We have been told time and time again to avoid red meat and that red meat is a contributing factor for heart disease. What they didn’t tell us is that not all meat is created equal. In fact, nutritional quality of meat is greatly impacted by animal nutrition and what that animal consumes.
Meat is a key source of protein and contains all essential amino acids, which cannot be synthesized in the human body. So whether you’re eating conventionally raised meat, or organic and pasture raised, you are sure to get an adequate source of high quality protein. The difference, however, lies in the quality of the fatty acids in your meat.
An essential fatty acid that is well known for heart health is Omega 3. It is best known for its anti-inflammatory properties and its impact on lowering cholesterol and triglycerides. Omega 6 is another essential fatty acid. Ideally, the omega 6/omega 3 fatty acid ratio should be about 1:1. However, the typical Western diet has a ratio closer to 15/12, likely in part due to the excessive consumption of industrial seed oils and vegetable oils found in most of our processed food. This disproportionate amount of Omega 6 has been linked to the pathogenesis of many diseases, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, and inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.
In one study using Aberdeen Angus steers, it was found that the Omega 6, specifically linoleic acid, concentration was higher in the conventionally raised steers when compared to the grass-fed group. On the same hand, the Omega 3 concentration, specifically a-linolenic acid, was higher in grass-fed meat. This evidence suggests the fatty acid profile of beef produced under pasture-based diets has a more nutritionally desirable fatty acid profile than conventionally reared beef.
Similarly, scientists found that mice who were fed a grass-fed beef diet had significantly lower inflammation markers when compared to mice who ate grain-fed beef.
With newer research emerging on the benefits of grass-fed beef, enjoying a steak dinner for Valentine’s Day doesn’t seem like such a bad idea after all.