Grass-Fed Beef: Is it Worth it?
With so many trends in the diet and health world, it is easy to get overwhelmed and confused about what to eat and what to avoid. First, we were told to stay away from all fats. Soon after, carbs were the enemy and fats were good for us. Now research shows that the best diets are those that consist of both macronutrients but we have to be extremely picky about our sources. It all comes down to figuring out what diet plan works best for us as individuals since everyone is different. It is important to choose a diet that helps us maintain a healthy weight and one that lowers our risk of disease. But, with so much contradicting information out there, which diet fits that criteria?
Recent research has been done on where the food we eat actually comes from. It was probably never a thought in anyone’s mind years ago as long as we kept tabs on the number of calories, fats, carbs, and protein. Now is when we are beginning to pay more attention to how animals are treated, what they consume, and how all of this can affect humans. If you knew that the meat you ate every day came from cows that were fed processed grains and Skittles candy, would you really want to make it a part of your diet anymore? It may sound crazy, but many people actually do not care what these cows are fed. This mostly comes from lack of education on health and heavy persuasion on the marketing by brands supplying these types of products.
From birth until around nine months old, all cows in the United States are pretty much raised the same. They drink milk from their mothers and are allowed to roam free and eat the grass in large fields. Once they hit that nine-month mark or so, many are confined to small stalls where they are fed a diet of starchy corn and soy. This high-calorie diet and lack of exercise fatten up the cows so that they can supply more meat to sell to consumers. And as if that is not enough, many are injected with antibiotics and hormones to maximize the growth further. The use of these drugs has been a topic of concern in America as it has been linked to hormonal issues in humans such as reproductive problems, acne, and cancers.
Unlike most of America, cows in other parts of the world such as in Australia are allowed to roam free and are fed solely grass throughout their whole lives. They are also pasture-raised, whereas, in America, grass-fed beef does not necessarily mean they were allowed to feed freely in the pasture they live in. It usually means they were fed grass but most likely in a confined area to maximize the weight gain that way.
Lower in Calories
Although grass-fed beef tends to have an overall lower fat content, the percentage of the “good fats” such as CLA and omega-3, is much higher than in grain-fed beef. These good-for-you fats are between two and five times higher than in grain-fed beef and help fight depression, inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, and assists with alertness.
Protects Against Cancer
CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) is known as one of the strongest nutrients that protect against cancer. One study concluded that women have a 60% lower risk of breast cancer while consuming grass-fed over grain-fed beef. The significantly higher CLA content has also been shown to help maintain normal blood sugar levels, especially in those who are insulin resistant.
Both types of beef are loaded with necessary protein, B vitamins, and iron. Choosing grass-fed beef means you will include a much higher amount of vitamin A, vitamin E, and other important antioxidants. Grass-fed beef is also high in potassium, magnesium, and sodium, which are very important electrolytes that get lost quickly in endurance athletes.
Where to Purchase Grass-Fed Beef
Almost any large chain grocery stores supply grass-fed beef, but the best markets to purchase are any whole foods and farmer’s markets. Wherever you find your beef it is important to locate the labels marked with “grass-fed” and “pasture-raised”. It is especially important to check for a stamp of approval by the American Grassfed Association (AGA), which is known to be the most trustworthy company that guarantees cows were not given hormones or antibiotics and were actually grass-fed in the most humane ways.
You will find that grass-fed is more expensive than grain-fed beef, but for a reason. The companies supplying grain-fed beef raise their cows as explained above—confined to stalls eating high-calorie diets to bulk up and be able to have more to sell. The grass-fed beef companies sell much less meat at a time, explaining the higher prices. It goes without saying that anything “trendy” and anything healthy is always more expensive, which explains the overconsumption of unhealthy alternatives all over the world. If you care about your health and want to avoid diseases now or in the future, the higher priced beef is worth the money.