The benefits of consuming beef go far beyond simply providing protein to the body. In its composition, beef also consists of fats, or fatty acids. On average, beef contains 50% saturated fatty acids, 40% monounsaturated fatty acids, and 10% polyunsaturated fatty acids, a composition that can vary depending on the cut, breed, and diet of the animal.
Beef contains two types of essential fatty acids, linolenic (omega-3) and linoleic (omega-6), which make up about 1.5 to 3.5% of the total fats. Essential fatty acids are those that are not synthesized by the body’s cells and must be acquired through diet.
Linolenic and linoleic fatty acids play a role in regulating the immune response and inflammatory processes. Linolenic acid is also associated with the reduction of coronary diseases and plasma cholesterol, as well as having anticancer properties.
Another variation of fatty acid is conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), found mainly in animals fed on pasture. CLA is part of the polyunsaturated fatty acid group, and the primary source of CLA in the human diet is products from ruminant animals.
These fatty acids are relevant to human nutrition and health because they can act as anticarcinogenic, antioxidant, antidiabetic, and immunostimulatory agents.
Cattle fed on pasture have lower quantities of saturated fatty acids and higher levels of unsaturated fatty acids in their meat, especially polyunsaturated fats, omega-3, and CLA.
Text by Erica de Queiroz Kowarick | Nutritionist | CRN-3 45847