Most people know that meat contains important nutrients such as protein, iron, zinc and vitamin b12, and is therefore important for health. What they may not know is that the type of meat you choose to buy also has a very big impact on health.
I am talking about either buying meat from grain fed cows or grass fed cows. Nutritionally the main difference is that meat from grass fed cows has a more desirable ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acids compared to meat from grain fed cows which is higher in omega 6 fatty acids. This contributes to fatty acid imbalances in the body which are one of the driving forces towards inflammation - we want a ratio with more omega 3 fatty acids to promote an anti-inflammatory state. Omega 6 fatty acids are still required for good health, we just want a smaller ratio of these ones and unfortunately the conventional western diet is typically higher in them.
Acute short term inflammation is important for health as it helps our body repair itself and fight of disease. But chronic inflammation is a different story and is highly negative for health. Chronic inflammation is linked to poor bone health, mood disturbances, poor blood sugar regulation, cancer, auto-immune conditions, asthma and dementia to name a few.
Of course the rest of your diet play a part in fatty acid balance and there are many other contributors to inflammation (such as stress, gut health and obesity) but I do believe that simply switching the product you buy at the shops is a pretty easy change that will lead to significant improvements in health. The main deterrence is the cost of grass fed meat but would encourage people to consume smaller portions or buy cheaper cuts (eg thigh versus breast) so they can afford grass fed varieties.
Kim Lawler is an Accredited Practicing Dietitian, Functional Nutritionist & Health Coach. She runs a private practice, Explore Nutrition, based on the Northern Beaches & North Shore. She works in many different areas but has a passion for women’s & family health.