Archive for the tag - beef

How To Have A Healthy Cookout!

zacefron-neighbors-083113July 4th is here – and the grills are blazing!

While celebrating the holiday and enjoying the summertime weather, there are a few simple steps that you can take to make your cookout significantly healthier. And you’ll be one step closer to looking like Zac Efron (see picture at right). Yum.

Here are my suggestions:

  1. Use whole wheat buns and rolls. We all know that whole wheat bread products have several nutritional advantages over white bread and other refined grains. But did you know that hamburger buns and hot dog rolls are also available in whole wheat varieties? But don’t be fooled; “wheat” isn’t the same as “whole wheat” and multigrain doesn’t necessarily mean healthier. Read the ingredients carefully.
  2. Opt for chicken or turkey hot dogs. When shopping, compare the nutritional information between traditional hot dogs and chicken or turkey variations. My top pick is Applegate’s Natural Uncured Chicken Hot Dog. They are leaner, healthier – and just as delicious!
  3. Buy grass-fed beef. Most of us already eat too much red meat. But if burgers are on the menu, select grass-fed ground beef. It tends to be a bit pricier, but grass-fed beef is leaner, has higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, less dietary cholesterol and increased vitamins. Grass-fed is definitely healthier than the corn-fed beef commonplace in today’s supermarkets.
  4. Don’t char your meat. When meat becomes charred, it develops carcinogenic compounds called HCAs. These compounds have been shown to increase possible risk of breast, colon, prostate and stomach cancer. In fact, in one study, researchers found that individuals who ate beef medium-well or well-done beef had 3x the stomach cancer risk than individuals who at their beef rare or medium-rare. To reduce charring, cook at lower temperatures, trim off fat to reduce flare-ups, remove charred pieces before consuming and opt for a grill with a flavor bar between the food and flame.
  5. Eat lots of veggies and fruit. Take advantage of fresh produce by serving an array of vegetable side items. Replace unhealthy sides like potato salad with grilled corn, tomato salad or anything else that’s readily available. When it comes to dessert, replace cookies and pies with fresh fruit. Make fruit kabobs or serve fruit salad. It’ll totally hit that sweet tooth.

If you have any other healthy grilling tips, share them in the comments below! Happy July 4th!

Is Pork Healthier than Beef?

We know that limiting our intake of red meat can provide some great health benefits, but is pork really a smarter beef alternative?

When people think pork, fatty bacon and glistening BBQ ribs often come to mind. It’s true that these cuts are high in saturated fat – and that, according to the World Health Organization, the American Dietetic Association, American Heart Association and others, saturated fat is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. But other cuts of pork meat, such as tenderloin or center-cut chops, are much leaner.

To compare apples to apples, let’s look at the nutritional differences between a pork tenderloin and a top sirloin (one of the leanest beef cuts available). In an 8-ounce serving, pork has 50 fewer calories, nearly half the fat and saturated fat content and a similar amount of protein.

If you look at 8 ounces of 90% ground beef, the differences become even more dramatic. When compared to pork, the ground beef has 233 additional calories and 5x the amount of total fat and saturated fat.

Moreover, pork manufacturers are responding to consumer dietary trends by breading leaner pork. Today’s pork is leaner than ever – and its reputation is slowly changing. In fact, pork is sometimes even referred to by nutritionists and dieticians as “the other white meat.”

The bottom line: For health-conscious carnivores, lean cuts of pork can be a smarter alternative to red meat.

Are you a pork fan? Let me know in the comments below! Personally, I love pork! But I only eat pork when I’m able to buy cuts from humanely raised animals.

Benefits of Eating Less Red Meat.

Back in December, I shared my resolution for the upcoming new year: To limit my consumption of red meat to two meals (or less) per week.

Since we’re more than halfway through the year, I wanted to share an update on my progress. I’m proud to say that despite my shoddy New Year’s resolution track record, this is one commitment that I’ve managed to keep. In fact, I’ve decreased my red meat consumption from nearly daily to once or twice per month.

Before I share how it’s changed my life, I’d like to reiterate why this resolution is important to me.

  1. Heart disease. There is a clear and documented link between red meat consumption and heart disease. Depending on the cut, red meat can be high in unhealthy saturated fats which tend to raise blood cholesterol levels and increase heart disease risk.
  2. Cancer. In some studies, red meat has been associated with certain types of cancer.
  3. Overall death risk. According to one study of 500,000 people by the National Institutes of Health and AARP, red meat eaters had a 30% increased chance of dying during the 10 year study. In a separate study at Harvard, researchers found that 9% of male deaths and 7% of female deaths would be prevented if people lowered red meat consumption to 1.5 ounces (or less) per day.
  4. Environment. When you compare the environmental impact of red meat to other foods like fruits, vegetables, dairy, chicken, etc., it’s not just a little bit worse. It’s hugely worse. According to one study, red meat accounts for just 30% of the world’s meat consumption – but it’s responsible for 78% of the emissions.

Instead of the usual burger or steak, I’ve been consuming red meat substitutes and opting for healthier cuts of chicken and turkey. Truth be told, it really hasn’t been difficult to make the transition and I can’t help but notice that my body feels cleaner and more energized.

The difference is most noticeable when I do eat red meat. I’m surprised at how gristly and fatty it tastes – and how sluggish I feel when digesting it. I never seemed to notice how unfavorably my body responds to red meat until I started cutting back on my intake. Because of the unpleasant response that red meat consumption inspires, it’s been very easy to stick with my resolution.

By far, replacing red meat with healthier options has been the best change that I’ve made to my diet in the last year. My only regret is that it took me 29 years to figure it out.

Are you interested in decreasing your red meat consumption? Do you think it’s something you’d like to try? Let me know in the comments below!

Which Meat is Healthiest?

Which meat is the healthiest? Chicken is the obvious answer – but it’s not always true.

While organic, pasture-raised chickens are extremely healthy, most of the chickens sold in modern supermarkets are raised differently. Today’s chickens are grown with increased fat and decreased protein. In fact, according to researchers at the Institute of Brain Chemistry and Human Nutrition at London Metropolitan University, today’s chickens contain 266% more fat and 33% less protein than chickens from 1971.

In the same way, today’s conventional cows are fattier than ever – thanks, in part, to their diets of corn and supplements. Grass-fed beef, on the other, not only tastes better – but also has improved nutritional content. Grass-fed beef has lower overall fat, lower saturated fat, an increase in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, lower cholesterol and more vitamins.

Next, we must consider the cut of meat. A chicken leg, for example, has 3x more fat than a serving of London broil. Chicken legs, thighs and wings are high in fat; the breast meat is low in fat. Leaving the skin on also increases the fat content. Sirloin steaks and flank steaks tend to be very lean. If opting for pork, tenderloins and loin roasts are healthier options.

When selecting healthy meats, pay attention to how the meat was raised and the cut. If available, read the nutrition information. Though chicken often wins out, you may be surprised!

Is Red Meat Really Bad for You?

A few days ago, I shared my New Year’s resolution. In 2012, I’ll limit my red meat consumption to two meals (or fewer) per week. I received a lot of interesting emails from blog buddies – mostly asking, “What’s so bad about red meat?”

In short, nothing. Lean cuts of red meat, when eaten in moderation, can certainly be part of a healthy diet. And red meat is definitely rich in muscle-building protein. But eating red meat each and every day can have a negative impact on the body’s health.

There is a clear link between red meat and heart disease. Depending on the cut and type, red meat can be high in saturated fat – and saturated fat raises blood cholesterol levels. High levels of LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) increase the risk of heart disease.

(It’s worth noting that grass fed beef is lower in saturated fat than mainstream, grain-fed beef. It’s also higher in Omega 3s, vitamins and nutrients. Still, it’s not exactly healthy.)

Beyond heart disease, red meat has also been linked to increased cancer risk in some studies, including one by the National Institutes of Health and AARP. Researchers examined 500,000 participants and found that red meat eaters had a 30% increased chance of dying during the 10-year study. Not surprisingly, these findings have been rejected by the beef industry.

And then there’s the environment. Red meat isn’t just a little bit worse than other food sources in terms of carbon dioxide and other factors that impact the environment, it’s substantially worse. Just look at the attached chart; eating red meat is the culinary equivalent of driving down the highway in a Hummer. According to one study, although beef only accounts for 30% of meat consumption in the developed world, it’s responsible for 78% of the emissions.

When you consider the impact that red meat has on the human body – and the world as a whole – it’s easy to make a good case for eating less of it. And besides, there are plenty of delicious, healthy and environmentally sound alternatives like chicken and turkey.

But since it’s still December 28 and I have a few days until my New Year’s resolution, it’s time for a burger.

Is Grass-Fed Meat Any Healthier?

Where's the beef? Here's the beef.

A few months ago, we looked at a number of studies that compared organic and conventional produce. The term “organic food” refers to food grown without most artificial fertilizers or pesticides and in a way that emphasizes crop rotation. Organic farming makes the most of natural fertilizers and ensures that the life of the soil is maintained.

The studies suggest that organic produce is not any richer in nutrients than conventional produce. Moreover, and somewhat surprisingly, the studies don’t show any longer-term health benefits including reduced cancer risk. While organic produce may not be healthier for the human body, it is unarguably much better for our extended body: Planet earth.

Today, let’s switch gears and look at grass-fed beef.

First things first, grass-fed and organic are not interchangeable terms. Not all organic beef is grass-fed, and not all grass-fed beef is organic. For one, grass-fed cows could graze on land that has been treated with fertilizers or pesticides. So, check the label if it’s important to you.

Decades ago, all beef was grass-fed. But industrial farmers discovered that grain-based diets could improve the efficiency of their farms. Cows that are fed diets of grass grow slowly; it may take 4 – 5 years until the animal is ready for slaughter. By feeding cows a diet of corn, antibiotics (cows can’t consume corn without them), hormones and protein, today’s conventional cows are slaughtered after just 14 – 16 months. Holding ethical questions aside for a moment, are there any research-supported differences in the nutrient content of grass-fed vs. grain-fed meats?

Yes. According to a report in the Nutrition Journal, it turns out that there are a number of differences:

  • Lower fat content. Grass-fed meat is lower in overall fat and saturated fat. A sirloin steak tested from grain-fed cows, for example, had more than double the total amount of fat compared to a grass-fed cut.
  • Higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids. These healthy and essential fatty acids are more prevalent in grass-fed beef. Grain-fed cows have only 15% – 50% of the omega-3 fatty acids found in grass-feed beef. It’s worth noting, however, that omega-3 fatty acids in grass-fed beef are still much lower than some other foods like salmon.
  • Lower dietary cholesterol. Though dietary cholesterol has a relatively small impact on blood cholesterol, individuals with cholesterol concerns should take notice.
  • Increased vitamins A, E and antioxidants. Grass-fed beef is a better source of these important nutrients.

Grass-fed beef has other benefits, too. For one, it has a greener environmental impact. Growing corn requires a tremendous amount of fossil fuel. In addition, grass-fed beef is also less polluting as the animal dung is used as fertilizer for the grass.

In my opinion, grass-fed beef also tastes better. It has a different, more authentic flavor that I’ve come to enjoy and appreciate.

And of course, the ethical implications of industrial farms vs. pasture-centered farms can’t be ignored to a conscious eater. If you are what you eat, I’d much prefer an animal that lived its life on a real farm – and didn’t spend its existence pumped full of drugs and knee-deep in its own feces. But that’s just my two cents.

When I shop, I generally only buy grass-fed beef. The price is significantly higher – but I think it is worth it – even it means eating meat less frequently.

But what do you think? Have you ever tried grass-fed beef? Do you prefer it? Do you think it’s worth the difference in price?