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Certain vitamins and nutrients are only found in real foods from animals

November 5, 2022

You may have read a recent article by the Washington Post on whether or not animal protein is easier to absorb than plant protein. If you choose to have plants or animal products as your main source of protein is completely up to you, but you may be missing some vital nutrients that we need to function.

We can take supplements and eat all of the kale, but the human body absorbs nutrients and vitamins best through animal products. It's all about bioavailability: the process of having nutrients intact and ready for your body to absorb easily.

Whatever we eat goes directly to our digestive system. If there are beneficial nutrients, our bodies absorb them into our bloodstream, and cells either use them now or store them for later. 

There are a few notable  differences between vitamins and nutrients from plant-based and animal-based foods.

Compared to animal food sources, plants, like kale, often contain higher concentrations of antinutrients. Antinutrients bind to vitamins and minerals making it harder for us to absorb. They include lectin, oxalates, phytates, and tannins.

Say for instance you're enjoying a bowl of black beans with brisket and shredded cheddar. The phytates in the black beans have the ability to decrease the absorption of the iron, magnesium, and zinc in the brisket, and the calcium in the cheese.

And then there’s protein. Proteins from animals are considered complete proteins because they contain all of the essential amino acids. Plant proteins do not offer all, therefore they are incomplete.

Each type of protein is made with a different combination of amino acids. When you eat plants, your body primarily needs to break down the food into amino acids. Then, you need to wait (or hope) that the right combo of amino acids will be present to build the needed protein. It’s a lot of extra work, and it can be like trying to build a LEGO set: you're almost done, but you can't find that one specific piece. But, with animal products, the proteins are complete and ready for use. 

Now let's talk about supplements. Most people don't realize that the multivitamin promising to give them more energy isn't doing anything more than draining their bank accounts. Here are a few reasons why:

  • Supplements are only meant to be taken for short periods of time, and specific vitamins need to be taken with other vitamins to work. 
  • The bioavailability of supplements varies between 10-90%. Quality matters as well as how good your digestion is. 
  • Many supplements have synthetic ingredients that are difficult to digest. And doesn't that defeat the purpose of taking a supplement if it's causing more issues?

Vitamins and nutrients from properly-raised meat do not have antinutrients or synthetic ingredients. And, they contain complete proteins. All of this makes the nutrients available immediately. Animal-based foods are simply more bioavailable than plant-based foods. 

Complete Vitamins, Minerals, & Fatty Acids Only in Animal Products

There are some essential vitamins found only in animal products: Vitamin A (Retinol), B12, Carnitine, Carnosine, Creatine, D3, DHA, EPA, Heme Iron, and Taurine.

Whether you've heard of them or not, these vitamins play an active role in our health and how we function on a day-to-day basis. I'm not criticizing our vegan and vegetarian friends, but there's a reason they are more prone to nutrient deficiencies and are often advised to take supplements (whether or not they work). I also wonder, what would the Washington Post say about these nutrients, and how would they recommend you obtain them? Anyway, let's take a closer look at these vitamins and how they affect us:

Vitamin A (Retinol): A fat-soluble vitamin needed for hormone health, vision, and physical development.

  • It helps: Vision, physical development, immune function, and hormones.
  • A deficiency can look like: Hair loss, skin issues, vision impairments, and more prone to infections.
  • Foods High in Retinol: Beef liver, lamb liver, and cod liver oil.



B12: A water-soluble vitamin that helps convert food into energy.

  • It helps: Development and function of the central nervous system.
  • A deficiency can look like: Neurological disorders, mood disorders, an increased risk of Alzheimer's, and chronic fatigue.
  • Foods High in B12: Beef liver, beef, and feta cheese.


Carnosine: A molecule found throughout the body, especially in the brain, gastrointestinal tissues, and vertebrae. 

  • It helps: Muscular strength and athletic endurance.
  • A deficiency can look like: Decreased muscle tone, neurological tremors, and developmental delays.
  • Foods High in Carnosine: Chicken, beef, and pork.


Creatine: An amino acid found in the muscles and brain.

  • It helps: Muscular strength and athletic endurance.
  • A deficiency can look like: Movement disorders and developmental delays.
  • Foods High in Creatine: Beef, chicken, and salmon.


Carnitine: An amino acid found in almost every body cell.

  • It helps: Athletic endurance, cognitive function, and energy production.
  • A deficiency can look like: Muscle weakness and chronic fatigue.
  • Foods High in Creatine: Beef and pork.


D3: A fat-soluble vitamin that helps your body absorb calcium and phosphorus.

  • It helps: Improves mood, reduces inflammation, and boosts the immune system.
  • A deficiency can look like: Mood disorders, neurological disorders, and autoimmune diseases.
  • Foods High in D3: Beef organs, egg yolks, and getting your regular dose of the sun!


DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid): An omega-3 fatty acid found in the brain, skin, and retina.

  • It helps: Healthy brain function, eyes, and nerve tissue.
  • A deficiency can look like: Mental health disorders and developmental disorders in children.
  • Foods High in DHA: Beef and eggs.


EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid): An omega-3 fatty acid found in the brain, skin, and retina.

  • It helps: Decreased blood clots, reduces inflammation, and reduces high blood pressure.
  • A deficiency can look like: Chronic pain and fatigue.
  • Foods High in EPA: Beef and full-fat dairy.


Heme Iron: A form of iron found in the blood and muscles.

  • It helps: Blood health
  • A deficiency can look like: Anemia.
  • Foods High in Heme Iron: Beef, liver, and oysters.


Taurine: An amino acid found in the brain, eyes, heart, and muscles.

  • It helps: Athletic endurance and recovery.
  • A deficiency can look like: Cardiovascular problems.
  • Foods High in Taurine: Beef and dairy.



We were made to thrive! Humans are omnivores, from our research, eating a diet that includes clean animal-based foods is the most effective way to get these nutrients into your diet. 

You shouldn't feel guilty if you want to eat steak, kale, and full-fat dairy. Just remember, everything in moderation is always best. Variation is key to obtaining all of these nutrients as well as creating optimal digestion.

Just a reminder, not all meat is created equal. The animals at Simply Grassfed are naturally happy and healthy. They are pasture raised and fed as natural of a diet as we can provide. In turn, our animals provide us with nutrient-dense foods. 

*Disclaimer. None of this is medical advice. We are not doctors or nutritionists, just passionate real food producers and eaters.

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Sources: 

Simply Grassfed

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