The World's Healthiest Foods


Health Benefits

Venison may not be in your dinner plans very often, but it can actually be a great addition to a healthy diet plan.

High in Protein and Iron, Yet Low in Saturated Fat

Venison is a very good source of protein, while, unlike most meats, it tends to be fairly low in fat, especially saturated fat. Four ounces of venison supplies 68.5% of the daily value for protein for only 179 calories and 1.4 grams of saturated fat. Venison is a good source of iron, providing 28.2% of the daily value for iron in that same four-ounce serving. Particularly for menstruating women, who are more at risk for iron deficiency, boosting iron stores is a good idea--especially because, in comparison to beef, a well known source of iron, venison provides well-absorbed iron for less calories and fat. Iron is an integral component of hemoglobin, which transports oxygen from the lungs to all body cells, and is also part of key enzyme systems for energy production and metabolism. And, if you're pregnant or lactating, your needs for iron increase. Growing children and adolescents also have increased needs for iron.

B Vitamins for Better Energy and Cardiovascular Health

Venison is also a very good source of vitamin B12, providing 60.0% of the daily value for this important vitamin, as well as good or very good amounts of several other of the B vitamins, including riboflavin (40.0% of riboflavin's daily value), niacin (38.0% of niacin's DV) and vitamin B6 (21.5% of the DV for B6).

Vitamin B12 and vitamin B6 are both needed to prevent a build up of a potentially dangerous molecule called homocysteine in the body. High levels of homocysteine can cause damage to blood vessels, contribute to the development and progression of atherosclerosis and diabetic heart disease, and greatly increase the risk of heart attack or stroke. Homocysteine is also associated with osteoporosis, and a recent study found that osteoporosis occurred more frequently among women whose vitamin B12 status was deficient or marginal compared with those who had normal B12 status. In addition, vitamin B12 has also been shown to be helpful in protecting colon cells from the effects of carcinogenic toxins, thereby reducing the risk of colon cancer.

The riboflavin in venison may be able to help reduce the occurrence of migraine attacks by improving the energy metabolism of the cells of those who suffer from migraine headaches. Riboflavin (vitamin B2) plays at least two important roles in the body's energy production. When active in energy production pathways, riboflavin takes the form of flavin adenine dinucleotide (FAD) or flavin mononucleotide (FMN). In these forms, riboflavin attaches to protein enzymes called flavoproteins that allow oxygen-based energy production to occur. Flavoproteins are found throughout the body, particularly in locations where oxygen-based energy production is constantly needed, such as the heart and other muscles.

Riboflavin's other role in energy production is protective. The oxygen-containing molecules the body uses to produce energy can be highly reactive and can inadvertently cause damage to the mitochondria and even the cells themselves. In the mitochondria, such damage is largely prevented by a small, protein-like molecule called glutathione. Like many "antioxidant" molecules, glutathione must be constantly recycled, and it is vitamin B2 that allows this recycling to take place. (Technically, vitamin B2 is a cofactor for the enzyme glutathione reductase that reduces the oxidized form of glutathione back to its reduced version.) .

Niacin (vitamin B3), yet another B-vitamin in venison, has been shown to reduce the risk of developing osteoarthritis by as much as half. Like its fellow B-complex vitamins, niacin is important in energy production. Two unique forms of vitamin B3 (called nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, or NAD, and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate, or NADP) are essential for conversion of the body's proteins, fats, and carbohydrates into usable energy. Niacin is also used to synthesize starch that can be stored in the body's muscles and liver for eventual use as an energy source.

So the next time you are planning on meat for dinner, try the iron-rich, vitamin-packed alternative to beef. Venison can add variety to your diet as well as good health to your life.


Venison is a highly prized, wonderfully delicious and nutritious meat that comes from deer which are either wild or farm-raised. While the flavor of the meat is directly related to the animal’s diet, venison is typically described as having a full, deep taste that is somewhat akin to a deeply woody, yet berry-like red wine. It features a texture that is supple and tender.

The scientific name for the deer family is Cervidae.


Historians suggest that venison has been consumed as a food longer than other meats, including beef, chicken and pork, that are more popular today. While venison and other wild game have roamed the lands for millennia, the practice of domesticating venison for food seems to have begun in ancient times, during the Stone Age. While the ancient Greeks seemed to be the first civilization that printed a guide to hunting, the ancient Romans lauded the pleasures of hunting and consuming wild game. Today, venison is enjoyed by many cultures who still rely upon hunting to gather their food. In addition, for a variety of reasons including maintaining the natural population of the animals, farm raised venison is becoming more popular. Today, New Zealand and the United States are the leading countries specializing in the domestication of venison.

How to Select and Store

How to Enjoy

For some of our favorite recipes, click Recipes.

Tips for Preparing Venison:

As with other meats, be careful when handling raw venison that it does not come in contact with other foods, especially those that will be served uncooked. Wash the cutting board, utensils and even your hands very well with hot soapy water after handling the meat.

If your recipe requires marinating, you should always do so in the refrigerator as the meat is very sensitive to heat which can increases the chances of spoilage. When defrosting a frozen venison, do so in the refrigerator and not at room temperature, placing it on a plate to capture any liquid drippings.

A Few Quick Serving Ideas:

Venison jerky is delicious and easy to make. Cut venison steaks into ¼ inch thick slices, marinate overnight in salt, tamari and spices of your choice, arrange on aerated roasting rack and bake at 150°F for 6 hours.

Use ground venison meat instead of beef when making lasagna.

Add a new twist to your chili con carne by using ground venison meat instead of beef.

Combine venison steak pieces, root vegetables, spices and broth and make a hearty stew.

Skewer marinated cubes of venison steak and your favorite vegetables and grill in the oven or on the barbeque.


Venison is not a commonly allergenic food, is not included in the list of 20 foods that most frequently contain pesticide residues, and is also not known to contain goitrogens, oxalates, or purines.

Nutritional Profile

Introduction to Food Rating System Chart

The following chart shows the nutrients for which this food is either an excellent, very good or good source. Next to the nutrient name you will find the following information: the amount of the nutrient that is included in the noted serving of this food; the %Daily Value (DV) that that amount represents (similar to other information presented in the website, this DV is calculated for 25-50 year old healthy woman); the nutrient density rating; and, the food's World's Healthiest Foods Rating. Underneath the chart is a table that summarizes how the ratings were devised. For more detailed information on our Food and Recipe Rating System, please click here.


4.00 oz-wt
179.17 calories
Nutrient Amount DV
World's Healthiest
Foods Rating
protein 34.25 g 68.5 6.9 very good
vitamin B12 (cobalamin) 3.60 mcg 60.0 6.0 very good
vitamin B2 (riboflavin) 0.68 mg 40.0 4.0 very good
vitamin B3 (niacin) 7.61 mg 38.0 3.8 very good
iron 5.07 mg 28.2 2.8 good
phosphorus 256.28 mg 25.6 2.6 good
vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) 0.43 mg 21.5 2.2 good
selenium 14.63 mcg 20.9 2.1 good
zinc 3.12 mg 20.8 2.1 good
copper 0.35 mg 17.5 1.8 good
World's Healthiest
Foods Rating
excellent DV>=75% OR Density>=7.6 AND DV>=10%
very good DV>=50% OR Density>=3.4 AND DV>=5%
good DV>=25% OR Density>=1.5 AND DV>=2.5%


  • Dhonukshe-Rutten RA, Lips M, de Jong N et al. Vitamin B-12 status is associated with bone mineral content and bone mineral density in frail elderly women but not in men. J Nutr. 2003 Mar; 133(3):801-7.
  • Ensminger AH, Ensminger, ME, Kondale JE, Robson JRK. Foods & Nutriton Encyclopedia. Pegus Press, Clovis, California.
  • Ensminger AH, Esminger M. K. J. e. al. Food for Health: A Nutrition Encyclopedia. Clovis, California: Pegus Press; 1986.
  • Fortin, Francois, Editorial Director. The Visual Foods Encyclopedia. Macmillan, New York.
  • Wood, Rebecca. The Whole Foods Encyclopedia. New York, NY: Prentice-Hall Press; 1988.

This page was updated on: 2004-11-21 00:09:09
© 2002 The George Mateljan Foundation