Archive for the tag - meat

Is Bison Healthier than Beef?

bison2First, let’s set one thing straight.

Most of us eat way too much red meat. In an often-cited study from 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.

In other words, we should eat red meat sparingly – if at all.

Having said that, there are significant nutritional differences between bison and beef. Also, it’s worth noting that bison is often incorrectly referred to as buffalo meat. Buffalo are different mammals, and only live in portions of Asia and Africa. In fact, they’re very different from the American bison that’s available in your grocery store.

One big advantage to bison meat is lower fat content. Though fat content varies greatly from cut to cut, you’ll generally find about half the fat in a comparable cut of bison. A beef burger, for example, has nine grams of fat. A bison burger of the same size has 4 grams. With reduced fat content, bison also has fewer calories than beef.

It’s also more common for bison to be grass-fed, though you’ll need to check with your supplier. Grass-fed meats offer a number of nutritional advantages. Beyond reduced fat, grass-fed meats are lower in cholesterol, higher in omega-3 fatty acids and contain more vitamins and antioxidants.

But let’s not get carried away; bison meat isn’t a nutritional miracle – and you’re much better off eating some steamed vegetables or a nourishing and colorful salad. But if you’ve got a craving for red meat, bison meat does offer a nutritional upgrade from beef.

Is “Pink Slime” Healthy?

The processed meat-ish byproduct known as "pink slime." Bon appétit.

In the last few weeks, you’ve probably heard a lot about so-called “pink slime.” Otherwise known as “lean finely textured beef trimmings,” pink slime is a processed meat byproduct found in 70% of packaged ground beef in the United States. Rather than being made from muscle tissue, this meat-ish byproduct is created from connective tissue and treated with ammonia hydroxide to kill salmonella and E. coli.

Doesn’t sound too appetizing. And really, the publicity about pink slime was one of the rare instances where mainstream consumers peered behind the veil and saw the unpleasant reality of industrial farming. The family farms and red barns that adorn product packaging are far cries from the shocking truth about how our food is made.

Despite the unappealing process by which it’s created, the USDA considers pink slime safe for human consumption. Moreover, when it is added to ground beef, current regulations do not require that it’s disclosed on labels.

Of course, safe and healthy are two different things. Twinkies are safe for consumption, but certainly not part of a healthy diet. The truth is, most Americans eat far too much red meat – pink slime or otherwise. In fact, a recent study by Harvard researchers concluded 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. That’s a sobering statistic.

The moral of the story is to eat less red meat. Period. It’s not that we need to exclude red meat entirely, but most of us would be significantly healthier with less red meat in our diets. Back in January, I made the decision to limit my red meat consumption to twice weekly. Instead of including red meat as a staple in my diet, it’s more of a special treat – and, when I do eat red meat, I usually opt for healthier, grass-fed varieties.

If you hold the mindset that your body is a temple, then you’d want to fill that temple with those things that honor it. Twinkies, pink slime and the like certainly don’t make the cut; make those food choices that nourish, energize and lift up your body.

Turkey Bacon Vs. Pork Bacon: Pros & Cons.

This picture actually makes my mouth water.

No shocker here: Pork bacon isn’t particularly healthy.

Elsewhere in the world, pork bacon is usually cut from the back or sides of the pig. In the United States, it’s often cut from the belly as it contains less meat, but more fat and flavor. The meat is then cured using large quantities of salt. Needless to say, it’s far from a healthy choice.

Because of bacon’s bad reputation, many people opt for turkey bacon as a more nutritional alternative. Sure, it’s not as tasty – but it’s healthier. Right?

Not always. Turns out, the nutrition information in turkey bacon varies greatly from brand to brand. Some brands of turkey bacon have just as much fat – and even more sodium – than traditional pork bacon.

If you’re selecting pork bacon, opt for thin slices from a lean cut of the pig. Look for lots of red in the bacon (that’s the meat) and less white (that’s the fat). Most importantly, read the nutrition information. Thin and lean slices of bacon can have as little as 60 calories per slice and only 1.5 grams of fat.

If turkey bacon is your preference, compare the nutrition information to the pork alternatives. Some brands of turkey bacon can have as little as 20 calories per slice and zero grams of fat – but read carefully. And pay special attention to the sodium!

The verdict: Turkey bacon can be a healthier alternative to pork bacon, but it really varies from brand to brand! To make a wise choice for your health and body, you must compare the nutrition information.

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 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?

Being Vegan is So Gay?

As a gay person, I understand the pain of oppression. I understand what it’s like to be denied equal treatment and fairness. And I also understand that an injustice to one is an injustice to all – whether it’s with women’s rights, racial discrimination… or the mistreatment of animals.

When Ari Solomon, columnist and animal rights activist, emailed me with an article titled “Being Vegan is So Gay,” I was struck by the intersections in our movements. Ari writes:

I went vegan… because I couldn’t stand knowing that I was paying other people to do to those animals what had been done, on a much smaller scale, to me. How could I say that I believed everyone deserved to be equal and have a chance to be happy when I was eating the remains of lives that had been wrought with misery and mercilessness.

Surely, if anyone can understand the mistreatment of animals in factory farms, it should be other oppressed populations. Like gay people. If you are pushing for equal, just and fair treatment for humans – how can you turn a blind eye to the food we buy and eat?

But unlike Ari, I don’t agree that the answer is necessarily veganism.

I think the consumption of meat, when done responsibly, is a very natural and beautiful thing. When we consume life – be it plant life or animal life – we’re participating in the great cycle of life, death and renewal that keeps this planet functioning.

For me, the answer is about being a conscious eater. Instead of buying factory farm meats, I buy grass-fed meats from Whole Foods or from local, pasture-centered family farms. In fact, Whole Foods even has a 5-Step animal welfare rating so that you can see how the animal was treated. It helps the consumer make wiser, more conscious choices.

But Ari is right: Oppression is oppression. The mistreatment of animals is an injustice, and it’s hypocritical for us to turn away.

What do you think? Do you think gay people – or other oppressed groups – have a special responsibility and duty to stand up for the rights of animals?

5 Protein Tips for Vegan Muscles!

Dear Davey,

I’ve been trying to build muscle and I take protein shakes right after I workout, but I don’t see much of a difference. I’ve been a vegan for almost 7 years now, so I don’t get much protein.

What are some things me and your other vegan followers can eat (excluding eggs, fish, and other animals) so we can get more protein in our bodies?

Thanks,
Davis

Dear Davis,

Most Americans get more than enough protein in their diets. But for weightlifters and exercise enthusiasts, the daily requirements for protein are much higher – and thus much harder to fulfill. While most adults require only 40 – 75 grams of protein, I require 140 grams. It’s no small feat.

Getting the required amount of protein is even more difficult for vegan exercisers, as vegans eat neither animals nor animal byproducts. Meat is an easy, high-quality source of protein, and even whey protein (the highest quality protein available) is derived from dairy. For vegans, meat, dairy and whey are out of the question.

So how can exercise enthusiasts balance protein needs with a vegan diet? I asked Noel, a vegan fitness model living in NYC (pictured above). He’s so passionate about vegan fitness, he even created a YouTube channel about it. Here are his recommendations:

  1. Eat lots of nuts. 1/4 a cup of nuts can have upwards of 8 to 9 grams of decent quality protein. Noel recommends soaking the nuts, as it makes digestion and vitamin absorption easier. It’s important to opt for unsalted varieties.
  2. Get to know quinoa. 100 grams of quinoa contains some 14 grams of high-quality protein. In fact, the protein in quinoa has a higher BV rating than either beef or chicken. Though quinoa is a seed, it can be used in a variety of dishes. Here are a bunch of quinoa recipes.
  3. Stock up on oatmeal. Though you might not realize it, a cup of oatmeal has 6 grams of relatively high quality protein. The quality of the protein, though less than beef or chicken, is slightly better than fish. It’s a great way to start the day!
  4. Spread the hummus. A half cup of commercial hummus has 10 grams of protein, and it makes a great addition to a sandwich – or a condiment for fresh veggies.
  5. Almond and peanut butter. As nuts are a good source of vegan protein, it only makes sense that almond and peanut butter are also wise choices and great additions for smoothies and snacks. Typically, a serving of nut butter will have 6 – 8 grams of protein.

To Noel’s list, I’d like to add tofu – which is packed with a whopping 40 grams of protein per cup. Soybeans, soy milk and pure soy protein are also a great addition – though there has been some speculation that excess soy consumption may have negative side effects. Nonetheless, soy protein is high in quality. Lentils, tempeh, beans, brown rice and even tahini are also good and protein-rich vegan options.

For vegans, it’s especially tough to get the recommended quantities of protein to support muscular maintenance and growth – but with a little planning, it’s not only possible… but delicious!

Love,
Davey