Dennis Starkey
Hillview Farm
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Confused About Fat? Choose Grassfed

  by Jo Robinson

In my Grandma's day, there was no such thing as a bad fat. All fat was good simply because it tasted good. My Grandma fried her eggs in bacon grease, added bacon grease to her cakes and pancakes and made her piecrust from lard, and served butter with her homemade bread. My Grandmother was able to thrive on all that saturated fat - but not my Grandfather. He suffered from angina and died from heart failure at a relatively young age.

My Grandfather wasn't alone. Population studies from the first half of the 20th century showed that Americans in general had a much higher risk of cardiovascular disease than people from other countries, especially Japan, Italy and Greece. Was all that saturated fat to blame? The Japanese were eating very little fat of any kind, while the Mediterranean's were swimming in olive oil, oil low in saturated fat but high in monounsaturated oils. Calve

So, in the 1960's, word came from on high that we should cut back on the butter, cream, eggs and red meat. But, interestingly, the experts did not advise us to switch to an ultra-low fat diet like the Japanese, nor to use monounsaturated oils like the Greeks or Italians. Instead, we were advised to replace saturated fat with polyunsaturated oils - primarily corn oil and safflower. Never mind the fact that no people in the history of this planet had ever eaten large amounts of this type of oil. It was deemed "the right thing to do." Why? First of all, the United States had far more cornfields than olive groves, so it seemed reasonable to use the type of oil that we had in abundance. But just as clearly, according to the best medical data at the time, corn oil and safflower oil seemed to lower cholesterol levels better than monounsaturated oils.

Today, we know that's not true. In the 1960's, researchers did not differentiate between "good" HDL cholesterol and "bad" LDL cholesterol. Instead, they lumped both types together and focused on lowering the sum of the two. Polyunsaturated oils seemed to do this better than monounsaturated oils. We now know they achieve this feat by lowering both our bad and good cholesterol, in effect throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Monounsaturated oils leave our HDL intact.

In hindsight, it's not surprising, then, that our death rate from cardiovascular disease remained high in the 1970's and '80's even though we were eating far less butter, eggs, bacon grease, and red meat. We had been told to replace saturated fat with the wrong kind of oil.

During this same era, our national health statistics were highlighting another problem, this one even more ominous: an increasing number of people were dying from cancer. Why were cancer deaths going up? Was it the fact that our environment was more polluted? ... That our food had more additives, herbicides and pesticides? ... That our lives were more stressful? ... That we were not eating enough fruits and vegetables? Yes. Yes. Yes. And yes.

But there was another reason that we were losing the war against cancer: the supposedly "heart healthy" corn oil and safflower oil that the doctors had advised us to pour on our salads and spread on our bread contained high amounts of a type of fat called "omega-6 fatty acids." There is now strong evidence that omega-6s can make cancer cells grow faster and more invasively. For example, if you were to inject a colony of rats with human cancer cells and then put some of the rats on a corn oil diet, some on a butterfat diet, and some on a beef fat diet, the ones given the omega-rich corn oil would be afflicted with larger and more aggressive tumours.

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to us, we were getting a second helping of omega-6s from our animal products. Starting in the 1950s, the meat industry had begun taking our animals off pasture and fattening them on grains, primarily corn, high in omega-6s, adding to our intake of these potentially cancer-promoting fats. Shovel

At long last, in the mid 1990s, the first truly good news about fat began to emerge from the medical labs. The first fats to be given the green light were the monounsaturated oils, the ones that had helped protect the health of the Mediterranean's for so long. These oils are great for the heart the scientists discovered, and do not promote cancer. They are also a deterrent against diabetes. The news came fifty years too late, but it was welcome nonetheless. Please pass the olive oil!

Then, at the end of the 20th century, two more "good" fats were added to the roster - omega-3 fatty acids, and conjugated linoleic acid, or CLA, the fat found in the meat of ruminants. Both of these fats show signs of being potent weapons against cancer. However, the omega-3s may be the best of all the good fats because they are linked with a lower risk of virtually all the so-called "diseases of civilization", including cardiovascular disease, depression, diabetes, Alzheimer's, obesity, asthma, and autoimmune diseases.

So, what does this brief history have to do with grassfarming? Few people realize that all omega-3s originate in the green leaves of plants and algae. Fish have large amounts because they eat the smaller fish that dine on omega-3-rich algae and phytoplankton. Grazing animals have more omega-3 because they get it directly from the grass. In both cases, the omega-3s are ultimately passed on to humans, the top of the food chain.

Products from grassfed animals offer more than omega-3s. They are also the richest known natural source of CLA and contain extra amounts of vitamin E and beta-carotene. Finally, grassfed meat is lower than feedlot meat in total fat and calories, making it ideally suited for our sedentary lifestyle.

I'll wager that the more that is discovered about fat, the more grassfed beef will shine. Our bodies are superbly adapted to this type of food. In the distant past, grassfed meat was the only meat around. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors either brought home grazing animals or predators that that preyed on those animals. Either way, the nutrients found in grass made their way into the animal's flesh and ultimately our own.

Over the eons, our bodies began to "expect" the kinds and amounts of fat found in grassfed meat and our hearts counted on the omega-3s to stabilize their rhythm and keep the blood clots from forming. Our brain cells relied on omega-3 to build flexible, receptor-rich membranes. Our immune systems used the omega-3 and CLA to fend off cancer. And because wild game is relatively lean, our bodies weren't burdened with unnecessary amounts of fat or calories.

When we switch from grainfed to grassfed meat, then, we are simply returning to our original diet, the diet that is most in harmony with our physiology. Every cell and system of our bodies function better when we eat meat from animals raised on grass.

Jo Robinson is a New York Times bestselling author. The Omega Diet, the book she co-authored with Dr. Artemis Simopoulis, explores the ideas in this article in more depth. Why Grassfed Is Best focuses on the benefits of pastured animals. To order her books or learn more about grassfed products, visit

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