Bison … a tasty alternative to cow *smiles*

I love bison. I think it is one of those under-appreciated meats. Most people have only heard of bison used to make an alternative-to-beef-burger (in my opinion they are only okay). I think there is more to bison than burger. Bison has more flavor and protein and less fat than beef. Bison is also extremely nutrient dense, with good amounts of iron, zinc and the antioxidant selenium. Below I have a nutrition comparison between not only bison and beef but pork, chicken, duck, venison and halibut.

As I have said before I get my meat from Whole Foods and their bison has no antibiotics,no added growth hormones, no animal byproducts in feed, and the buffalo are raised on pasture or range for at least 2/3 of the animal’s life. Even outside of Whole Foods, buffalo are generally treated and fed better than cows. This week I made my veggie heavy version of Bison Bolognese (I will post the recipe tomorrow). It was a easy, satisfying meal with more focus on the veggies with a good amount of meat spread throughout the dish. Yummy!

Recently, I have been decreasing my meat consumption, but increasing the quality of my meat (It is amazing how tastier it is as well!! 🙂 ) This change has been sparked by many things but Michael Pollan’s Rule 27 from “Food Rules” sums it up well:

“Rule 27: Eat animals that have themselves eaten well…

The diet of the animals we eat strongly influences the nutritional quality, and healtfulness of the food we get form them, whether it is meat or milk or eggs. This should be self-evident, yet it is a truth routinely overlooked b the industrial food chain in its quest to produce vast quantities of cheap animal protein. That quest has changed the diet of most of out food animals in ways that have often damaged their their and healthfulness. We feed animals a high energy diet of grain to make them grow quickly,even in the case of ruminants that have evolved to eat grass. But even food animals that can tolerate grain are much healthier when they have access to green plants – so, it turns out, are their meat and eggs. The good from these animals will contain much healthier types of fat (more omega-3s, less omega-6s) as well as appreciably higher levels of vitamins and antioxidants. (For the same reasons, meat form wild animals is particularly nutritious) It’s worth looking for pastured animal foods in the market – and paying the premium prices they typically command if you can”

If you are on a strict budget like myself (medical school does not leave a lot of room for extravagant expenditures), you can try to stick with the motto: quality over quantity. This goes against so much of how our society functions anymore, but I don’t think that having more is necessarily better. I will pay more for better quality which forces me to eat less of certain things but increases the overall quality of the food I put in my body. Eating healthier now can potentially save you money down the road, by saving you from a lot of future medical bills incurred from eating unhealthy foods (and living unhealthy lifestyles). Our choices today will affect the future of our tomorrow.

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Kale…a tale of winter love

Kale…my new favorite vegetable. I stumbled upon kale during my quest to eat more vegetables. I started this quest in the winter and naively thought that no vegetables grown locally were in season in winter. Winter, while not a great time for fruits, is prime time for dark, leafy greens…like kale. Fresh kale should look firm with deeply colored leaves (which can range from dark green to purple to deep red in color – the most common being dark green) and hardy stems. Smaller leaves will be more tender and milder in flavor. You can store kale, unwashed, in an air-tight zipped plastic bag for up to five days in the refrigerator. This winter I was able to find kale EVERYWHERE and for cheap ($0.99 a pound). This led to a lot of experimentation and incorporation of kale into my diet.

On top of tasting great, kale is one of the healthiest vegetables you can eat. One cup of kale contains 36 calories, 5 grams of fiber, and contains the following percentages of the daily requirements of  calcium and vitamin B6 (15%), magnesium (40%), vitamin A (180%) , vitamin C (200%), and vitamin K (1,020%). Vitamin K can reduce the overall risk of developing and dying from cancer (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition article).  Vitamin K is abundant in kale but also found in parsley, spinach, collard greens, and animal products such as cheese. Kale is also a good source of minerals copper, potassium, iron, manganese, and phosphorus. Kale is rich in carotenoids and flavonoids (specific types of antioxidants associated with many of the anti-cancer health benefits), along with lutein and zeaxanthin (compounds which promote eye-health). As with anything, there are some things to be careful about…Kale contains oxalates, naturally occurring substances that decrease the absorption of calcium. Calcium is a very important part of the diet especially for women, so try to avoid eating calcium-rich foods like dairy at the same time as kale to prevent any problems. Furthermore, the fiber content of cruciferous kale binds bile acids and helps lower blood cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease, especially when kale is cooked instead of raw.

Three great kale recipes: