Monday, December 7, 2009

Heart Healthy Large Black Hogs

A recent trip to my doctor revealed that my blood pressure is a little higher than it should be.  And to tell you the truth, I was expecting that, because I've let myself become 20 pounds overweight in the last couple of years, middle-age and all that.  In discussing some ways to address this, my physician told me that part of the health problem is the food we eat and the way that our food is grown/raised.

I listened while she continued to tell me all about how factory farming is contributing to the poor overall health of those who eat factory farm food.  I didn't say a word when my doc, who was clearly passionate about the ethics of food, began to tell me how animals in the feedlots are fed animal protein in pellets, given lots of antibiotics and hormones, live in often inhumane conditions, etc.

Well, needless to say, this woman was preaching to the choir, and I didn't interrupt, because I'm always up for learning more.

After listening politely, I was able to tell her about my grass-fed Large Black Hogs that are being raised sans hormones and antibiotics.  Her initial response was, "Well, Kimberly, how do I get one of these from you!"

And then we had a lively discussion about the merits of grass fed meat.

I'm going to share some of that health information with you here.  Let's start with the fact that my grass fed Large Black Hogs are not only good for my heart because of the sheer enjoyment I get from raising them, but also because of the high Omega-3 content of grass-fed meat.

And I certainly can't blame my 20-pound weight gain on the ranch-raised pork I've been eating.  This little roll around my middle is due to my love of crisp Challah bread, bagels, dinner rolls, and piping hot morning muffins.  I'll eat bread rather than cake any day.  So, per my doc's recommendations, I'm now on the South Beach Diet (which encourages eating healthy proteins and fats, and that of course is the perfect description of grass-fed pork).

Extra Omega-3s.  Meat from grass-fed animals has two to four times more omega-3 fatty acids than meat from grain- fed animals. Omega-3s are called "good fats" because they play a vital role in every cell and system in your body. For example, of all the fats, they are the most heart-friendly. People who have ample amounts of omega-3s in their diet are less likely to have high blood pressure or an irregular heartbeat. Remarkably, they are 50 percent less likely to suffer a heart attack.  Omega-3s are essential for your brain as well. People with a diet rich in omega-3s are less likely to suffer from depression, schizophrenia, attention deficit disorder (hyperactivity), or Alzheimer's disease.

Another benefit of omega-3s is that they may reduce your risk of cancer. In animal studies, these essential fats have slowed the growth of a wide array of cancers and also kept them from spreading.  Although the human research is in its infancy, researchers have shown that omega-3s can slow or even reverse the extreme weight loss that accompanies advanced cancer and also hasten recovery from surgery.

Omega-3s are most abundant in seafood and certain nuts and seeds such as flaxseeds and walnuts, but they are also found in animals raised on pasture. The reason is simple. Omega-3s are formed in the chloroplasts of green leaves and algae. Sixty percent of the fatty acids in grass are omega-3s. When cattle are taken off omega-3 rich grass and shipped to a feedlot to be fattened on omega-3 poor grain, they begin losing their store of this beneficial fat. Each day that an animal spends in the feedlot, its supply of omega-3s is diminished.  The graph below illustrates this steady decline.
Omega 3s vanish in the feedlot
Data from: J Animal Sci (1993) 71(8):2079-88.
When chickens are housed indoors and deprived of greens, their meat and eggs also become artificially low in omega-3s. Eggs from pastured hens can contain as much as 10 times more omega-3s than eggs from factory hens.

It has been estimated that only 40 percent of Americans consume an adequate supply of omega-3 fatty acids. Twenty percent have blood levels so low that they cannot be detected. Switching to the meat, milk, and dairy products of grass-fed animals is one way to restore this vital nutrient to your diet.  Source:  Eat Wild. 

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