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Here, we’re answering a broader question - what has more nutrients? Carbohydrates, proteins, or fats?
Now, I’m not going to evaluate every single type of protein, carbohydrate, and fat out there - that’s just not plausible. Instead, I’m just basically going to take three examples and compare them. Keep in mind, though, that this is not 100% accurate because I’m not including fruits, grains, or beans in this comparison.
In this article:
What We’re Evaluating: Beef, Kale, Coconut Oil
For this comparison, we’re going to evaluate these macronutrients:
- 3 ounces of grass-fed beef as the protein
- 1 cup of chopped kale as the carb
- 1 tablespoon of coconut oil as the fat
Why these three? Well, in short, these are representative foods that you should be incorporating into your diet if you can. I’m not going to review something like chips or white bread as the carbohydrate because you should be limiting or eliminating those altogether.
What We’re Looking For
Normally we need certain required nutrients and vitamins. These include:
- Fat-soluble vitamins include vitamins A, D, E, and K.
- Water-soluble vitamins include B vitamins and vitamin C.
- Minerals that you need more of like potassium and calcium
- Trace minerals, or minerals that you don’t need very much of, like selenium and iron.
- Amino acids, which can come from both plant sources and animal sources
- Essential fatty acids - like omega-3 fatty acids - that are needed for cellular membranes, brains, and hormones.
If you have all of these in your diet, your body is more optimized for weight loss, to fight infection, to stay healthy, and more.
Now here’s a table of nutrition facts and where each of these ingredients falls:
|3 oz grass-fed beef||1 cup chopped kale||1 tbsp coconut oil|
|K||.9 mg||547 mg||.1 mg|
|B3||3.9 mg||.7 mg||0|
|B6||.3 mg||.2 mg||0|
|Folate||4.1 mg||19.4 mg||0|
|Calcium||10.2 mg||90.5 mg||0|
|Iron||24 mg||1.1 mg||0|
|Magnesium||15.9 mg||22.8 mg||0|
|Phosphorus||148 mg||37.5 mg||0|
|Zinc||39 mg||.3 mg||0|
|Protein||16.2 g||2.2 g||0|
|Omega-3||74 mg||129 mg||0|
|Potassium||270 mg||299 mg||0|
|Selenium||12 mg||.6 mg||0|
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that’s naturally available in many foods. It has many important functions for the body, and it’s particularly important for normal vision, reproduction, and the immune system. It also helps ensure proper function for the heart, lungs, kidneys, and other organs.
Vitamin A is usually found in cod liver oil, certain organ meats, butter. Now, if we take a look at kale, it has over 10,000 IUs of vitamin A. But this is largely in the form of carotenoids like beta-carotene (though other anti-cancer carotenoids include lutein, zeaxanthin, and cryptoxanthin).
These are pre-vitamin As, meaning that they have to be converted into the active form, retinol, by the body. You may convert around 3% of that. That said, kale also has the phytonutrients that help the vision, the eye, and the brain. So this is still going to help you a lot.
Coconut oil also has zero vitamin A - even virgin coconut oil.
Vitamin C, also called ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin found in a variety of foods. It’s a wonderful antioxidant, meaning that it can help protect cells in the body from damage caused by free radicals. In today’s world of major environmental stressors and pollutants - like cigarette smoke, environmental pollution, UV light, and more - this is very important.
Dietary vitamin C also helps the body make collagen and absorb iron. In this way, it can help ensure that the body has the nutrients it needs for a strong immune system.
When it comes to protein vs fat vs carbohydrate, there’s a good amount of vitamin C in kale - about 80 mg. You only need about 70 mg of vitamin C a day, so this is actually more than what you need.
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble nutrient with many important functions. It serves as an antioxidant in the body, protecting against free radicals. Free radicals are harmful compounds that are formed when we convert food into energy or when we’re exposed to various environmental stressors.
Vitamin E also helps to boost the immune system and widen blood vessels to keep blood from clotting.
You’ll find a little bit of vitamin E in beef, zero in kale, and zero in coconut oil.
Vitamin K is particularly important for blood clotting in the body. It’s so effective, in fact, that it’s often used to reverse the effects of blood-thinning medication when too much is given
It’s also used to treat osteoporosis and to treat itching associated with various liver diseases.
There are 0.9 micrograms of vitamin K in beef - versus 547 micrograms in kale. So if someone is on a medication like cumidin, which is blocking vitamin K, they’re going to have to avoid kale because it’s loaded with vitamin K.
Otherwise known as niacin, vitamin B3 is helpful with maintaining good cholesterol levels (it’s even used, in high doses, as a cholesterol treatment). It can also help prevent hardening of arteries, along with conditions like pellagra.
You have a little bit more than other B vitamins - 3.9 mg in beef vs 0.7 mg for kale. Overall, though, the B vitamins - which also include vitamin B6 and B9 - are not well represented here. That’s why you want to get your B vitamins from nutritional yeast.
Folate is another B vitamin that has many health benefits, especially for infants. It’s needed to make DNA and other genetic material, and it also plays a role in helping cells divide.
That’s why folate is a particularly important prenatal vitamin. It’s also good for a developing child and for women that are breastfeeding. Here, you can find 4.1 micrograms in grass-fed beef vs 19 micrograms in kale.
So kale has large amounts of folate.
Vitamin B12 is particularly important for keeping nerve and blood cells healthy - and for making DNA and genetic material in your cells. In can also prevent megaloblastic anemia in vulnerable individuals.
There are good amounts of B12 in beef, but zero in kale and zero in coconut oil.
Choline is an essential nutrient that’s needed to help the body make certain phospholipids needed for healthy cell membranes. It also helps the body make acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that’s important for memory, mood, muscle control, and other brain and nervous system functions.
This is a type of B vitamin that’s good for fatty liver. It happens to be very high - 60 mg - in only three ounces of beef. So people say “don’t eat beef because it’s going to give you a fatty liver and you’re going to get fat,” but that’s not the case with the choline.
Everyone knows that calcium is needed for strong bones - but did you know that it can also help clot blood, contract muscles, and keep the heart beating?
We have calcium with 10 milligrams in beef, 90 mg in kale. So kale is a really good source of calcium.
Iron is a super important essential mineral, and iron deficiency is one of the most common problems in the U.S. Most importantly, iron works to transport oxygen throughout the body. That’s why iron deficiency will cause fatigue and other intense symptoms - you’re not getting enough oxygen to your cells.
You have 2.4 milligrams in beef, 1.1 mg in kale, and nothing in coconut oil. But here’s the thing: the type of iron in beef is heme iron. This is the most bioavailable form of the mineral, and it's much more absorbable than the type in kale.
In the body, magnesium works to regulate nerve function, blood sugar levels, and blood pressure. It also makes protein, bone, and DNA.
There are 15.9 mg of magnesium in beef and 22.8 mg in kale.
Zinc health benefits wound healing genetic material
Zinc is a really important nutrient in the body. It works to strengthen the immune system, and it helps to make protein, genetic material, and DNA in the body. Finally, it also contributes to wound healing and helps develop a proper sense of taste and smell.
Beef is relatively loaded with zinc.
Here, we’re actually talking about amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. Amino acids are essentially the building blocks of life. They contribute to all human functions, helping to break down food, repair body tissue, make energy, and more.
You get 16.2 grams in beef vs .3 grams in kale. So kale is not a great source of protein in comparison with beef.
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids that can, among other things, help to:
- Lower blood pressure
- Reduce plaque in arteries
- Reduce the likelihood of heart attack or stroke
- Reduce triglycerides
Grass-fed beef has 74 mg of omega-3s (but keep in mind here that we’re specifically talking about grass-fed beef, not grain-fed). But raw kale has a whopping 129 mg!
Keep in mind that these are also plentiful in olive oil, another heart-healthy monounsaturated oil option.
Potassium has health benefits in many parts of the body, including the brain, nerves, heart, and muscles. It’s also an electrolyte, meaning that it helps you manage the water in your body and maintain its electrical system.
Finally, potassium also counters the effects of sodium, which can help blood pressure.
If we check this out, there’s 270 mg of potassium in just three ounces of beef -vs 299 mg in one cup of kale. If you’re having several cups of kale, then, you’re getting a lot of potassium in your diet.
Selenium is important for reproduction, thyroid function, DNA production, and the protection against free radicals.
It also helps you detoxify heavy metals like mercury. Beef is loaded, with 12 mg vs 0.6 in kale and zero in coconut oil.
So, as you can see, you really need a variety of foods to get all your nutrients.
And if you’re struggling to get enough trace minerals like iron and selenium - which most people are - I recommend incorporating sea kelp into your diet.
What About Coconut Oil
Coconut oil MCTs saturated fat health benefits
Coconut oil is pressed directly from the coconut meat. It joins coconut milk and coconut water as popular things to eat, and it's an important part of a keto diet.
You may have noticed that coconut oil doesn't have many of these vitamins and minerals. That doesn't mean that it isn't a worthwhile part of a healthy diet. Coconut oil has:
- Saturated fats: Unline other oils like olive oil, coconut oil is high in saturated fat - that's why it's solid at room temperature. A lot of people (including the American Heart Association) think that the saturated fat in coconut oil will clog arteries and cause coronary heart disease. The reality is, though, that this conclusion is based on bad data. The foods that actually cause these problems are those that mix carbohydrates with high protein or high fat - not those that simply contain saturated fat.
- Over 50% MCTs: MCTs, or medium-chain triglycerides, are a type of fat that doesn’t necessarily convert to fat in the body. Instead, MCTs are used as energy, and they’re really good to induce more fat burning. In other words, MCT triglycerides can - somewhat counterintuitively - actually help you lose weight. As calories, they are also typically used right away, and they are very rarely stored a fat.
- Cholesterol-helping properties: Some studies suggest that coconut oil promotes good cholesterol and that it can help improve your cholesterol profiles. One study, in particular, found that coconut oil reduced total LDL cholesterol (or bad cholesterol) and increased HDL (good cholesterol) in a group of 40 women.
- Lauric acid: Lauric acid is a very powerful anti-viral and anti-microbial type of fat. It helps decrease viruses, it helps your immune system and it’s really good for candida and funguses. So it’s a good thing for your immune system.
Keep in mind, though, that you want virgin coconut oil here, not hydrogenated oil.