Beef For All Ages | Zephyr Foods

Beef For All Ages

Last week I shared information about the role of beef in our diets – specifically for kids. It’s packed with essential nutrients: zinc that’s vital for cognition and immunity; iron that’s needed for transporting oxygen around our bodies; B vitamins that are required for energy and metabolism; and we can’t forget about protein that’s necessary for basically every tissue and process in our body. Throughout my career in dietetics, I have come to understand and appreciate the significance of beef at every stage of life. In fact, here are some interesting things to know.


No matter what you do or don’t know about babies, most people recognize how fast they grow! Within 12 months, a baby’s birth weight has usually tripled. By age five, their birth height has usually doubled. And the connections and synapses in those baby brains are being laid at lightning speed. During this time of exponential growth, beef’s nutrients are of utmost importance. The protein is critical for physical growth, and the other powerhouse nutrients are vital for brain development.

Personally, I introduced pureed beef to my daughter early on because I know how vital iron and zinc are for her physical growth and cognitive development. I also didn’t want to deal with a picky eater. As a tip, introducing a variety of complementary foods when it’s developmentally appropriate is key for making sure kids eat a variety of foods later in life and ensuring they get the nutrients they need.

Speaking of nutrients, did you know iron deficiency is the most common nutrient deficiency worldwide?

Over the years, there has been much debate over the order in which complementary foods should be introduced, with many advocating iron-fortified cereals should be first. There is no medical evidence showing there is a specific order for introducing solids. In fact, remember that heme iron we talked about last week? It makes meat more effective meeting iron requirements and preventing deficiency because the iron in beef is more bioavailable and readily used in a growing body. Beef as a first food is a great way to ensure your tiny human is getting the iron (and zinc) they need while they are growing!

Kids and Adolescents

The diets of kids and teens are often lacking in those three oh-so-important nutrients we have been talking about: protein, iron, and zinc. I cannot say this enough – a variety of food early and often will make your life easier as a parent. Barring any medical issues that contraindicate a food for one reason or another, let your kiddos try lots of different foods. Not only does this make things easier, but also ensures your kids are getting the nutrients they need to continue to grow, play, learn, and be healthy in general. Beef’s nutrients are such an essential part of supporting growth and activity, as well as cognition and learning throughout all of childhood.


Adulting requires a lot of energy. It doesn’t matter what stage of life you happen to be in right now, we all have our own crazy going on in our lives. The endless to-dos, the shuttling, the parenting, the studying – all of it requires us to be at our best. Beef is packed with B vitamins that give us the energy to get through those to-do lists; iron that keeps us from feeling tired; zinc that boosts our immunity; and protein that fills us up and tides us over to the next meal (plus the whole we-need-it-for-literally-everything reason).

Women and Girls 

Adolescent girls and pre-menopausal, pregnant and breastfeeding women all have higher iron needs. While beef is the number three diet source of iron, remember that the heme iron in beef is much more readily used than other sources, such as fortified grains and plants. We get so much more bang for our buck with beef when it comes to making sure we are getting enough iron. 

Pregnancy is a time when women’s bodies are doing a lot. We need more protein for growing that human. We need more iron to produce more red blood cells, more zinc for the little’s brain development, more choline for tiny brains and spinal cords, and more B vitamins to maximize energy use. What does beef contain? All of the above.

Aging Gracefully

As we age, we begin to lose muscle mass and bone density, leaving us at risk for falls, fractures and decreased ability to perform activities of daily living. If we want to stay vibrant and active over time, the nutrients in beef can help us do that. Protein helps us maintain not only muscle mass but also bone mass. Maintaining healthy muscles and bones as we age is a key factor in fighting disease and improving quality of life. The protein, iron, zinc, B vitamins and other nutrients found in beef may also help improve and maintain cognition as we age.

Physical Activity 

The nutrients in beef are important throughout the lifespan for growth, cognition, immunity, and maintenance over time. It’s important to note those nutrients also help us perform at our best. Physical activity is necessary for health, and beef’s nutrients help us maximize those benefits. Protein builds and maintains muscle, and iron ensures our bodies are transporting oxygen efficiently and effectively. I learned first-hand the impact beef can have on physical performance.   

I’ve been an endurance athlete for almost a decade, both running and triathlon. When I began, and in the thick of my training, I was exhausted. This wasn’t an, “Oh, I just ran 15 miles, of course my body is tired.” This was an unrelenting, complete and utter fatigue. Endurance training depletes iron stores, which makes us tired. I was consuming the extra calories, carbohydrates, protein, and various other nutrients needed for recovery (many of which are found in beef), but I quickly realized that if I was going to move my body over miles and miles, I also needed to increase my iron intake. I started eating more beef than I usually did, and the unrelenting fatigue relented. After a month, I was swimming, biking and running like a completely different person. Now, when it’s time to start preparing for an event, beef is part of my training plan.

The Power of Beef

As a dietitian, I know that fruits and veggies are a key component of a healthy lifestyle. I also believe there are a lot of other really great foods out there that are just as important to our health, such as beef. I wanted to write this post, as well as the one last week, because I genuinely believe in the power of the ten essential nutrients found in beef. They’re vital in our daily lives – throughout all stages of life.

About the Author

Jill Turley, MS, RD/LD
Jill Turley, MS, RD/LD: Jill Turley is the Chief Creative Officer at Real Noshes. She is a registered dietitian, joyous eater, lover of the kitchen and fan of keeping life simple. She resides in Northwest Arkansas and is mom to a four-year-old whackadoodle and equally whacky bernedoodle. Follow her food adventures on Instagram @realnoshes and check-out for more resources and kitchen fun.
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