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Monday, December 5, 2011

6 Reasons to Eat Grass-Fed, Pastured and Wild Animal Products over their Grain-Fed Brethren: A Case for Eating Healthy Animal Products: Part 1


Since I got so excited and wrote so much about this super interesting topic, I've broken this into 3 sections, that I'll be posting over the next few weeks. I'll also attach a cliffnotes version at the top of each post because well, this thing is long and I want you all to get the information


Cliffnotes:

1. Grass fed beef contains up to 5 times more CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) then grain fed beef.
- CLA has been shown to reduce your risk of heart disease, decrease body fat in obese individuals and has been linked to a reduced chance of acquiring breast cancer (1).

2. Grass fed beef and dairy as well as pastured hen’s eggs contain more omega-3 fatty acids then its grain fed counterpart (3).
- Grass-fed beef has more Omega-3 fatty acids
- Grass-fed beef has a better ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 fatty acids
- Animal sources of Omega-3 have readily available EPA and DHA
- Wild caught fish is great for you, regardless of mercury content
- Eating fish is better then taking supplemental Omega-3
- Farm raised fish contains very high levels of PCBs and are not as nutritious as wild caught


I often hear how popular vegetarian diets are for getting healthy and living longer. They generally equate the lack of animal products as one of the major reasons why their diets are so superior. I have absolutely no problem with vegetables and fruits, they have incredible health benefits. I’m all for them, but hey, I’m an avid meat head / meat eater extraordinaire so I have difficulty believing the hype about meat being bad. Anyway, as a true scientist you can’t be biased one way or another without proper evidence right? We need to be in search of the TRUTH! What is the best way to eat?

The hell if I know.

However, I think our approach to nutrition is not entirely fair. A lot of research is misinterpreted, certain companies begin marketing the heck out of a product and all of the sudden the consumer is duped into believing that Rice Crispies will help us lose weight. (But hey, give it a shot and let me know) We need to have an unbiased research based approach to nutrition.

There are a few ways where I believe we have gone wrong with conventional wisdom in regards to animal products (you know, beef, eggs, dairy). Without getting too far into the history, and boring you with the details, we’ve come to demonize saturated fat and cholesterol as heart disease causing rubbish. Animal products are laden with this stuff. Therefore the idea that meat = heart disease and premature death. Makes sense right? I’m not too sure…

I’d like to provide some interesting research that shows that a lot of these animal products have some very interesting health benefits that fly directly in the face of our current conventional wisdom. I believe as consumers it is our job to read the research and determine what is healthy and what isn’t. I want you to have the power of knowing for yourself which foods are healthy.

One very important thing to understand is the difference between animals that eat what they were meant to eat and those that were fed a cheap grain based diet. Unfortunately grain fed makes up the majority of animal products in the supermarket. What we eat has a direct impact on our health. Here are my top reasons to eat grass fed or pastured meat products.


1. Grass fed beef contains up to 5 times more CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) then grain fed beef.

Why is this important? CLA is a naturally occurring fatty acid found in meat and milk. CLA has been shown to reduce your risk of heart disease, decrease body fat in obese individuals and has been linked to a reduced chance of acquiring breast cancer (1). CLA has also been shown to reduce tumor growth in rats when it is present in small amounts in the diet. (2) Heart disease and cancers are two of the top killers in the United States. If we can decrease deaths in this area we’d really be helping ourselves out. Cheese and milk for the win!


2. Grass fed beef and dairy as well as pastured hen’s eggs contain more omega-3 fatty acids then its grain fed counterpart (3).

Omega-3 fatty acids have gotten a lot of media attention lately and are associated with a myriad of health benefits. Some benefits include a decreased risk of heart disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, renal disease, ulcerative colitis, COPD and Chrohn’s disease. I won’t bore you all with the details but if you’re interested take a look at this big old study. Its a definitive guide to the benefits of fish oil. http://www.ajcn.org/content/70/3/560S.full.pdf+html

Grass fed beef contains much more omega-3 fatty acid than grain fed beef (5). Human beings are also meant to consume a specific ratio of omega-3 fatty acids to omega-6 fatty acids. The typical American diet is currently consuming somewhere between 1 to 11 and 1 to 30 (omega-3 to omega-6) and this is hypothesized to be a major cause of modern illness (4). A healthy intake of omega-3 to omega-6 should be somewhere between 1 to 2 and 1 to 4 parts omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids. Grass fed beef has a fatty acid profile of about 1 to 1.5 whereas grain fed beef is closer to 1:7.6 (5).

You can obtain Omega-3 from plant sources (flax, hemp) but they must first be converted to their active components EPA and DHA in the body. Unfortunately plant sources of Omega-3 convert very poorly to the usable forms EPA and DHA in the body. EPA and DHA is readily found in animal products, making them a superior source of omega-3s.

One of the best sources of omega three fatty acids is wild caught fish (5). Some people are afraid to eat fish because of a fear of mercury. However, eating fish is so beneficial it trumps the potential problems associated with mercury consumption. The FDA makes a very interesting argument that eating fish is a whole lot safer for you then not eating fish (6). The risk of succumbing to a disease by not eating fish is actually greater then eating the mercury that accompanies fish (6). Also, the literature shows us that eating fish is more beneficial then taking a fish oil supplement in raising our body‘s omega 3 levels. (7). So go eat some fish.

Just be aware that farm raised fish do not have the same nutritional value as wild caught fish in the same way that grass fed beef differs from grain fed beef. Also, in July 2003 the Environmental Working group reported that farm raised fish contains 16 times more PCBs then the wild caught variety. The environmental protection agency states that PCBs can cause cancer, reproductive and neurological problems, among other things. More information on PCBs can be found here -http://www.epa.gov/osw/hazard/tsd/pcbs/pubs/effects.htm

All resources are found in a seperate post. Stay tuned next Monday for part 2!

If anyone gets interested in buying grass-fed beef there is a great company called US Wellness Meats that sells grass-fed meat and other healthy animal products. You can click the banner in the upper right corner of my blog to get some. This is where I get most of my meat. The food quality and customer service is great.

4 comments:

Nick C said...

Awesome post Dan! I'm excited for the next section.

djpope said...

Thanks Nick!

IronBear138/LL_Kool_Bear said...

Great post, Dan. You've been linked!

Peace~Barney

djpope said...

Thanks a ton Barney! I just noticed this site. Its awesome! I really appreciate the link.