For many of us, there is nothing better than the first bite of a delicious steak. Whether it is a sirloin, tenderloin, or perhaps grill-fired New York Strips shared with family and friends, there is a lot to be said for a good cut of beef.

This also, however, raises an important question. Beyond tasting delicious, to what extent is meat really an integral part of a healthy diet?

Many Vegetarians assert that among other things, living as a Vegetarian improves health. An Australian-Vietnamese study published in the July 2 edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, however, disputes this concept. The research has shown that Vegetarians can have as much as a 5 percent lower bone density than individuals who consume meat. Vegans are potentially worse off, at 6 percent.

The Mayo-Clinic states that a vegetarian lifestyle can lead to a number of necessary vitamin deficiencies. They include:

  • Protein. Your body needs protein to maintain healthy skin, bones, muscles and organs. Vegetarians who eat eggs or dairy products have convenient sources of protein. Other sources of protein include soy products, meat substitutes, legumes, lentils, nuts, seeds and whole grains.
  • Calcium. This mineral helps build and maintain strong teeth and bones. Low-fat dairy foods and dark green vegetables, such as spinach, turnip and collard greens, kale, and broccoli, are good sources of calcium. Tofu enriched with calcium and fortified soy milk and fruit juices are other options.
  • Vitamin B-12. Your body needs vitamin B-12 to produce red blood cells and prevent anemia. This vitamin is found almost exclusively in animal products, including milk, eggs and cheese. Vegans can get vitamin B-12 from some enriched cereals, fortified soy products or by taking a supplement that contains this vitamin.
  • Iron. Like vitamin B-12, iron is a crucial component of red blood cells. Dried beans and peas, lentils, enriched cereals, whole-grain products, dark leafy green vegetables, and dried fruit are good sources of iron. To help your body absorb nonanimal sources of iron, eat foods rich in vitamin C — such as strawberries, citrus fruits, tomatoes, cabbage and broccoli — at the same time you consume iron-containing foods.
  • Zinc. This mineral is an essential component of many enzymes and plays a role in cell division and in the formation of proteins. Good sources of zinc include whole grains, soy products, nuts and wheat germ.

Although most of these vitamins can be replenished by taking supplements and eating things like tofu-dogs, cod liver oil and soy burgers, it does seem like a lot of work.

So, as delicious as a lentil wrapped wheat germ biscuit may be, rest assured that a delicious, perfectly cooked steak with some garlic butter, red potatoes and a glass of cold milk will, indeed, do wonders for your health.