I hope I’ve persuaded you by now that grass-fed, grass-finished beef is a health food, offering concentrated nutrients often sorely lacking in the American diet.
Along with abundant vitamins B6 and B12, grass-fed beef is rich in a good fat called conjugated linoleic acid, or CLA. When cattle eat grass only, their meat contains up to five times more CLA than when they are fed grain.1
This matters, because CLA is a potent cancer fighter. A Finnish study showed that women who ate the most CLA had a 60 percent lower risk of breast cancer than those who ate the least.2
With that in mind…
I always cringe when a friend orders a steak “well-done.” Aside from being a culinary crime — in my view, longer cooking destroys flavor — overcooking beef or pork cancels many of the nutritional benefits meat has to offer, and may pose some health hazards, as well.
Warm and Wet Beats Hot and Dry
My friend Catherine Shanahan, MD, has just updated her seminal work Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Foods. In it, she points out that:
Overcooked meat is tough because its fat, protein and sugar molecules have gotten tangled and fused together during a wild, heat-crazed chemical orgy. The result is a kind of tissue polymer [in other words, a plastic-like substance] that requires more work to cut with a knife as well as more time to digest. The worst part is that so many of the nutrients we need are ruined.
Making those nutrients unavailable is bad enough. But as they spot-weld to each other, they also mutate into carcinogens such as aromatic hydrocarbons and cyclic amines, which are especially damaging to kidneys and blood vessels.3
Now, I don’t want to overestimate this hazard. Researcher Todd Becker points out that human beings have a long evolutionary history of eating burned bits of meat, and have likely evolved defenses against it. But a regular habit of consuming burned meat may overwhelm those defenses.
The ideal way to cook meat is gently — that is, with a low, slow heat that kills pathogens and untangles proteins so that they can be digested more easily but stops short of fusing those proteins back together into new, toxic configurations.
When it comes to dry cooking methods such as grilling, keep it short and gentle. I recommend grilling steak at medium-low heat for roughly seven minutes per inch of thickness. This yields a steak that’s browned (not burned) on the outside and pink-to-red and juicy on the inside.
But even better than grilling or frying beef are various “wet” cooking methods, especially in the form of long, slow simmers in a Crock-Pot or saucepan on low heat.
The hot water performs hydrolytic cleavage — a fancy term for gently, safely separating long molecular chains of proteins. The water then prevents them from fusing back together — making the meat tender and flavorful, with its components highly digestible and free of toxic fused-protein tangles.
Grass-fed meat is expensive, but so is bad health. I’d much rather abandon cable TV, a second car and a grab bag of other dubious modern “luxuries” for the true benison of a healthful rare steak or bowl of Crock-Pot beef stew at least twice a week.
One of the best moves you can make for your health is embracing the right kind of meat and cooking it in the right way: that is, the gentle way. For a purveyor of grass-finished beef near you, check the Eat Wild website. Enjoy!
To your robust health,
Editor, Natural Health Solutions
1 Dhiman TR, Anand GR, Satter LD, Pariza MW. Conjugated linoleic acid content of milk from cows fed different diets. J Dairy Sci. 1999
2 Aro A, Männistö S, Salminen I, Ovaskainen ML, Kataja V, Uusitupa M. Inverse association between dietary and serum conjugated linoleic acid and risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women. Nutr Cancer. 2000
3 Sebekova, K. Dietary advanced glycation end products (AGEs) and their health effects. Mol Nutr Food Res, Sept. 2007