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It seems like everyone nowadays is touting the benefits of eating natural, and the trend is even influencing good old American red meat. So what's the deal with grass-fed beef, and why should you prefer it over grain-fed beef?
We are what we eat, especially as athletes; and a proper diet is a big part of getting an edge over the competition. The health benefits of grass-fed beef can help give you that edge. Here's why. Grass-fed beef has:
- Less total fat (eight percent less in most cases)
- More heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids
- More conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a type of fat that's thought to reduce heart disease and cancer risks
- More antioxidant vitamins, such as vitamin E
Grass-fed beef comes from cows that ate a natural diet of free-range foraging on grass. Most of the beef you find in grocery stores is grain-fed, meaning the cows ate corn in a feedlot or other sedentary environment to fatten them up. The diet of grain strips the cows of their healthy fats, including a perfect ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 and conjugated linoleic acid. Each day an animal spends in the feedlot reduces its supply of omega-3s further. Simply put, grass-fed cows have more omega-3s, because those healthy fats are formed from the green leaves and stalks of the plants the cows graze on.
If you don't know a farmer who raises cattle, check out www.eatwild.com. This is a great resource, and only legitimate operations make their list. Every state and province has at least a few options listed.
See also The Performance and Health Benefits of Grass-Fed Beef and Build Muscle With Bison.
Source: Duckett, S. K., D. G. Wagner, et al. (1993). "Effects of time on feed on beef nutrient composition." J Anim Sci 71(8): 2079–88.