You don’t eat a single nutrient, you eat a food matrix. Nutrients are seldom present in a free form, so the interaction between nutrients affects the release, accessibility, digestion, bioavailability, and absorption of any given nutrient in the gastrointestinal track.
This study zooms in on the preparation of meat and how certain types of processed meat products develop “specific microbiota, forming probiotic metabolites with physiological and biological effects yet unidentified, while the concentration of nutrients also increases”.
Meat supplies us, in addition to proteins, with iron (“its bioavailability is highest when the source is meat” and the iron in meat increases iron absorption from other foods), zinc (“difficult to consume in adequate amounts in diets low in animal-based foods”), selenium, phosphorus, B vitamins (animal-derived foods are the only unfermented foods that naturally provide vitamin B12). There’s more, but this summary is already getting long.
“In conclusion, meat is a source of high-quality proteins, minerals and vitamins and other compounds, difficult to obtain in sufficient amount from other sources. The current available research is inconclusive and does not support that meat consumption as part of a healthy diet increases the risk of disease.”
Research conducted by DENMARK’S DEPARTMENT OF NUTRITION EXERCISE AND SPORTS at UNIVERSITY OF COPENHAGEN, DEPARTMENT OF FOOD SCIENCE at AARHUS UNIVERSITY, NATIONAL FOOD INSTITUTE at TECHNICAL UNIVERSITY OF DENMARK, DANISH MEAT RESEARCH INSTITUTE at DMRI TECHNOLOGICAL INSTITUTE, DEPARTMENT OF FOOD SCIENCE at UNIVERSITY OF COPENHAGEN, and SPAIN’S UNIVERSITY OF EXTREMADURA.
“Going meatless” barely reduces your carbon footprint over a 100-year term according to a Swiss-based Sustainability Journal that also argued that “sustainability studies must shift from an energy-sufficient diet approach to one that considers a nutrient-adequate diet”.
Prior studies that have claimed eliminating meat in the diet reduces an individual’s carbon footprint have not been clear on how “the stock and flow behaviour of how dietary emissions contribute to warming over time”.
The researchers noted that “while CH4 is responsible for a large part of an individual’s cumulative CO2we dietary emissions, the long-term impacts of CO2 and N2O should not be neglected as a result of a focus on CH4, as these end up having a greater warming effect across a whole lifetime, and are not rapidly reversed once consumption ceases, unlike for CH4 “.
Put another way: “long-term, the benefits in not eating meat were largely offset by the carbon dioxide created to produce alternative foods and the relatively short life of methane, farming’s key greenhouse gas“.
“This work emphasizes the need to ensure dietary transitions are sustainable from both nutritional and climate perspectives”.
“In summary, the substitution of meat containing items from these hypothetical diets is not achieved without impact on the nutrient composition, as has been reported in the literature for actual diets” .