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Are Organic Milk and Meat More Nutritious?

Research suggests that consuming organic milk and meat could significantly increase the intake of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids.

New research from the UK demonstrates that marine products are not the only dietary sources of omega-3 fatty acids that are often found in fish. Analysis of data from 196 studies on milk and 67 studies on the composition of meat reveals that organic milk and meat have about 50 percent higher levels of these beneficial fats than their conventionally raised counterparts.

Organic Milk and Meat:

In organically raised meat, levels of saturated fats and monounsaturated fatty acids were lower than in conventionally raised meat. Organic milk also contained significantly more alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) than milk from conventionally farmed cows. The organic products also contain more vitamin E and carotenoids. Organic milk is richer in iron but has lower levels of iodine and selenium.

What If We Switched to Organic Milk and Meat?

Switching to organic sources of meat and dairy products would help raise European intake of omega-3 fats. These healthier fat profiles appear to be linked to the animals grazing outdoors in pastures rather than being fed grain.

The researchers point out that despite the differences in composition, there are very few well-designed studies showing that people consuming organic milk and meat have better health outcomes. They call for further investigation.

British Journal of Nutrition, March, 2016

British Journal of Nutrition, March, 2016

Other Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids:

Organically raised milk and meat from pasture-grazed animals are not the only sources of these beneficial omega-3 fatty acids. EPA and DHA, the most important of these, are abundant in oily cold-water fish such as mackerel, anchovies, salmon, sardines and tuna. That is why Americans are frequently urged to eat at least two servings of such fish each week.

Vegetarians can get omega-3 fatty acids from algae. Although seaweed is quite low in fat, its fatty acid profile is favorable, so it too could offer a source of omega-3 fatty acids to vegetarians or vegans (Lipids in Health & Disease, June 22, 2011).

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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