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Is Grass-fed worth it?

March 15, 2017

Why do we go grass-fed? Is it because Gwyneth Paltrow told us to? Is it that pesky omega ratio? Or because someone told us it was good for the environment? What truly are the benefits of going “grass-fed?” While a quick web search will reveal a majority of blogs describing the specific benefits of grass-fed beef, the purpose of this post is to provide more practical discussion on the positives of choosing happy, free-roaming cows.

But first, let’s look at the negative: Grass-fed beef is so damn expensive!

True, and that is the major road block for many people – especially families – on buying the product. If Mercedes Benz all of a sudden priced their AMG series under $20,000, we would all buy them, but that does not mean we don’t have a viable alternative. If not able to afford grass-fed beef, go for the leaner cuts of meat, as pesticides and hormones are more likely to bioaccumulate in fatty tissue.

So when standing in-front of the meat counter, and given the choice between $4 a pound or $8 a pound chuck, what should be weighing on your mind…

When comparing food products for nutritional value, a new term is coming to light that constantly adds talking points to the discussion – bioavailability. With supplements such as multi-vitamins, even though they provide consumers with 100% of almost every vitamin and mineral, many people will not be able to absorb the nutrients stuffed into the pill. The common term is “very expensive urine.” However, when compared to eating real food, we see that individuals are able to assimilate a much larger percentage of nutrients.

We talked about this same relationship with coconut oil in a prior post – comparing high-heat vs. cold-pressed EV coconut oil on cholesterol and blood pressure levels, with the latter dominating the health debate. While both where natural products, the one that underwent less manipulation at the hands of Homo sapiens proved to be most beneficial for health.

Bovines thrived off grass for hundreds of thousands of years. Their guts evolved to deal with the fibrous shoots, prompting large, muscular cows (with multiple stomachs). We hunted them, but didn’t feed them. Roughly 11,000 years ago in the fertile crescent, bovines came under our control in the form of domestication, but only recently did we over populate the Earth with cattle to feed our desire for rib eye, shoving corn down their throats, deforesting most of South America in the process.

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What changes elicited from domestication and then over-population of cattle?

To observe what happens when one changes your natural diet and replaces traditional foods with newer creations, one simply has to look at the modern American diet consisting of almost 25% sugar per day – roughly 200lbs a year for the typical American.

The major side affect of adjusting bovine feed from grass to corn is in the composition of the lipid tissues (fat). Just like with coconut oil, there is a good and bad way to “create” the saturated fat found on beef. While most traditional research has favored a diet low in saturated fat, new research indicates that QUALITY of saturated fat is incredibly important.

The way the research is heading, it appears that diets with moderate to high levels of saturated fat, albeit from QUALITY sources, will not have such a negative  impact on the diet, and most likely provide positive benefits.

(On a side note, new research out of University College London has found that certain populations, namely the Inuits, have genetic modifications allowing their bodies to adapt to a high saturated fat diet, while most Europeans and Chinese do not have these modifications, requiring further research to determine what “ideal” is for certain genetically diverse cultures.)

From a truly “economics of health” perspective, look at this concept:

1lbs of non-grass fed 99% lean beef at $4 = 440 calories (1.1 calories per cent)

1lbs of grass-fed beef 85% lean at $8 = 972 calories (1.215 calories per cent) BETTER VALUE

From a dollar to calorie conversion, grass-fed beef does not appear to be that bad of a decision after all.

From a truly putting-something-healthier-in-your-body perspective, grass-fed beef is the clear winner. From a sustainability statement, things appear obvious, but have some complications.

When it comes to a single cow, the impact a conventionally farmed cow has on the environment is greater than that of a grass-fed cow. However, what is the impact of a conventionally raised cow from a food-lot in Georgia that will be sold across Atlanta compared to a grass-fed cow grown in Uruguay, that was then shipped to New York City?

Furthermore, how much of the World will have to become pasture to raise the number of cows that are currently in demand? Going exclusively grass-fed will drive the prices of beef up incredibly high due to a feasible limit on supply unless we all go back to a pastoral community – not likely if Silicon Valley has anything to say about it.

From a Malthusian background with some pragmatic optimism, we are at a bit of a precipice. On one hand, consuming locally raised grass-fed beef will aid with cutting down carbon emissions, but it is not a feasible alternative for the World (is healthy beef a luxury item?).

Given the known health benefits and looking at the dollar for healthy calorie ratio above, as an individual in a global community, grass-fed beef is the best approach. In order to sustain our growing demand for beef while cutting emissions and reliance on fossil fuels, there will need to be some serious changes in our food supply chain. In light of Hollywood’s latest creation – let us only hope that Matt Damon can grow grass and raise cows on Mars.

Any advice, comments, products, and other information provided on this website is not intended to be a substitute for, and does not constitute, medical care, advice, or treatment. The information contained herein may be an opinion based on personal experience or otherwise and, unless expressly stated otherwise, all advice, comments, opinions, and other information contained on this website are provided by individuals who are not licensed physicians or licensed dietitians or nutritionists. A licensed physician should therefore be consulted regarding all desired or necessary medical care, advice, and treatment, and any and all information provided on this website is expressly made subject to any licensed physician’s medical care, advice, and treatment. Likewise, a licensed nutritionist and/or licensed dietitian should be consulted regarding all desired or necessary nutrition and dietary advice, care, and treatment, and any and all information provided on this website is expressly made subject to any licensed nutritionist’s or dietitian’s care, advice, and treatment. Nothing on this website is intended to guarantee or promise any individual success, applicability, or level of performance with respect to any of the matters contained on this website.

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Feel Lifestyle

Clean Eating: 15 Ways To Get Started

October 15, 2015
Clean Eating

Ask a dietitian what their least favorite phrase about nutrition is and I bet that ‘clean eating’ is on the list. Clean eating has an infinite number of meanings depending on who you are and what your nutrition guidelines are. Some people choose not to consume meat, dairy, gluten, grains, soy, eggs, corn, or beans, among other foods. These choices might be for a whole slew of reasons including sensitivities, allergies, intolerances, religious preferences, environmental concerns, taste preferences, and scientific evidence. As a registered dietitian there is one thing I’m sure about: not one dietary pattern is right for every single person. I believe it takes trial and error, intuition, and luck to find the dietary pattern that works the best for each of us.  So, instead of getting caught up in the hottest diet of the week, let’s take a different perspective. Continue Reading

Feel Lifestyle

6 Tips to Reduce Inflammation and Disease Risk

October 11, 2015
Reduce Inflammation

Inflammation is an essential component of human physiology as it allows us to deal with bumps and bruises as well as more virulent attackers of our immune system. However, when inflammation goes unchecked (what is termed “chronic low-grade inflammation”) it is directly linked to increased risk of a variety of diseases – namely obesity, diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidemia and potentially even some forms of cancer. Continue Reading

Feel Function Lifestyle

Pre-Workout Nutrition: What To Eat Before Your Workout

September 30, 2015

What should I eat before a big CrossFit competition? What can I do to optimize my performance, whether it be a 5K Race, WOD, or a 3-hour bike ride? These are the questions I’ll try and answer for you in this post.

What you eat before competition can make or break your performance. The longer the workout, the greater the impact pre-workout nutrition will have on a positive finish. With shorter events like 5K races and competitive fitness events, improper meal timing and composition can have a greatly deleterious effect, whereas on events upwards of two hours, proper meal structure is essential for success. So in order to function properly, what should I eat for each event?

Scenario 1: 5K Race

With a 5K race, the biggest mistake is overdoing the carb-load. Carb-loading will really only benefit races pushing 1 to 2 hours (ideally your 5K is not lasting that long). The reason why carb-loading won’t be important for your 5K is because the race will be over long before muscle glycogen levels are significantly impacted. The best thing you can do is eat a complex carbohydrate based meal that is low on fiber and fat about 90-120 minutes before the race. High fiber and high fat meals require more blood flow, slow digestion and increase GI energy demands, which would all take crucial nutrients away from the working muscles.

For a 5K race, try eating some applesauce mixed with a paleo friendly protein powder and a banana. Wash it down with plenty of water to increase digestion speed. Furthermore, adding caffeine pre-race aids most runners, so add coffee to the meal or caffeine pills (as tolerated). As the race nears, sip a sports drink and water to maintain hydration levels, but avoid gulping down an entire bottle of the sugary beverage, as this will cause hypoglycemia (blood sugar crash) and pre-race fatigue.

Scenario 2: Competitive Exercise Event – Traditional ‘WOD’

Similar to a 5K, the impact of a single meal on an individual workout is more likely to be negative than positive. Shorter workouts (under 5 minutes) are generally best completed on an empty stomach; so having a similar, complex carbohydrate based meal 2-3 hours out is ideal. Long workouts up to 20 minutes can be treated exactly the same as a 5K.

Of the variety of supplements out there, on a single event, caffeine is one of the few supplements outside of illegal stimulants and blood doping that can increase performance by delaying fatigue.

Over the course of a day-long competition, it is important to eat primarily carbohydrates, as all WODs are fueled primarily by muscle glycogen (sugar). Sticking to unprocessed carbohydrates like starches (sweet potato, banana) and fruits is generally the best tolerated. Protein intake will be roughly 5-10% total intake, and fat will be minimal as well.

Scenario 3: Longer Event – 2 hours or more

Longer events are where pre-workout fueling can have a much more positive and direct impact on performance. Research generally supports an 80% carbohydrate meal containing about 150g or more of carbohydrates 3-5 hours ahead of time. Within 30-60 minutes of the race, a steady drip of water, caffeine and sports drink is recommended by many professionals.


What ever the scenario, overthinking or overdoing your pre-workout nutrition is probably the worst thing you can do. When in doubt, just listen to your body and consume what ever sounds good at the time (within reason!)

Any questions or comments? Post below!

Feel Form Function Lifestyle

You are the Independent Variable

August 31, 2015

Every journey has its fair share of challenges. We just chose to embrace a certain type of attitude. The Never Give Up, Back Down, or Stay Down, type of attitude; the Never Too Early, Never Too Late, type of attitude; the Sun Ain’t Rising Before Me, type of attitude.

You know the feeling.

The challenges in the gym, the boardroom, the office politics, the bad break up—those are the constants.

The outcome is 100% attitude.

You are the independent variable, YOU are (X).

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Why We Love Coconut Oil (And You Should, Too!)

June 4, 2015
Coconut Oil

It’s no secret coconut products are consistently gaining in popularity. A quick search of Google Trends shows that the words “coconut” and “coconut oil” have been increasing in popularity as search terms since 2011. This increase in popularity can be reflected in both standard grocery stores as well as health food store shelves. Health food stores are taking it to the next level and offer everything from coconut based coffee creamer to sugar-coated coconut bites.

While many of these products are a company’s attempt to profit on this hot commodity, coconuts are, at their core, a healthy food staple that’s been around for thousands of years.

Keep in mind that health benefits would come from fresh unprocessed coconut flesh which is full of fiber and improves satiation and gut health, or coconut oil a great source of medium chain fatty acids. Candied coconut on the other hand, as delicious as it sounds, probably doesn’t core very high on the nutritional scale.

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Feel Nutrition


June 4, 2015

Two topics we discuss on this blog that are interrelated are gut health and gluten intolerance. Many individuals trying to improve their health are seeking to eliminate gluten and supplement with a potent probiotic in an attempt to eliminate gut inflammation and improve digestion. However, a recent study uncovered results that might have individuals upset about their chosen method of probiotic consumption.

A topic discussed at Digestive Disease Week 2015 in Washington D.C. and now starting to make headlines, an investigative report found that out of 22 popular probiotic supplements, 12 contained gluten of which 4 (18%) contained gluten in amounts far higher than the standards given by the FDA to qualify as a “gluten-free” product.

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