by Glen Depke, Traditional Naturopath
We all know that eating red meat is bad for you heart right?
Red meat itself is not bad for you or your heart but this depends on the quality of the meat.
Red meat is actually one of the most nutritious foods you can eat.
It is loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and various other nutrients that can have profound effects on health.
A 100 gram (3.5 ounces) portion of raw ground beef (10% fat) contains:
- Vitamin B3 (Niacin): 25% of the RDA
- Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin): 37% of the RDA (this vitamin is unattainable from plant foods)
- Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine): 18% of the RDA
- Iron: 12% of the RDA (This is high quality heme-iron, which is absorbed much better than iron from plants)
- Zinc: 32% of the RDA
- Selenium: 24% of the RDA
Red meat is also rich in important nutrients like Creatine and Carnosine. Vegetarians and vegans are often deficient in these nutrients, which can have negative effects on your health including brain function, muscular activity as well as many other essential functions of the body.
So you can see that red meat has the potential to be very healthy for you, but notice the word POTENTIAL.
I am going to address two ends of the spectrum here as far as consumption of red meat is concerned. I’ll also be very specific to cattle as other read meat choices such as bison and lamb are much healthier overall.
First is your typical store bought red meat. This is typically from factor farmed cattle which are restricted movement and outdoor living. They are typically fed grains or worse. I have even heard of cows being fed gummy worms or other candy, pastry waste and/or pasta. And often the candy is not even taken out of the wrapper.
Can you believe this?!
I guess nothing should surprise us with the food industry these days.
Beyond their living conditions and there grain or worse diet, they are also pumped with hormones and antibiotics. The combination of the hormones and the sedentary lifestyle is used to create a higher yield of meat available for slaughter. After all, the heavier the cow, the more money is made.
Due to the poor living conditions and the poor diet, infections run rampant in the community, so antibiotics are most often simply added to the feed. After all almost half the meat and poultry sold in the US is likely to be contaminated by highly dangerous bacteria, according to research published in the (April 2011) in the scientific journal, Clinical Infectious Diseases. The study estimates that 47 percent of the meat and poultry in your grocery store contains the bacteria staphylococcus aureus also known as Staph. At the time of the published study Staph was not among the four bacteria routinely tested in meat by the US government.
I also believe that this is one of the main reasons why Staph has such a high level of antibiotic resistance currently.
Let’s circle back to the nutrition for these factory farmed cows. Understand that cows are meant to eat grass and to optimize their health this would be the natural food of choice.
A healthy cow will produce what?
Healthy meat for us to consume of course!
Now we’ll define a healthy cow and healthy red meat for you.
This would be grass fed, free range cows that are able to wander the fields, enjoy the health benefits of direct sunlight and eating grass that is not sprayed with chemicals. Let’s not forget that this cow is also a happy cow.
So what are the benefits of a happy cow as discussed above.
- This meat will be lower in fat and calories and actually grass fed beef has just a slightly higher level of fat than chicken breast. Shocking right?!
- Research shows that grass fed beef can also lower the so called bad cholesterol or LDL.
- A major bonus is the meat from grass fed cow can have at least 2 to 4 times higher omega 3 content. To maintain this higher level of omega 3’s you’ll want to seek out beef that is grass fed from beginning to end. Often they are send to a feed lot prior to slaughter and fed grains, which will degrade the omega 3 content over time.
- The conjugated linoleic acid or CLA content is also much higher, suggested to be anywhere from 3 to 5 times higher than conventionally raised cattle. Typically the higher marbled cuts of grass fed beef will enjoy the highest levels of CLA.
- Grass fed beef is also significantly higher in natural forms of vitamin E.
Let me ask the question again.
Is red meat bad for you heart?
If it is free range, organic and grass fed it’s not!
Some of the Depke Wellness followers have asked what I do personally in regard to red meat consumption, so here you go.
I will first off make the best choice possible in every moment and my red meat options are going to vary accordingly.
If my wife and I are purchasing meat for home, we will always pick organic, free range and grass fed if this is an option for us. To actually get the grass fed from start to finish, you typically have to get this from a local supplier at a farmers market but at times you can find this at higher end grocery stores or meat markets also.
We have used Blackwing Meats in the past for many different choices because of their quality and ease of online ordering. They offer organic, free range and grass fed, but there is a short window of grain used at the end, but I still consider this one of the top tier choices.
You can visit Blackwing Meats here.
If we are going to eat out, we’ll pick the healthiest options. In Southern California where we live, we frequent a burger specialty restaurant called The Counter because their beef is organic, free range, grass fed and only corn fed the last week.
As an example of a next level would be Chipotle. Here the beef if free range and hormone and antibiotic free.
While I am always looking for the best quality there may be other moments when I am eating at a friends house or at another restaurant where the quality is questionable. If this is the case I will still eat conventional meat in these moments, but I prefer those moments to be few and far between.
Most of our readers do not live in Southern California and you may not have the same restaurant choices in your area but do your research. Call the restaurants you frequent and ask them if they offer organic, grass fed, free range meat and see what they say. You may be pleasantly surprised by their response or you’ll know to call another restaurant.
Here is a website that you may find useful in finding locally grown choices with farmers markets, coops and more. This website is eatlocalgrown.com. I just ran across this recently and it may provide a benefit for you.