This is a Guest post from Nourished Kitchen (and I couldn't agree with it more!)
1. Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)
Found in the meat and milk of grass-fed ruminants, like cows, Conjugated Linoleic Acid or CLA is a potent nutrient. Researchers are just beginning to understand the mechanisms behind the potent and positive health effects traditional peoples have enjoyed since the days of hunting and gathering. CLA is known as a potent antioxidant and anti-carcinogen. CLA has shown promise in the treatment of various cancers. Research conducted at the University of Alberta in Canada, Dartmouth Medical Center and elsewhere indicates that CLA shows promise in the fight against breast cancer. [1.Lipids.2009 Mar 6.], [2.Nutr Cancer.2009;61(1):114-22] Further, CLA even could be valuable in the treatment of brain cancer due to its ability to prevent the development of new malignant tumors as well as inhibit the growth of existing tumors. [3.Brain Res.2008 Jun 5;1213:35-40. Epub 2008 Feb 16.
Red meat is a rich source of iron; better yet, it’s a rich source of the most easily absorbed iron: heme iron. Heme iron is very readily and easily absorbed. Contrasted with red meat plant sources of iron, like lentils, offer non-heme iron which is poorly absorbed. Iron is critical to health because, when properly absorbed, it assists the blood’s hemoglobin in carrying oxygen to the body’s cells. Low iron may lead to fatigue, headaches and dizziness. Women of child-bearing age, infants and children are most likely to be deficient due to their increased level of need for iron. Red meat should be considered especially important for women–particularly during and after menstruation when the loss of blood brings down iron levels.
3. Stearic Acid
Stearic acid is a saturated fat found in beef and other meats. Despite the current and prevalent thought that saturated fats cause an elevation in cholesterol, research indicates that stearic acid actually lowers LDL cholesterol [4.Lipids.2005 Dec;40(12):1201-5.]
Red meat is an easy source of complete protein. Protein is essential to the human diet not only because it provides energy, but also because it is critical to the growth and repair of cells. Every cell in the human body contains protein including the antibody cells of the immune system which protect the body against pathogens. Red meat is an easy to prepare complete protein containing the full spectrum of amino acids.
The mineral zinc plays an important role in human health. It is essential for immune system function and can combat the effects of premature aging due to its anti-inflammatory properties. [5.Genes Nutr.2008 Jul;3(2):61-75.] Zinc also plays an important role in skin health, particularly in healing from afflictions like acne and eczema. Zinc deficiency is linked to skin disorders like dermatitis. [6. Orv Hetil.2004 May 9;145(19):1007-10.Maternal intake of zinc is also critical to infant and child health. Mothers with the highest intake of antioxidants like zinc during pregnancy decreased the risk that their children would suffer from wheezing disorders. [7.Am J Clin Nutr.2006 Oct;84(4):903-11.
6. B Vitamins
Red meat is a potent source of B vitamins, particularly vitamin B12. These nutrients are concentrated in the organ meats–particularly, the liver. B vitamins are essential to cognitive and emotional function. B vitamin deficiency is linked to depression. Inadequate maternal intake of B vitamins during the months prior to pregnancy and during pregnancy itself are thought to contribute to poor infant growth, cognitive and social development in children. Further, inadequate B12 status in mothers increases the risk of neural tube defects in offspring and increases the risk for pre-term labor.[7.Food Nutr Bull.2008 Jun;29(2 Suppl):S126-31.]
7. Vitamin A
The suet and tallow of grass-fed animals is rich in vitamin A – including both retinol and beta-carotene. Vitamin A is afat-soluble vitaminnoted for its positive effects on health. Vitamin A promotes fertility, good vision and immunity. Inadequate maternal intake of vitamin A prior to and during pregnancy has been linked to birth defects. Retinol or pre-formed vitamin A is essential to properly functioning immune and endocrine systems while beta-carotene is a potent anti-carcinogen due it is powerful antioxidant activity. The fat from grass-fed cows, lambs and bison is rich in these nutrients–greatly more so than the fat of conventionally fed animals from concentration animal feed operations (CAFOs and feedlots). The naturally occurring beta-carotene found in abundance among the wild grasses of pastures and plains feed the animals naturally. Some of this beta-carotene is transformed into retinol in the fat, while some of it remains as beta-carotene. Red meat and the fat of grass-grazing animals provides a good source of this powerful and essential nutrient.
Similarly, the fat from naturally fed cows and other ruminants contains significant amounts of EPA. EPA is also found in oily, ocean-going fish. This omega-3 fatty acid is essential for cognitive function and emotional health and is only naturally available from animal food sources. EPA is known for its many health benefits including protection from cardiovascular disease, cognitive function and emotional well-being. Intake of EPA has been proven effective time and time again in the treatment and prevention of heart disease, and regular, daily intake of EPA from diet alone "would be expected to significantly reduce deaths from coronary heart disease." [8.Curr Atheroscler Rep.2008 Dec;10(6):503-9.] While DHA, another notable nutrient found naturally in combination with EPA, is known primarily for its positive effects on brain and cognitive development, EPA is known for its positive effects on mood and emotional well-being. Combinations of these two omega-3 fatty acids have shown remarkable benefits in treating ADHD/ADD, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, autism and even dyslexia. [9.Altern Med Rev.2007 Sep;12(3):207-27.Am J Clin Nutr.2008 Sep;88(3):714-21.
9. Mono-unsaturated Fat
Beef fat is comprised of approximately 35% monounsaturated fat. The consumption of monounsaturated fats are linked to a reduction in LDL cholesterol and an increase in HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol)–particularly among insulin-resistant individuals. [11.J Am Coll Nutr.2007 Oct;26(5):434-44.
Traditionally, red meat has comprised an important element of the human diet. Consider the venison that nourished Europeans, the bison that nourished the Native Americans or the lamb and mutton that provided sustenance for the nomads of the Middle East: all of these foods provide value to the diet including wholesome fats, vital protein, minerals and vitamins. Red meat has been part of the human diet for millennia – yet the people who consumed it didn't suffer from cancers or heart disease or other diseases of industrialization; rather, they benefited from its many positive and essential nutrients. If it nourished your ancestors, it can nourish you too. Take care to purchase only grass-finished meats which offer the very best nutritional profile.