A fitness goal like achieving six pack abs requires two lifestyle changes – committing to a new ab exercise routine and committing to a new diet. Making the switch to a healthier diet and giving up familiar foods like all-beef hamburgers and steak is no easy task for most people. In fact, diet change is usually the hardest part of a new ab routine… and the reason most people give up too soon.
An ab-friendly diet is low in simple carbs and rich in lean protein. Of the hundreds of ab articles and ab books I have read, there is always an emphasis on eating lean proteins like chicken and turkey and cutting down on beef. Most people react by eating grilled chicken and turkey sandwiches everyday, but a lack of variety kills new diets fast!
Grass Fed Beef – Better Than Salmon?
After a week full of turkey sandwiches, I stumbled upon a great article in a local magazine on grass fed beef. I was familiar with the grass fed beef available from local farmers, but I always thought it didn’t fit in with my abs diet.
After reading more about grass fed beef, I found that its many benefits outweighed the stigma that red meat and beef have gained in the diet and nutrition world. In fact, I found that in some cases grass fed beef is better than a lean protein like salmon! Salmon is one of the Mayo Clinic’s top 10 “super foods”, so just the thought of being able to eat beef again seemed like a breakthrough to me. Here is a list of some grass fed beef health benefits:
- Natural Omega 3 Fatty Acids -The high levels of Omega 3’s in grass fed beef lead to improved heart and brain function and lower levels of heart disease and high blood pressure.
- High Levels of Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) – CLA is a fat naturally present in grass fed animals. CLA content is 300% – 400% higher in grass fed animals than in grain fed animals. Ongoing research studies suggest a link between CLA and losing body fat and gaining lean muscle. These benefits have been noted only after eating the grass fed beef naturally and not through supplements.
- Natural Beta Carotene – The Beta Carotene in this type of beef aids the body in Vitamin A production and protecting immune system responses.
- Higher Levels of Vitamin A and E – Grass fed beef contains higher levels of vitamins that build important glycoproteins that keep your body building critical muscle mass for your abs.
- No Mercury and PCB Concerns – The mercury content in fish has gotten a lot of attention lately, and the FDA has recommended that people in certain high risk groups limit fish intake. These concerns do not apply to beef.
- Lower Risk of Food-Bourne Illness – Grass fed beef farms are often organic beef farm. The animals are monitored and treated very well, so instances of illnesses like Mad Cow disease are very rare.
Grass Fed Beef vs. Grain Fed Beef
What does a cow’s diet have to do with your abs? The cow’s diet determines whether a cut of beef will be lean and full of nutrients. A grain fed diet is not natural for a cow, so a lot of the health benefits listed above will diminish or disappear with traditional grain fed beef.
It also turns out that grass fed beef has high levels of Omega 3 fatty acids and low levels of Omega 6 fatty acids. Omega 3’s provide all of the health benefits discussed above while Omega 6 fatty acids have been shown to lead to greater risk of heart attack, cancer, and depression. Grain fed beef has high levels of Omega 6’s, so that definitely justifies why there has been so much negativity surrounding beef in recent years.
Why mess with nature? The cow’s diet has a direct effect on how lean and nutrient-rich the meat is. The cow’s diet also affects how you will build muscle and prevent weight gain through the presence of CLA. Without grass fed beef, recommending beef as a lean protein option with the same benefits as salmon would just not be possible.
My Take On Grass Fed Beef
I do not like to eat a lot of fish, so I supplement my diet with fish oil to maintain my health and my six pack. Knowing that a juicy steak could achieve many of the same benefits as fish oil, I decided to try a couple of cuts at the local natural foods store. Here is what I noticed about grass fed beef:
- Color – Grass fed beef cuts have a deep purplish red color similar to ahi tuna. The texture is very smooth and clear when compared to traditional or organic grain fed beef.
- Overall Appearance – Cuts of grass fed beef are thinner and lighter, and there is much less marbling due to the decreased fat content.
- Texture – After eating so many overcooked turkey burgers, I’ll admit I was concerned that the meat would be tough. Even though the meat is very lean, a properly wet aged cut is just as tender as its grain fed counterpart.
- Taste – The taste is rich and delicate. I tried a cut of flank steak and a cut of filet mignon. Both cuts were juicy and tender.
Overall, I was impressed with the taste and so happy that I could welcome beef back into my abs diet. I’d say that grass fed beef is the ultimate protein. I can enjoy a grilled steak without the guilt I always had when I passed on the salmon or chicken. Being able to enjoy a greater variety of my favorite foods has really helped me stick to my diet and maintain my abs.
Where To Get Grass Fed Beef
If you are a city dweller, finding American grass fed beef, let alone organic grass fed beef, is VERY hard. After so many years of the beef industry pumping grains, hormones, and antibiotics into cattle to maximize their profits, natural grass fed beef farms have become few and far between. You can, however, find grass fed meat in a few places:
- Local Farms – If you live near a local grass fed beef farm, you may be able to purchase meat directly from the farm or at local farmers markets. The quality is high and the prices are generally reasonable. This can, however, be inconvenient or impossible for you to do in the Fall and Winter months.
- Specialty Natural Foods Stores – If you don’t have the option to visit a local farmer, you may be able to find grass fed beef at a natural foods store like Whole Foods. Most cuts of beef available at these stores are organic beef that is usually a mix of grass and grain fed beef. My local store carries only 2 or 3 100% grass fed beef cuts at a very high price tag. (The flank steak I tried for this article was $16.99 a pound!)
- Online Grass Fed Beef Stores – This is definitely your best option for finding a grass fed organic steak. I was able to find American grass fed beef from farmers in Illinois and Missouri for as much as $6 less per pound online than in my local stores. There is a large selection of cuts available, and they can ship anywhere in the US or Canada. I ordered a variety pack online, and it arrived the next day fresh and delicious. The best online store I found was US Wellness Meats. They have the largest selection of cuts that I could find, they have great customer service, and they offer a full line of other grass fed and free range meats.
Overall, I highly recommend that you try grass fed beef for yourself, and experiment with your favorite lean beef recipes. Grass fed meat can be difficult to find in stores, but it is very easy choose the cuts that you want and order it online at a store like US Wellness Meats.
You can adapt some of your favorite steak recipes without any of the guilt. Incorporating comfort food and a little variety into your new diet should help you stay motivated to continue your new healthy eating and snacking habits. Trust me… Your six pack will thank you.
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