Guest Post : Sun Basket Staff Dietitian Lindsey Kane Cuts into Some Myths About Steak
Long pilloried as a bad boy of the nutrition world, beef has been blamed as a cause for a host of chronic diseases. Environmentalists have taken a dim view of it, too, as cattle have been identified as a major contributor to greenhouse gases. But it turns out that beef may not be so terrible after all. Several recent studies demonstrate no correlation between meat consumption and disease (others suggest that sugar may have been the demon behind an increase in chronic diseases all this time.) And as consumers have begun to understand both the health and environmental benefits of grass-fed beef, ranchers are understanding the importance of adopting more sustainable farming practices.
The scientific community continues to simmer on this beefy and controversial topic, but one thing most health experts now agree on is this: When combined with a diet rich in plant-based foods, high-quality, responsibly raised, organic beef enjoyed in moderation can be a good source of quality nutrition and beneficial to the planet.
1. Energy Boosting Protein
When it comes to this essential nutrient, beef is hard to beat. The average cut weighs in at 7 to 8 grams of protein per ounce, compared to the average vegetable, which contains just 1 to 5 grams of protein per ounce. The dietary reference intake for protein is 0.36 grams per pound of body weight. This translates to a daily dose of 54 grams of protein for a 150-pound adult. Beef also includes all of the essential amino acids—the building blocks used to build and maintain muscle mass, heal and repair tissue, and synthesize important hormones and enzymes. Only a handful of vegetables can make the same claim. Because protein is slow burning fuel, it’s digested slowly, translating into increased satiety and long-lasting energy.
2. Disease-Fighting Fats
A source of monounsaturated and saturated fat, as well as cholesterol, beef’s fat content, is a big part of what makes it controversial. But the fat in beef is not the demon it was once made out to be. In fact, grass-fed beef is a source of those good-for-your-heart Omega 3 fatty acids. Of late, a special type of fat only found in ruminant animals (cows, sheep, lamb) known as CLA (conjugated linolenic acid) has entered the scientific spotlight. While technically a trans fat, this naturally occurring version functions much differently than chemically formulated transfats. Emerging evidence points to a correlation between CLA and a reduction in heart disease and cancer.
3. Health Promoting Vitamins and Minerals
- Vitamin B6: Plays a role in a multitude of functions, ranging from antibody production to support immunity, to nerve function, oxygen transportation, protein metabolism, and blood-sugar regulation.
- Vitamin B12: Nearly exclusive to animal sources, B12 plays a critical role in red blood cell function, and the central nervous system.
- Vitamin E: Increases the body’s immunity and disease-fighting powers.
- Iron: Heme iron, the type found in beef and other animal proteins, exists in a unique molecular structure that increases its bioavailability, while the plant-derived non-heme iron is less easily utilized. Iron supports healthy red blood cell production, oxygen transportation, and prevents iron-deficient anemia.
- Niacin: A major player in digestion, energy production, and nerve function. Low levels of niacin have been associated with an increased risk of heart disease.
- Phosphorus: Particularly important for healthy bones and teeth. Phosphorus is also involved in kidney function, muscle contractions, nerve conduction and a healthy heartbeat.
- Zinc: Supports growth, maintenance, and immunity.
4. Grass-fed: Better for You and Better for the Planet
The nutritional value of beef is a direct reflection of what cows eat. Animals raised entirely on grass tends to be leaner and more nutrient-rich with a higher concentration of antioxidants, vitamin E, and, CLA, and omega 3 fatty acids, those grain fed beef.
Well-managed grazing and grass-fed operations can help conserve soil, reduce erosion and water pollution while increasing carbon sequestration and preserving biodiversity and wildlife. Organic feed production and grazing practices reduce fertilizer and pesticide runoff into waterways, and the use of compost, cover-cropping, and rotational grazing helps build healthy, water-conserving soils. Organic methods keep pests and weeds at bay, without the use of chemicals, and ultimately foster greater resiliency in the face of extreme weather and climate change.
Sun Basket’s beef is always antibiotic and hormone-free, and is responsibly sourced from ranchers who share our commitment to sustainable agriculture and humane animal welfare.
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