The phrase "You are what you eat" has been doing the rounds for years. I for one thought I knew what this meant. If you eat fatty sugary foods you gain weight, if you eat lean protein and vegetables you will be lean. There is no doubt about it these are true facts.
However since embarking on a paleo lifestyle I am learning that there is even more to the statement "you are what you eat" than I first thought. When I first switched to paleo I thought I was doing the right thing by eating fresh protein like beef, lamb etc. I thought that all protein was equal, well apart from the fat content of various cuts. I have since learned that I was wrong. There is a difference between grass and grain fed meats. At first my perception was that grass versus grain fed was just something nicer for the animal. As a former vegetarian I started to lean more towards grass fed meat as I have visions of a happy healthy animal roaming a field and enjoying fresh grass. This is true but I have since learned that there is a lot more to the grass versus grain story.
Not only am I what I eat but the cow is what it eats! Stick with me a moment it will become clear. My whole motivation for changing to a paleo lifestyle was to avoid grains and processed foods as they were causing an inflammatory response in my body. If a cow is what it eats and it is predominantly eating grain products, will this then impact on it's meat? The short answer is Yes. A cow has 4 stomachs to aid with it's digestion of grass, not the processed grain that it is fed to fatten it up. We humans need to consume essentially fats which we get from places like meat. If cows are being fattened up with the wrong foods does this impact on the meat we eat and what does that mean?
Omega 3 and Omega 6 are fats that we need for survival and our bodies do not produce them. Omega 3 provides strong anti inflammatory properties which means it plays a role in preventing arthritis, asthma etc. It is also essential for heart health and for brain function and development. Omega 6 is beneficial for cell growth and for use in the nervous system. It is worth mentioning though that too much Omega 6 is serious and can cause massive inflammation, obesity, heart disease and diabetes to name a few conditions. Omega 6 overdose is often called the silent killer.
In the western world we have the balance of omega 3 and 6 the wrong way. The ratio in the Western World is believed to be 15:1 (omega 6/omega 3) when the optimal ratio is 3:1. This imbalance without question contributes to the number of diseases in the western world.
It has been proven that cows fed grain products including corn and soy have much less omega 3 in their meat and more omega 6. Whereas grassfed animals have the correct omega 3/6 balance. Therefore by consuming grainfed meats even while eating a paleo diet I was not in fact helping my autoimmunity. I was continuing to feed the inflammatory process with incorrect ratio's of omega 3/6. I have since switched to grass fed meat. I am also finding it more tender and flavourful.
Here are some more interesting facts about grass fed meat.
There is no doubt about it, grassfed meat is more expensive but the question I put to you is What Price is your health?