Conscious Eating: Why Grass Fed Meats Are Important For You and Your Family July 7, 2013 16:25
What Are Grass fed Meats?
Back in the day, nearly all meats were grass fed. Ranchers and farmers fed their chickens, cattle and pigs by allowing them to range on the prairies surrounding their farms or homesteads. Today’s high-tech feed was not available. In the twenty-first century, grass fed meats borrow from that tradition by skipping commercial feed and even corn in favor of allowing animals to graze and feed on grass.
The process is not as simple as turning the animals loose, however. Ranchers and farmers who cultivate grass fed meats follow a strict protocol of feeding and grazing that is designed to enhance the quality of the meat as well as ensure that animal welfare standards are followed in the raising of the animals.
Nutritional Advantages of Grass Fed Meats
Grain fed animals are raised to fatten up for market as quickly as possible. In the case of grain fed beef, this means that cattle are slaughtered after fourteen to eighteen months. Many grain fed cattle are penned in close quarters for much of their lives. By contrast, grass fed cattle are allowed to graze much as they did during the nineteenth century, and are not slaughtered until they are more than two years old. As a result, grass fed cattle are leaner and have more nutritional value than grain fed cattle.
Environmental Advantages of Grass Fed Meats
Grain fed meats represent a major drain on environmental resources. Commercial feed, corn and other crops must be cultivated, which requires using land and water resources. Growing grains for grain fed meats also encourages monoculture – the cultivation of single crops that can exhaust the soil. By contrast, grass fed meats do not require the diversion of crops such as corn that could be used for human consumption. Instead, the animals graze on grass and other naturally growing plant life.
Ethical Advantages of Grass Fed Meats
Besides avoiding the diversion of grains from human consumption, grass fed meats also represent an ethical method of animal husbandry. By definition, grass fed meats are not enhanced with growth hormones or genetically altered crops to boost their growth. Animal welfare standards are also an essential element in maintaining grass fed cattle, pigs and chickens. By contrast, many grain fed animals are raised in appalling conditions, along with being fed a steady diet of growth enhancing substances.
Health Advantages of Grass Fed Meats
Bovine spongiform encephalopathy, abbreviated as BSE, is commonly known as “mad cow disease.” Mad cow disease gets its name from the fact that cattle that are infected with BSE often behave erratically. This incurable condition, although extremely rare in humans, can be contracted by consuming infected beef products, primarily from the spine or brain of an infected cow. In humans, BSE is known as variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), which is fatal and incurable.
The practice of including parts of slaughtered animals in animal feed to be fed in other animals has been identified as a major factor in spreading BSE. Since grass fed beef is never fed renderings from other cattle, the odds are virtually zero of grass fed cattle being infected with BSE. Likewise, chickens and pigs that are grass fed are also not fed renderings from other animals, minimizing the chances that similar health hazards would ever occur in grass fed pork or poultry.
For Further Reading
- The New York Times: Where Corn Is King, a New Regard for Grass Fed Beef
- Teens Health from Nemours: Mad Cow Disease
- WebMD: Mad Cow Disease
- Whole Story: Raised to Taste Better
- Whole Story: The Scoop on Grass Fed Beef
The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly: Here's the Skinny on Dietary Fat March 7, 2013 00:00
While a fat-free or even low-fat diet is not the healthiest choice, there are certainly some types of fat that you'll want to do your best to avoid or limit. These are the fats that are detrimental to your health, especially when consumed in large quantities.
Saturated fat comes from animal sources. When you eat a burger with bacon and cheese, the saturated fats from the meat and dairy raise your total and LDL blood cholesterol levels. This is not good. High LDL cholesterol dramatically increases your risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
Trans fats are naturally occurring in some animal products, but most trans fats are the product of partial hydrogenation. The process of hydrogenation takes healthy unsaturated fats and turns them into fats that are more shelf-stable and easier to cook with. These fats are usually solid at room temperature, .like lard, butter, margarine, and shortening. They are often referred to as synthetic fats, and are found in a lot of the processed and prepacked food that fills most American grocery stores.
Many restaurants and food manufacturers now advertise the fact that their products are trans fat free. Be careful of tricky labeling... just because a doughnut is trans fat free doesn't mean it is good for you. It's likely to be high in sodium, sucrose (the bad sugar), or heavy in saturated fats. Your best bet is to read the label, including the little box that tells you all the vitamins and minerals (or lack thereof).
Remember, food is fuel. If you are filling up with empty calories (that's food that is basically void of any nutritional value), you won't be able to run very long before you crash.
The term “good fat” is not an oxymoron. Fats are the building blocks of the brain and are absolutely essential for proper body function, but you must be able to differentiate between the good, the bad, and the ugly... or at least the good and the bad.
Monounsaturated fat is found primarily in oils (like olive oil), nuts, sunflower seeds, and avocados. This type of good fat reduces the risk of cardiac disease and stroke, because it helps regulate LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream.
That's not all, though. A diet rich in monounsaturated fats verses one that is comprised of “bad fats” and carbohydrates often results in weight loss, decreased symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, prevention of type 2 diabetes, and reduced belly fat.
Polyunsaturated fat is found in plant-based foods, oils, and some types of fatty fish. One especially beneficial type of polyunsaturated fat is Omega-3 fatty acid, found in some types of fatty fish, nut oils, and flax seeds. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, Omega-3 fatty acids are a necessary component of a healthy brain, including memory and behavioral function. In fact, infants who have not received enough of this polyunsaturated fat in utero can suffer from vision and nerve problems.
Balanced consumption of Omega-3's is also associated with reduced risk of inflammatory diseases like cancer, heart attack, stroke, and arthritis.
WHAT CAN GOOD FAT DO FOR ME?
According to information published by the Franklin Institute for Science Learning, fat literally builds your brain. Fatty acids from the food you consume are the substance your body uses to build the specialized cells which allow you to think and feel.
Good Fats Build Neuron Membranes
Neurons are the specialized cells that the brain uses to communicate with the rest of the body. The membranes of these cells are comprised of the same fatty acids that you consume in your foods. The process of digestion breaks the dietary fat into molecules of different lengths. These molecules become the building blocks of the fats used in the formation of brain cell membranes.
Good Fats Protect Your Brain
Myelin is the sheath that protects the neurons of your brain. It's composed of 30% protein and 70% fatty acid. Oleic acid, the most abundant acid in human breast milk, is one of the most common fatty acids found in the brain's myelin. Excellent dietary sources of monounsaturated oleic acid are avocados, olive oil, and oils from peanuts, macadamias, almonds and pecans.
Good Fats Aid Digestion
Believe it or not, that slippery looking margarine is hard to digest. Why? The shape of a trans fat molecule is not barbed, which means lots of those molecules can clump together nice and tight. On the other hand, a mono or poly unsaturated fat molecule is barbed, which means they are loosely packed and can be picked apart by the body and put to good use. These fats are more readily absorbed and distributed to the cells that need them. Whereas the bad fats, in essence, plug you up.
WHAT CAN GOOD FAT DO FOR MY BABY?
A pregnant mama supplies two specific types of fatty acids, DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and AA (arachidonic acid), to her growing baby. These fatty acids are crucial to the baby's brain and vision health. Studies have shown that a deficiency in DHA and AA can lead to impairment of the baby's central nervous system and cognitive development.
After the baby is born, the mother will continue to provide these necessary building blocks through her breast milk. Since Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are essential nutrients, they can not be manufactured by the body. They must be built from the foods that we consume. A diet high in nuts and cold pressed oils will help ensure that a nursing mother produces the most nutritious breast milk for her baby's growing brain and body.
HOW MUCH GOOD FAT DO I NEED?
The United States Department of Agriculture's Dietary guidelines are based on a 2,000 calorie per day diet. Within that framework, you should consume about 44 to 78 grams of fat per day, most of which should be unsaturated fatty acids.
Remember, even good fats are high in calories. For a nursing mom who needs to consume a few more calories, this is no problem. But it's best not to go overboard. Start by replacing a couple of beef dinners a week with fresh water fish. Snack on nuts, or non-hydrogenated nut butters on celery, instead of chips and crackers. Whip up a free-range egg white omelet for breakfast. Go for a snack bar that is full of flax, almonds, or macadamia nuts instead one that is really a glorified candy bar.
By making these simple dietary changes, you can provide your beautiful baby with the most nutrient rich breast milk possible. Not to mention that your own mental and physical health will benefit right alongside your baby's. Healthy mama. Healthy family. It's a no-brainer.
Mayo Clinic. Nutrition and Healthy Eating. Dietary Fats: Know Which Types to Choose.
The Franklin Institute: Resources for Scientific Learning. Nourish- Fats.
University of Maryland Medical Center, Omega-3 Fatty Acids.
United States Department of Agriculture: Dietary Guidelines. 2010.