Paleolithic and high protein diets are all the rage these days. Many people are experiencing unbelievable health transformations by following these types of programs. They find that they have an easier time losing or maintain their weight, their aches and pains dramatically improve and they have huge shifts in their mental clarity. However, high protein or paleo diets may actually cause more harm than good if not done properly. Without a doubt, consulting a physician who specializes in these types of dietary programs is of the utmost importance.
Research focusing on disease and red meat consumption
Eating red meat and animal protein has gotten a bad reputation for the last decade or so. Much research has been done and a slew of books have been written correlating diets high in animal protein with cardiovascular disease and cancer. However, one beef I have (no pun intended) with much of this research is that virtually none of them have looked at the role that grass fed meats play in health. Almost all research has been done using non-grass fed animal protein that not only is inflammatory to begin with but also has a high likelihood of containing many other additives, hormones (like growth hormone) and antibiotics. These additives in of themselves have been linked to cancer and rampant widespread antibiotic-resistant superbugs.
Differences between conventional and grass fed meat
So what exactly is the difference between conventionally fed and grass fed meat? The most important difference is what the animals are fed throughout their life cycle. Conventionally grown cattle are fed primarily corn and soy based feeds. Corn has a very high inflammation profile – it contains a tremendous amount of omega-6 fatty acids, which are known to be “pro-inflammatory.” This means that they create inflammation. Inflammation, or any condition with the suffix “-itis”(rheumatoid arthritis, diverticulitis, prostatitis etc.), is the precursor to developing disease. Corn has one advantage over grass in that it naturally fattens up cattle very quickly as opposed to grass. Most Americans primarily consume animals fed corn their entire lives.
Then there is grass fed animals. Grass contains an optimal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids, also found in salmon and healthy nuts and seeds, are said to be “anti-inflammatory” – reducing inflammation and disease in the body. To put it in perspective, corn fed animals have approximately a 6 times higher amount of omega-6 fatty acids than do grass fed animals. Now do you start to see why there is such a high correlation between heart disease and cancer and consumption of corn fed meat?
Buy only 100% grass fed
Just because an animal is said to be grass fed doesn’t end the story there. There are some ranchers who feed their animals grass for the majority of their life but then at the end of the animals life, before it is set to be slaughtered, feed them corn to fatten them up very quickly and get good marbling of their meat. Really what you want to be looking for is the phrase “100% grass fed.” This means that the animal has been fed grass it’s entire life and not corn or other types of feed.
In theory, eating even high quantities of grass fed meat should not cause any health problems as it contains a very high amount of anti-inflammatory fats. This would reduce inflammation and disease. Now, eating red meat is certainly not for everyone – I get that. But those who do choose to eat red meat regularly would do their bodies well by buying only 100% grass fed beef.
Where do I buy grass fed meat?
Not everyone has access to high quality meat, nor can they afford it. Grass fed meat tends to be rather pricy. However, I always ask my patients “Is your health worth it?” If they, or you, answer yes to this question then you have your priorities straight and will do whatever it takes to put only the highest quality foods into your mouth on a daily basis.
There are many stores and local farmer’s markets that stock grass fed meat. You always want to ask the butcher if the meat is 100% grass fed. Before I became knowledgeable about grass fed meats, I just assumed that going to Whole Foods would assure me buying the highest quality meats. Now, don’t get me wrong, I shop at Whole Foods almost exclusively for much of my produce and other goods. Unfortunately, from what I have learned over the years is that Whole Foods sells grass fed, but not grass finished meat in their stores. This means that they are selling suboptimal meat at 100% grass fed prices.
Now I either get my grass fed meats from local farmers at farmer’s markets here in the Phoenix area or from an online store that sells only exclusively 100% grass fed/grass finished beef. U.S. Wellness Meats (www.grasslandbeef.com) is one of the finest health-conscious distributors of grass fed beef and other natural meats that exist today. Besides the best tasting 100% grass fed beef, they also sell chicken, turkey, bison, lamb, pork, rabbit, seafood and dairy. They get all their meat from local family-owned farms in the Midwest and distribute overnight all throughout the country. They provide excellent service and competitive prices and you receive your meat the next day still completely frozen!