The diet myth putting your health—and the planet—in danger

When I consider the many outright myths cloaked in pseudo-science that have been promulgated over the years by the government, it’s no wonder the American public struggles to identify, let alone consume, a healthy diet.

Take the politically correct—yet scientifically incorrect—recommendations against eating beef, for example. Here are two of the biggest arguments:

  1. Meat contains saturated fats that will supposedly kill you.
  2. Raising cattle is bad for the environment.

This is pseudo-science at its best (or worst). Let’s take a look at the real science, which shows that beef really should be what’s for dinner.

Saturated fat: not as evil as you’ve been told to think

The government has done a great job of brainwashing the American public into thinking that the saturated fat found in meat, butter, and other animal products is a major cause of heart disease. But a growing number of studies are proving this is simply a big fat myth.

In fact, one report looked at 21 studies of 350,000 people whose eating habits were tracked for more than two decades. The researchers’ conclusion: Eating saturated fat does not make you any more susceptible to heart disease, stroke, or cardiovascular disease.1

But what about all the other ways saturated fat is supposed to kill you?

Well, research shows eating red meat doesn’t boost your risk for colorectal cancer.2 And a surprising new study reports that the saturated fat found in dairy products can actually lower your chance of getting type 2 diabetes.3

The truth is, there is more and more data every week pointing to sugar and simple carbs as the culprits not only for diabetes and obesity, but also for high blood pressure and heart disease. Not saturated fat.

So while you should avoid white bread and doughnuts, don’t turn away from a juicy steak. Not only will your taste buds thank you, but so will your body—especially your muscles—and brain.

Beef is packed with essential nutrients. It’s high in protein (of which most older men don’t get enough) as well as calcium, magnesium, potassium, and selenium—key disease-fighting minerals that many Americans are lacking.

So with the anti-beef health claims cleared up, what about the argument that raising cattle has a negative impact on the environment?

Good for you, good for the environment

Semi-educated environmentalists continually lecture us that cattle use up water and soil, trample edible plants, and consume grains that could otherwise be nourishing hungry humans. Jumping onto the global-warming bandwagon, critics blame bovine flatulence, burps, and even breathing for contributing methane and other “greenhouse” gases to the atmosphere.

But these concerns are completely unjustified. In fact, research shows that raising cattle is actually beneficial for the environment.

Let’s start with an “inconvenient truth” about climate change. First of all, the EPA reports that only 9 percent of  all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions come from agricultural activity. And about half of that 9 percent comes from improper soil management—not flatulent Flossies.4

In fact, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, only about 2 percent of U.S. greenhouse gases can be linked to cattle.5 And appropriate pasture management can reduce that amount even further.

On the other hand, cattle are key to a promising strategy for actually reducing global warming through restoration and trapping of carbon into the soil (instead of being released as greenhouse gases).

Tilling the soil releases carbon and strips the earth of protective vegetation. But land used for grazing is rarely plowed, meaning the carbon greenhouse gases remain in the dirt.

Furthermore, foraging animals keep our grasslands healthy. Constant munching of plants stimulates them to grow, and animal wastes help with nutrient recycling and seed germination.

These beneficial effects used to be provided by wild grazing herds (“big game”) that once roamed the grasslands. Now, in many parts of the country, it’s up to cattle to do that job.

Research in the U.K. has shown that when beef cattle are raised on grasslands using good management practices, enough carbon is sequestered in the soil to offset methane emissions from all of Britain’s beef cattle and half of its dairy herds.7

Similarly, in the U.S., the Union of Concerned Scientists estimates that virtually all of the greenhouse gases our cattle emit can be offset by sequestering carbon in the soil of grazing grasslands.

But what about the water associated with beef production?

Some critics assert that it takes about 2,500 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef. Vegans cite wildly higher estimates. But once again, science proves these catastrophists wrong.

Research conducted at the University of California, Davis shows that producing a typical pound of beef requires only 441 gallons of water.8 That’s the equivalent of what it takes to grow a pound of rice, which is much lower in protein, vitamins, and minerals than beef.

And there’s another factor to take into account. Over thousands of years of human history, people have raised cattle on land that is too dry to grow any crops. And our digestive systems don’t allow us to eat the native grasses that do thrive in this arid soil. But cattle can consume these grasses and convert them into highly nutritious meat we can eat.

This agricultural development is one of the most important achievements in the history of human civilization. Even in ancient China, famous for growing vast amounts of rice to feed a large population, the semi-mythical Emperor Shennong (“The Divine Husbandman”) was accorded celestial divine status for teaching the Chinese how to raise livestock. He is also considered the father of agricultural and medicinal plants, as well as a “rainmaker.”(You can read more about these connections between culture, cultivation, and health in my book Celestial Healing, available at

Basically, livestock convert the vast spaces of the planet that could never grow crops for human consumption into productive lands that provide meat. Which exposes another myth—that raising cattle somehow contributes to world hunger. In many parts of the world, meat and dairy from cattle keep tens of millions of people from going hungry.

The meat of the matter

Healthy grasslands are key to protecting and conserving the world’s land, water, soil, and climate. And ever since cattle were first domesticated about 10,000 years ago, they’ve been an important part of that equation.

Not to mention, meat is a highly nutritious source of food. Check out the May 2014 issue of Insiders’ Cures for a comprehensive look at all of the nutrient deficiencies that result from eating a purely plant-based diet.

Bottom line? Beef is important for a healthy body and a healthy planet.


1Siri-Tarino PW, et al. Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010;91:535-46.

2Williams CD, et al. Associations of Red Meat, Fat, and Protein Intake With Distal Colorectal Cancer Risk. Nutr Cancer. Aug 2010; 62(6): 701–709.

3Forouhi NG, et al. Differences in the prospective association between individual plasma phospholipid saturated fatty acids and incident type 2 diabetes: the EPIC-InterAct case-cohort study. Lancet. Volume 2, No. 10, p810–818, October 2014.

4Environmental Protection Agency. Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Agriculture Sector Emissions. Accessed January 23, 2015.

5Union of Concerned Scientists. Frequently Asked Questions About Raising the Steaks. Accessed January 23, 2015.

6Daley CA, et al. A review of fatty acid profiles and antioxidant content in grass-fed and grain-fed beef. Nutrition Journal 2010, 9:10.

7Soil Association. The Role of Livestock in Sustainable Food Systems. Accessed January 23, 2015.

8Beckett JL, Oltien JW. Estimation of the water requirement for beef production in the United States. J Anim Sci. 1993 Apr;71(4):818-26.