One of the critical issues that consumers today consider when food shopping is the nutrient density of their food. In other words, what food is the most nutritious naturally, without anything added in the manufacturing process.
This is one of the advantages of organic produce and grass-fed beef. Both have been found to have much higher concentrations of nutrients and cancer-fighting antioxidants. They also have more nutrient density, which is a new concept for many.
What Is Nutrient Density?
Nutrient density refers to foods that are high in nutrients but also low in calories. The best nutrient-dense foods contain a high amount of vitamins and minerals as well as lean protein and healthy fat.
Seafood is often listed among the nutrient-dense foods, as are some fruits and vegetables. Others include nuts, beans, peas, eggs and lean meat. Grass-fed beef fits into that last category.
However, the best-known study about the relative nutrient density of organic vs. industrial food involved produce.
Organic Fruit and Vegetables
A few years ago, Washington State University produced a study that looked at the relative nutritional value of traditional and organic vegetables. It came in reaction to a paper from Stanford University that reported organic vegetables and fruit did not provide more nutritional density than regular vegetables and fruit.
To counter that, Washington State University researchers reviewed 343 studies, most of them in Europe, from the past few decades.
As expected, it found that organic food had fewer pesticide residues than conventional crops - which in itself is a big deal. But most importantly, the study found a big difference in the level of antioxidants in organic crops. Antioxidant compounds such as flavonoids and carotenoids can protect cells from aging and prevent the type of cell damage that can lead to cancer, according to National Public Radio.
NPR reported that organic fruits and vegetables had as much as 20% to 40% higher levels of antioxidants.
That begs the question - does that sort of nutrient density carry over into meat, as well?
Nutrient-Rich Grass-Fed Beef
When comparing the nutrients in grass-fed beef to that of industrial beef, the nutritional profile is not even close. Grass-fed beef has hands down more nutrients than conventionally raised beef.
A study from California State University and the University of California found that grass-fed beef has a much higher level of CLA, which are healthy fats that can reduce cardiovascular disease, lower cholesterol levels and even reduce the risk of cancer.
Beef from grass-fed, pasture-finished cattle also has more omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. The report stated, “Grass-fed beef is also higher in precursors for Vitamin A and E and cancer fighting antioxidants,”
All this is on top of the fact that grass-fed beef from Acabonac Farms is not exposed to any type of chemical pesticide or herbicide. They also are not given any growth-promoting antibiotics or hormones.
The Importance of Diverse Vegetation
Another key factor is what and where cattle eat. Herds that freely roam on a pasture with a diverse mixture of vegetation lead to creation of more nutritious beef, especially in contrast to grain-fed cattle.
A 2019 study led by a researcher from Utah State University noted that “health is enhanced when livestock forage on phytochemically rich landscapes” and that it is “reduced when livestock forage on simple mixture or monoculture pastures or consume high-grain rations in feedlots.”
While it called for more study, the researchers concluded there is evidence that the very nature of foliage diversity in a grass pasture is what make grass-fed cattle nutrient-rich.
These are some of the factors that contribute to nutrient density in grass-fed beef and organic produce. It’s an important issue to keep in mind when shopping for the family meals.