Rebuild from Depression


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Depression-Fighting Nutrients
in Beef, Turkey, and Ham

Through the 1980s and 1990s the meat in my diet tended to be skinless chicken breast, if I ate any meat at all. When you allow yourself only 20 grams of fat a day, you are pretty limited in your meat options. With that poultry overload, I still enjoy occasional chicken or turkey. Leftover turkey from Thanksgiving is a standout in particular.

But as I fight depression, I make a different choice in setting the dinner table. Traditional holiday dinners tend to include turkey or ham. Both poultry and pork can be leaner meats and lower in saturated fat than red meats such as lamb and beef. But the problem with leaner meats is that they are, in fact, leaner meats. Clinical trials have shown that increasing the Omega-3 fatty acids in your diet can alleviate depression. Most of us consume far too little of this important fat.

So as we choose a holiday meal, should we select the traditional turkey or the traditional ham? Our choice is roast beef.

Vitamins and Minerals

Compared to turkey, beef has about ten times the depression-fighting vitamin B-12 and three times the zinc. Beef has about four times the B-12 of ham, twice the zinc, and twice the iron. All meats are pretty good sources of vitamin B-6. None of the meat options are good sources of folate or magnesium, so we make sure to include those nutrients in other parts of our meal.

For a graph that compares the nutrient profiles of turkey, pork, and beef, click here.

Omega-3 to Omega-6 Ratio

Beef, particularly grass finished beef (or beef finished for a short time on grain), has the depression-fighting Omega-3 fatty acids docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).

Rebuild from Depression I discuss the importance of reducing our Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acid ratio from about 20 to 1 to about 4 to 1 (or even as low as 1 to 1). To do so, we need to increase our intake of Omega-3 fatty acids and reduce our intake of Omega-6 fatty acids. Reducing the use of vegetable oils will help reduce our ratio, but selecting appropriate meat is an important strategy as well if you have meat in your diet.

Beef from grass fed cattle helps us reduce our ratio: the ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids is in the range of 2 to 1 (Rule et al. 2002) and pork is in the range of 7 to 1 (Enser et al. 1996). I have found no studies of turkey, but one study of chicken found that the Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio was over 18 to 1 (Rule et al. 2002) while another placed chicken in a more favorable range of between 4 and 11 to 1 depending on the sample.

It appears that beef has a more favorable profile of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly if the beef has been finished on grain for a short period of time. It is also higher in B-12, zinc, and iron than other typical holiday options.

Beef is what’s for dinner in this house this holiday season.

More to come on grass versus grain finishing ….

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IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. Consult with your physician before making any changes to your diet.