To Beef or Not to Beef, That is the Question

I often say that nutrition is very much a pendulum; foods are deemed “good” and then “bad” and then “good” again.  I like to explain this with part of a Maya Angelou quote, “…when you know better, do better”.  We are constantly learning more about the foods we eat, the ways these foods are produced and the effect this has on our bodies.  Gone are the days of thinking that fat was the enemy.  We now realize that fat is an important part of our diets.  Dietary fat helps the body absorb Vitamins A, D, E and K, supports skin and bone health, produces hormones and gives our body energy.  

Which brings us back to the question of whether we should or shouldn’t eat beef.  We now know that the answer to our question has everything to do with the quality of beef we choose to eat.  Where did it come from? What did it eat?   Beef from grass fed cows is lower in total fat (more walking around builds muscles for cows as well as humans!)  It is higher in Vitamin E, the B vitamins thiamine and riboflavin, the minerals calcium, magnesium and potassium as well as higher in total omega-3 fatty acids!  These are all good things. 

One of the most significant differences between grain fed and grass fed beef is the increase in Vitamin K2 (menaquinone).  Vitamin K2 activates the calcium-binding actions of matrix-GLA protein and osteocalcin. What this means is that Vitamin K2 has been shown to help regulate where calcium is deposited:  into our bones (where it is needed) instead of  into blood vessels and kidneys (where it can be damaging). 

Grass fed cows produce more Vitamin K2 than grain fed cows because, while ruminating animals (like cows) can be much more efficient at converting Vitamin K1 into Vitamin K2 than humans, they need chlorophyll-containing plants in their systems for those reactions to take place. So while grass fed cows are able to produce high levels of Vitamin K2, grain fed cows are not.

 And there you have it. Beef from grass fed cows can be part of a healthy diet. As with all things in nutrition, be sure to eat your beef in moderation (around 1-2 times per week).