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Dr. Phillips: Grassfed Beef and Cholesterol

You may not care much about the complicated science and just want delicious healthy beef that you know is locally grown and grassfed and finished. If that is you: trust me when I say grassfed beef is leaner and healthier than traditional grain-fed beef. You can move on to the next post or shoot me an email to reserve your next portion of beef.

HOWEVER...for those of you like me who love all the data and scientific evidence, this post is for YOU! I love delving deep into the science behind why our beef is just superior to anything you can get in a grocery store. Some may not know this but I am a board certified family physician, Jonathan (my husband) is a physics and environmental science teacher at a local high school, and Kirby (our dad) has a degree from UGA in poultry science. We know the value of research and I want to share a summary with you here.

Totally grassfed diet in cows improves the antioxidant content and fatty acid composition in beef. We hear about "good fat" and "bad fat" in diet talk all the time, but omega-3 fatty acids have some great evidence in prevention of heart disease and are considered a good type of fat to have in your diet. I advise patients of health benefits of eating fatty fish containing higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, and data shows grassfed beef contains more of this good fat when compared to grain-fed beef.

Research has shown that a grass only diet in cows increases levels of fatty acids that are less likely to cause plaques in arteries, known as "cholesterol neutral stearic fatty acids". Grassfed beef had lower levels of myristic and palmitic fatty acids: both of which are "bad fats" and can raise cholesterol. This is remarkable data in support of the health benefits of grassfed beef.

We know placing antioxidants in our bodies can prevent chronic disease and cancer. Cows with grass-based diets were found in multiple studies to have elevated precursors for Vitamin A and E, as well as cancer fighting antioxidants such as glutathione (GT) and superoxide dismutase (SOD) activity when directly compared to grain-fed cows. There was also increased conjugated linoleic acid--another fat thought to decrease the risk of cancer and heart disease. This is exciting!

Phytochemicals in herbivore diets protect meat and dairy from protein oxidation and lipid peroxidation. This peroxidation (or break down) can cause low-grade systemic inflammation implicated in heart disease and cancer in humans. When herbivores eat primarily phytochemically rich diets (i.e. grass), it protects meat and dairy from the protein oxidation and lipid peroxidation that cause inflammation in the human body.

The evidence for the benefits of grassfed beef is well documented. It's also the opinion of many that it just tastes better. We agree!

Have questions? Comment below or talk to your doctor or nutritionist about these facts. Investing in grassfed beef is an investment in your health and well being.

-Stephanie Phillips, DO

ACOFP Board Certified Family Medicine


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