There is a lot of health advice on what to eat and what not to eat.
How do you find out what is right for you? Well, if the food on your plate resembles what your ancestors would have eaten, it probably belongs in your diet.
One of these foods is 100% grass fed beef. Check out our article on How to choose real grass fed meat when you shop, as not all grass fed beef is equal.
But how much healthier is 100% grass fed beef in comparison to its usual grain fed counterpart? Does it really deserve to be on your plate?
Bloated and lethargic anyone?
Do you sometimes feel bloated after you have just eaten? And have no energy after the meal? Perhaps you feel like you need a good nap.
You are probably eating more than you need. Your body is busy processing all the food in your stomach. It needs a lot of energy to do that. Particularly, if the food you’ve just eaten doesn’t contain enough nutrients to help it with the digestion.
What if you could eat less food but feel satiated and energized after the meal?
Grass fed meat helps you achieve that. You can eat smaller portion than you would normally eat but you’ll get more out of it. 100% grass fed beef is twice higher in vitamins and it contains good fats. 1,2
Is beef lower in cholesterol?
Are you worried when you hear the word cholesterol? Do you think that beef is higher in cholesterol?
It might come to you as a shock, but beef is not higher. In fact, beef’s dietary cholesterol levels (73 mg/100 g) are similar to those of a chicken (76 mg/100 g) and any other red meat (lamb and pork)3.
OK then, what about saturated fat content?
Grass fed beef* contains different saturated fats than conventional beef
You might know of the diet-heart hypothesis. Even if you don’t know what it is, its dogma is everywhere. It says that if you eat less saturated fats, you will have healthy heart and blood vessels. And that you will not be putting on weight.
Despite the far and wide promotion of this hypothesis over the past 50 years, this diet didn’t really solve obesity or heart disease. Why?
It is because the category of saturated fats is complex. It contains lots of different fats. Scientists have been poking around and discovered that there are good ones and bad ones. Indeed, our simplistic idea of grouping all saturated fats into category “bad” was incorrect.
Interestingly, grass fed* beef contains a large proportion of the “good” saturated fats. In contrast, conventional grain fed beef contains the “bad” ones.3
How can that happen? It is because grain changes pH of the cow’s rumen. What is rumen? Rumen is a cow’s stomach system, where it processes food.
You might have heard about gut microbiome. How gut bacteria are important to your health as well.
It is similar for cattle. Except they have far more bacteria than we have. Astounding quantities. That’s why cows have such huge bellies. They need space to house all their microbial friends.
Certain bacteria that live in a cow’s rumen create building blocks of fats. But when cattle eat grain, pH in their stomach changes. This kills certain bacteria and allows others to thrive. Bacteria responsible for the “good” fats die. Bacteria responsible for the “bad” fats survive and get to work.
That’s why the resulting meat can differ so dramatically in saturated fat content. On top of that, 100% grass fed beef is 25% lower in total fat than grain fed beef3.
Farmers know that grain fattens animals. Pretty quickly as well. Does too much grain fatten people too? I’ll leave that for you to decide.
Grass fed beef is a source of omega-3 fatty acids
These days, food manufacturers are trying to make you buy their products by claiming they “contain omega-3 fatty acids”. But not all omega-3s are equal as there are plant ones and animal ones.
It is animal omega-3s that nutritionists want you to eat more of. In particular, DHA and EPA. They are crucial for your brain. Without them, you are risking depression, schizophrenia or Alzheimer disease. Or just plain old aggression4.
Why is that? DHA is crucial to building blocks of your brain. Without it, your brain doesn’t work as it should.
So it is never too late to get more of DHA and EPA in your diet.
Fish and seafood are the richest sources. 100% grass fed beef can be a good additional source to get your brain topped up with DHA and EPA.
This is because green grass is rich in precursor of omega-3 fatty acids. Again, it is bacteria in the rumen who are making the necessary reactions to create these fatty acids. As a result, the meat you eat helps you to prevent mental disorders.
Grass fed* beef can prevent cancer
How could that be possible? Again, it is about what cattle eat. Grass, herbs and tree leaves are packed with antioxidants. And cattle concentrate them in their meat. Grain on the other hand, is low in antioxidants, and so is the resulting beef2.
What are antioxidants? Antioxidants are powerful anti-cancer fighters. They get rid of all potentially harmful molecules that get created in your body every day. Over time, these molecules may cause cancer. But antioxidants wipe them all out. So the broader the variety of antioxidants you eat, the better.
The types of antioxidants that you find in 100% grass fed beef are vitamins, carotenoids and flavonoids. They also colour the fat in the meat with a yellow hue.
As anti-cancer foods go, it’s not only antioxidants that you can find in grass fed* beef. There are certain fats that are very good against cancer. They are called CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) and TVA (trans vaccenic acid)3.
The amount of CLA you get in grass fed beef is staggeringly more than in conventional beef.
As before, it is because only specific bacteria can create these fats. But these bacteria get wiped out when cattle eat grain.
If you are worried about cancer, want to prevent it or suppress it, grass fed* beef is one of the foods that can help you on that journey.
How eating grass fed* beef makes you healthier and helps prevent cancer
Still not sure whether to choose grass fed beef over conventional beef? Compare the two types of beef in this summary:
100% grass fed beef
- Cholesterol level the same as chicken
- Fat contains more beneficial “good” saturated fats
- Lower in total fat by 25%
- Source of omega-3 essential fatty acids (DHA and EPA) essential for your brain
- Rich in anti-cancer agents such as antioxidants (carotenoids, vitamins, flavonoids) and lipids CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) and TVA (trans vaccenic acid)
Conventional (regular) beef
- Cholesterol level same as chicken meat
- Fat contains saturated fats considered as the “bad” ones, that can cause diseases
- Higher in total fat by 25%, particularly intramuscular fat (you cannot trim that off)
- Poor in omega-3 essential fatty acids
- Does not contain much anti-cancer agents such as antioxidants, CLA and TVA
100% grass fed beef should definitely be on your plate if you want to be healthy and prevent cancer. But not all grass fed beef is equal – make sure you choose the right one.
In the next article in this series, I will explain the difference in taste and price that grass fed beef has. It tastes delicious but it is more expensive. You’ll understand why.
* grass fed and 100% grass fed beef are used interchangeably in this article. They both mean that the beef originates from cattle eating only grass (in fresh or preserved state).
- 1.Descalzo AM, Insani EM, Biolatto A, et al. Influence of pasture or grain-based diets supplemented with vitamin E on antioxidant/oxidative balance of Argentine beef. Meat Science. May 2005:35-44. doi:10.1016/j.meatsci.2004.11.018
- 2.Descalzo AM, Rossetti L, Grigioni G, et al. Antioxidant status and odour profile in fresh beef from pasture or grain-fed cattle. Meat Science. February 2007:299-307. doi:10.1016/j.meatsci.2006.07.015
- 3.Daley CA, Abbott A, Doyle PS, Nader GA, Larson S. A review of fatty acid profiles and antioxidant content in grass-fed and grain-fed beef. Nutr J. March 2010. doi:10.1186/1475-2891-9-10
- 4.Swanson D, Block R, Mousa SA. Omega-3 Fatty Acids EPA and DHA: Health Benefits Throughout Life. Advances in Nutrition. January 2012:1-7. doi:10.3945/an.111.000893