While there is an abundance of literature available announcing the reasons that consumers should avoid red meat (based on its cholesterol and trans fatty acid content) this literature often neglects to mention that not all beef is created equal. Cows raised on conventional farms or feed lots dine on corn and grain, and often do not have space to move their quickly growing bodies. Some farmers will boast of producing organic beef, from cows fed only organic grains. While this meat may be slightly less toxic than that produced from cows injected with antibiotics and hormones, and fed grain grown from genetically modified seeds, the bottom line is that beef from cows fed grain, organic or not, is chemically inferior and does not contain the same nutrients that are available in beef produced from cows that are fed grass for the entirety of their lives (grass fed and grass finished).
Pasture raised cattle live a different lifestyle than their feedlot raised counterparts. Free to wander the hills, and ushered from pasture to pasture, their bodies develop at a normal healthy rate. The beef produced from these animals not only tastes better, but is a natural source of complete proteins, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals. One striking piece of evidence that the meat from grass fed cows is chemically different than that from grain fed, is the presence of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). Grass fed beef contains 3 to 5 times more of this healthy fat than grain fed beef. Not only has CLA been known to prevent breast, lung, skin, colorectal, and stomach cancers, as well as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and osteoporosis, but it is known for its ability to prevent inflammation, help manage cholesterol and triglyceride levels. It is even improve body composition, by supporting lean tissue mass development and decreasing fat stores on the body.
beef is also a more potent source Omega-3 fatty acid, which protects not only
the heart, but the brain as well, improving memory function and warding off symptoms
Alzheimer’s disease and age induced dementia. Grass fed beef provides more B
vitamins, beta carotene, vitamin E, vitamin K, and trace minerals such as
magnesium, calcium, and selenium than the highest grade of grain fed product. In
conclusion, the organic, pasture raised, grass fed beef you enjoy may not be
something you need avoid telling your cardiologist. The abundance of heart and
brain healthy fats, as well as naturally occurring protein, vitamins and
minerals make it a product you can indulge in guilt free.
Alizah Rotman, BS Kinesiology, ACSM HFS, ACSM EIM