Is grass-fed beef better for you?

There are significant differences between beef from cattle who've eaten only grass and those on a grain-heavy diet.
There are significant differences between beef from cattle who've eaten only grass and those on a grain-heavy diet.
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In our increasingly health-conscious society, we tend to seek out the best of the best. More and more consumers don't just grab the nearest grocery store veggies; they seek out organic ones. They no longer want whole-wheat products; they seek gluten-free whole grains. Studies are mixed on any one best type of diet, but they tend to agree that it's a good idea to eat fresh and not processed foods. Should you give grass-fed beef a try? Some food experts would answer "yes."

Grass-fed beef is meat from cows that grazed only on grass at pasture. Most commercial beef, on the other hand, comes from cows that are fed corn, soy and grains. They are also given supplements that speed up their growth [source: Cross].

Because grass-fed cows are not given substances to make them grow bigger and faster than normal, they tend to be much leaner than most commercial cattle. This means the beef has less fat. And science shows, too much fatty meat is bad for your heart.

Eating lean beef can also reduce your caloric intake. One expert estimated that switching from standard beef to grass-fed beef could potentially save the average meat-eater more than 16,000 calories a year [source: Cross].

Grass-fed beef has less overall fat, but it is rich in healthy fats called omega-3 and linoleic fatty acids. These "good" fats boost your heart, brain and skin health. (You can also get them from eating certain fish and nuts.) Just be aware that there aren't enough fatty acids in grass-fed beef to reach the recommended amount. You still need to have other sources of these good fats in your diet. You might try salmon, which can contain up to 35 times more fatty acids than similar servings of beef [source: Sagon].

Another advantage of grass-fed beef is that it tends to have higher levels of antioxidants and key vitamins than does grain-fed beef. Specifically, it has up to seven times the beta-carotene found in other forms of beef. It's also higher in vitamins A and E [source: Cross].

Be aware that grass-fed beef, like other boutique health foods, is typically more expensive than standard beef. It may not be a big difference, but it's a difference nonetheless.

Another thing to remember is that grass-fed beef may need to be prepared in a different way than cuts of meat you may be used to. Because the beef is leaner, pay attention when cooking to ensure it retains its tenderness and flavor.

The next page contains lots more information on healthy food categories. Keep reading to find out more.

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