Healthy dietary patterns recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans can include a variety of plant-sourced and animal-sourced foods to meet nutrient needs. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy foods, protein foods, and oils are key to healthy dietary patterns. Although some animal-sourced foods (such as eggs) are placed in the “Protein Food Group,” these foods are more than just protein and have unique nutrient profiles important for health, as discussed at a recent conference at the University of California, Davis.
Animal-sourced foods provide high quality protein1, meaning these foods have all the essential amino acids the body needs. In the U.S., appropriately planned vegetarian and vegan diets can also provide sufficient protein to maintain health2. However, both plant-sourced foods and animal-sourced foods provide more than protein. Foods from different food groups provide a good or excellent source of various essential nutrients:
- Brussels sprouts: vitamin C, vitamin K, and folate (B9)
- Oranges: fiber, vitamin C, and thiamin (B1)
- Beans: protein, fiber, iron, thiamin, folate, phosphorus, and magnesium
- Eggs: protein, riboflavin (B2), vitamin B12, biotin (B7), pantothenic acid (B5), iodine, selenium, and choline