enhance the health of blood vessels, possibly minimizing the risk of clogged arteries.
  • Few of these effects may only apply to those deficient in vitamin C, to begin with.

2. Flavonoids

Flavonoids are the most typical group of antioxidants in plants. They are present in almost all plant foods. Most of the benefits of eating vegetables and fruits may be due to their flavonoid content. Research indicates that flavonoid-rich diets may have health benefits, such as:

  • Improved brain health and function.
  • Reduced risk of heart disease.
  • Better colon health.

Below is an overview of four common flavonoids, including their health benefits and food sources

3. Quercetin

Quercetin is one of the most prevalent flavonoids. High intake of quercetin has been associated with a reduced risk of heart disease and lower blood pressure. Quercetin is present in most plant foods, but rich dietary sources include onions, capers, cocoa, apples, and cranberries. It is also available as a supplement.

4. Catechins

Catechins are a group of flavanols, the most abundant of which are epicatechin and (+)-catechin. The health advantages of green tea catechins have been extensively researched. They have been linked to improved blood vessel function, reduced blood pressure, and lower blood cholesterol.

Catechins are present in many beverages and fruits. Significant sources include apricots, apples, pears, grapes, peaches, tea, cocoa, and red wine.

5. Hesperidin

Hesperidin is one of the most general flavanones. Studies indicate that hesperidin may help prevent cancer and heart disease. However, the evidence is mostly restricted to research in laboratory animals. Hesperidin is found almost solely in citrus fruits, particularly lemons and oranges.

6. Cyanidin

Cyanidin is the most widely distributed anthocyanin. Anthocyanins are antioxidant pigments that are the reason for the bright colors of several vegetables and fruits. Studies indicate that anthocyanins may reduce heart disease risk, but the evidence is still minimal. [2] Cyanidin is found in colorful vegetables and fruits.

The best food sources are dark-colored berries such as black currants, blackberries, and black raspberries.

7. Dietary Fiber

The fiber present in plant foods is believed to be responsible for most of their health advantages. Plainly speaking, dietary fiber is defined as parts of plants that cannot be digested in our upper digestive system. A high intake of fiber has been related to various advantageous effects on health.

These include:

  • Reduced risk of heart disease.
  • Lower cholesterol.
  • Lower risk of colon cancer.
  • Decreased risk of constipation.
  • Improved feeling of fullness after a meal, promoting weight loss.
  • Many fiber types are also prebiotics, meaning that they can improve colon health by promoting beneficial bacteria’s growth.

Below are five types of dietary fiber that have been proven to have health benefits in humans.

8. Beta-glucan

Beta-glucan is one of the most widely researched types of fiber. It is a viscous fiber that is associated with numerous health benefits. As effective prebiotic, beta-glucan ferments in the colon, where it stimulates the growth of beneficial bifidobacteria, this can lead to enhanced colon health.

It can also reduce cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and moderate blood sugar levels after meals. The highest sources of beta-glucan are the bran in barley and oats. Lower amounts of beta-glucan are present in other whole-grain cereals like rye, sorghum, rice, and wheat.

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9. Pectin

Pectins are a family of prebiotic fibers present in fruits. They come in several forms with multiple health effects. Pectins can promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the colon.

They can also moderate blood sugar levels after meals and help ease chronic diarrhea. Moreover, studies suggest that pectins can help prevent colon cancer. The pectins’ primary dietary sources are fruits, such as apples, oranges, guavas, plums, berries, and bananas.

10. Inulin

Inulin belongs to a family of fibers called fructans. As prebiotic fibers, inulin, and other fructans improve colon health by stimulating beneficial bifidobacteria growth. Researches indicate that diets high in inulin can ease constipation. However, few individuals experience side effects like bloating and flatulence.

Inulin is present in various vegetables and fruits, including asparagus, bananas, artichokes, garlic, onions, chicory, and leeks.

11. Lignans

Far from other dietary fibers, lignans are polyphenols instead of carbohydrates. When they enter the colon, they are fermented by intestinal bacteria. The fermentation process converts them into phytoestrogens, which are eventually absorbed into the bloodstream.

Phytoestrogens have been associated with various health benefits, including a reduced risk of breast cancer and heart disease. Lignans are present in most plant foods. The richest dietary sources are cereal grains and seeds (especially flaxseeds).

12. Resistant Starch

Starch is the most prevalent carbohydrate in plants. It is generally well-digested, but some of it may be resistant to digestion. This kind of starch is known as resistant starch. Resistant starch stimulates the growth of beneficial bacteria in the colon, enhancing colon health.

Resistant starch is present in various high-carb foods, including whole-grain cereals, legumes, pasta, potatoes, and unripe bananas, that have been cooled down after cooking.

Bottom Line

A balanced diet rich in both animal and plant foods has many advantages. Although a carnivorous diet can be healthy, it lacks many critical nutrients that are specific to plants.

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