In America, people tend to eat a diet that contains a lot of energy but not many nutrients. It’s what led to the famous term “empty calories” - it refers to food with ton of calories but little to no nutritional value.
You can find these empty calorie foods easily - they’re processed, filed with sugar, and high in saturated fats, sodium and chemical preservatives. In some cases, the word “food” hardly applies to some of these products.
Nutrient-dense food, including grass-fed beef, is the opposite of all that. Even among foods with nutritional value, nutrient-dense foods stand out for providing a high level of health benefits with relatively few calories.
What Is Nutrient Density?
The term nutrient density applies to food that is low in calories but high in nutrients. They contain a combination of vitamins, minerals, complex carbohydrates, lean protein and healthy fats.
Most people think of fruits and vegetables, seafood, lean meats, eggs, peas, beans, nuts, kale, cantaloupe, and quinoa when they think of nutrient-dense food. Grass-fed beef also makes the list, thanks to the focus on providing cattle food they have evolved to eat (natural grasses) rather than food meant to bulk them up quickly (grains).
The result is beef with higher nutrient density.
An easy way to think about nutrient-dense food is that “they contain an abundance of nutrients and other healthful substances—vitamins and minerals, fiber, lean protein, and unsaturated fats—but are not excessive in calories. This is compared with foods of low nutrient density that are high in calories," saidLiz Moore, a registered dietitian at Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
Beef Is Loaded With Vitamins and Minerals
Beef contains almost every nutrient you need to survive, and grass-fed beef is even more nutrient-dense than grain-fed beef. The nutrients in a serving of beef include the following:
- B12, B3, and B6
- Highly bioavailable iron, selenium, and zinc (bioavailability refers to the rate and extent that these minerals are absorbed into the bloodstream)
- High quality protein
- Creatine and carnosine, important nutrients from muscles and the brain
- Beta Carotene (a carotenoid precursors to vitamin A)
- Vitamin E, an antioxidant that protects cells
Grass-fed beef is a leaner, more efficient “food delivery system” of these important vitamins and minerals. In the case of Acabonac Farms, where we never give our animals added steroids or sub therapeutic antibiotics, the healthy factor is even higher.
Amino Acids and Meat
While many people have at least general knowledge about vitamins and minerals, many remain unaware of the importance of amino acids. Grass-fed beef provides high-quality protein. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. When you consume beef and your body digests it, the amino acids are what is left.
Unlike plants, meat provides nine of the amino acids the body cannot produce on its own: histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine.
Grass-fed beef also is higher in Glutathione, a type of peptide called a tripeptide. A peptide forms the bonds that link amino acids. A tripeptide is a link of three amino acids.
So, what does all of this mean for your body and brain?
The Impact of Nutrient-Dense Food
There’s plenty of scientific research on the impact of the vitamins, minerals, amino acids and antioxidants available in nutrient-dense grass-fed beef. Here’s a look at how they impact your health in different ways.
Grass-fed beef provides high amounts of Vitamin A, which is essential to your eyesight and can protect against age-related sight loss. Vitamin A is essential to the process of converting light absorbed by the eye into an electronic signal that can be interpreted by the brain.
Vitamin A also combats some forms of cancer, according to numerous studies, including non-Hodgkin lymphomaand lung cancer. Research also associates Vitamin A with a healthy immune system, reducing the risk of acne and promoting healthy bones.
The omega-3 fatty acids in grass-fed beef help protect against heart problems and can lower blood pressure.
Vitamin B1, known as thiamin, supports a healthy nervous system, muscles, heart, stomach and intestines. Vitamin B3, known as niacin, lowers bad cholesterol (LDL) while increasing good cholesterol (HDL). It also decreases triglycerides.
Some of the vitamins in beef contribute to good brain health as well as emotional and mental health. For example, vitamin B6 can improve your mood and reduce signs of depression. Past studies have also found that B6 can improve cognition and may reduce the chances of developing Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
As mentioned above, the nutrients in beef are more highly bioavailable than those from plants. That means that minerals such a zinc and iron are more readily absorbed into the bloodstream. Both are important for your health.
For example, a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that when given a zinc supplement, residents of a nursing home increased their serum zinc and T-cell numbers, both key to healthy immune systems.
And a large study by the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Aging in Germany associated healthy blood iron levels with healthier, longer lives. The researchers also suggested abnormal blood iron levels underlie conditions that lead to cognitive decline and other health issues.
Vitamin E is a great source of antioxidants, which remove oxidizing agents (sometimes called “free radicals”) that can damage your body’s cells. Beef also contains glutathione, a powerful antioxidant made from the amino acids cysteine, glutamate, and glycine. Research associated lower glutathione levels with poorer health, and have found that its levels appear to lower with age.
Beef is one of the main natural sources for protein that breaks down into amino acids that help your body build muscle and strengthen immune function. Amino acids also create tripeptides such as glutathione. These tripeptides benefit the body in many ways, including skin cell renewal through the regeneration of collagen.
These represent just some of the way nutrient-dense grass-fed beef provide benefits your health. Consistently eating a diet high with nutrient-dense foods can change how you look, feel and even how long you stay healthy later in life.