Bison Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Bison meat

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For those looking for healthier alternatives to beef but still want the red meat flavor, bison is a great option. Bison has a similar texture, flavor, and appearance to beef, in a leaner and more nutrient-dense package. Experiment with bison steaks, roasts, or ground meat in your favorite recipes for optimal nutrition.

Compared to beef, bison is lower in calories, fat, and saturated fat. It's is higher in protein, omega-3 fatty acids, iron, selenium, and certain B-vitamins. Read on to see how this less-common meat can provide a healthier alternative to America's favorite red meat.

Bison Nutrition Facts

This nutrition information is for one 4-ounce patty of cooked ground bison provided by the USDA.

  • Calories: 121
  • Fat: 2g
  • Sodium: 186mg
  • Carbohydrates: 0g
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Sugars: 0g
  • Protein: 24g

Carbs

There are no carbs in bison meat.

Fats

Overall, bison is leaner than beef with only about 2 grams per serving depending on the cut. Grass-fed bison have a more favorable fat profile than those fed grains.

According to the American Heart Association guidelines, meat is considered lean when it contains less than 10% saturated fat. Comparable cuts of bison and beef show bison to have 1/3 of the total fat, less saturated fats, and more beneficial (mono and poly) unsaturated fats, including omega-3s. This remains true even when bison and cattle are reared in similar conditions.

Protein

Like most meats, bison is an excellent source of high-quality protein. Bison provides all of the essential amino acids with about 24 grams of protein per serving.

Vitamins and Minerals

​Bison contains a variety of micronutrients including iron, zinc, selenium, and vitamin B12.

Health Benefits

Bison offers many of the same health benefits as beef, with less of the negative associations. Bison's complete protein and essential mineral content help support an active lifestyle.

Promotes Muscle Recovery

When it comes to recovering after a tough workout, protein is essential. Bison provides a great source of high-quality protein that your muscles can use to rebuild. Obtaining your protein from natural food sources like bison provides added vitamins and minerals to support strength-building.

Improves Wound Healing

A 4-ounce bison patty provides just over 3 milligrams of zinc which is an important mineral for wound healing. Along with the benefits of complete protein, bison's zinc content helps the body repair damaged tissues. Zinc from meat sources is more bioavailable than from vegetarian sources, which means that bison provides a form of zinc that's easy for your body to absorb. The daily recommendation of zinc ranges from 8 to 11 milligrams. Bison can help you achieve this target.

Supports Bone Strength

Maintaining strong bones helps to keep seniors active and independent. Getting enough protein is not only helpful for maintaining muscle mass but also bone strength. A study evaluating the self-reported intakes in 70-year-old men found a positive association between protein consumption and bone strength. Including adequate dietary protein through foods like bison helps bones stay strong as you age.

Prevents Anemia

There are several different types of anemia, with two of the most common resulting from lack of iron or B12. Iron-deficiency anemia is usually related to blood loss or lack of dietary iron, while pernicious anemia is associated with lack or poor absorption of vitamin B12. As a great source of both of these nutrients, consuming bison can help you avoid becoming anemic. Symptoms of anemia include dizziness, lethargy, and feeling cold.

Reduces Cancer Risk

Processed meat intake is associated with the development of a host of health problems, including a higher risk of colon cancer. Replacing processed meats with more natural bison products allows you to enjoy red meat while avoiding some of the negative health implications. If you like red meat but are concerned about the dangers of colon cancer, choosing fresh, grass-fed bison as part of a healthy eating plan can help reduce this risk.

Allergies

There are no common allergies or interactions related to bison.

Varieties

Historically, bison were generally more likely to be grass-fed than conventional beef. Bison have also been touted for benefits related to health and environmental sustainability due to their natural patterns of grazing on open pastures. In recent years, more and more bison are being grain-finished to yield a fattier flavor and a more consistent product.

To reap the maximum health benefits from bison, look for bison that is labeled "100% grass-fed" meaning they are grass-fed and grass-finished. The second best option would be to look for bison that is "pastured raised" meaning that even though they may have been finished on grain, they were not in a feedlot like most conventional cattle and were given the opportunity to eat grass as well.

The increased awareness of bison's benefits has led to greater bison product accessibility. Even your local grocery store may now carry frozen bison patties or bison jerky. While these products are a convenient way to enjoy bison, they may contain additives that should be consumed in moderation. Check food labels to determine what's in the products you're buying.

Storage and Food Safety

The food safety rules for bison are the same as for other types of meat. Raw bison should be kept cold (40 degrees Fahrenheit or less) right up until it's time to cook it. Prepare refrigerated bison within 3–5 days or freeze is at 0 degrees Fahrenheit for up to 4 months to retain optimum quality. Bison can be frozen in its original packaging but should be transferred to air-tight, heavy-duty foil or plastic wrap if freezing for longer than 2 months.

Thaw frozen bison in the refrigerator, under cold running water, or in the microwave. Cook ground bison to an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit immediately after thawing. Bison steaks and roasts can be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Once cooked, eat or freeze bison within 3–4 days.

How to Prepare

Bison can be prepared the same way as beef, however, because it is naturally leaner, it can become tough if overcooked. Keep in mind that bison should be consumed in moderation and prepared in ways that minimize the formation of carcinogens

  • If preparing bison steaks, trim off any visible fat before cooking and prepare in a very hot pan to get a nice sear and caramelization on the outside but not overcook the inside.
  • Bison is most tender when prepared medium or medium-rare but not beyond that.
  • Bison burgers can be prepared the same way as beef burgers—on the grill, on a rack in the oven, or on the stovetop in a grill pan. Take care when flame-grilling to reduce potential carcinogens.
  • Ground bison is also a great substitute for beef in other recipes where ground meat would be used such as meatloaf, meatballs, chili, or tacos.

Looking for more inspiration? The National Bison Association is a great resource on additional preparation tips for specific cuts of bison. 

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Article Sources

Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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