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    Archive for the ‘red meat’ Category

    Slim Jim: The Last Thing Any “Guy” Needs

    Burger King had its “I Am Man” campaign a few years ago. Dr. Pepper recently marketed a soft drink with ‘manly’ artificial sweeteners. Now, ConAgra has taken its Slim Jim product to new heights of unbridled testosterone with Slim Jim Dare (“made from stuff guys need”).

    The commercials revolve around the problem of “male spice loss”, for which a Slim Jim Dare is the proposed cure. We see the Slim Jim team and its “manbulance” rescue a man who ordered a salad, one who is driven around in a scooter by his girlfriend, and others caught ironing their jeans, among other “temporary lapses of judgment.”

    While Slim Jim may save men from stepping outside the rigid societal confines of masculinity, it can’t say the same about the risk for several cancers (mainly that of the colon, stomach, and pancreas).

    Continue Reading »

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    You Ask, I Answer: Lack of Red Meat & Thyroid Problems?

    benefits-of-red-meat-295x300What is your take on doctors who tell women their thyroid issues are due to not getting protein from red meat?

    I have  heard some doctors say you can not get protein from beans, nuts and seeds?

    — Dennise O’Grady
    Via Facebook

    Yikes! Are some doctors really saying that?  I am absolutely mortified.

    I guess I shouldn’t be that surprised since the majority of doctors in this country don’t get a single MINUTE of nutrition education in medical school!

    In any case, any doctor that doles out this advice is so off the mark it’s not even funny.  Shame on them for being so misinformed.

    What do they even mean when they say you can’t “get protein” from beans, nuts, and seeds?  That doesn’t make any sense.  Beans, nuts, and seeds are great sources of protein, which is easily absorbable by the human body.

    If they are referring to the fact that beans, nuts, and seeds are incomplete proteins (meaning they do not contain all essential amino acids), that is irrelevant — as long as a vegetarian or vegan includes other protein sources (ie: grains and vegetables), their diet provides complete proteins.

    Remember — the essential amino acids that are low in beans, nuts, and seeds are very much available in grains (and vice versa).

    If you ever come across a doctor who tries to make a connection between red meat intake and a healthy thyroid, thank them for their time, walk out of their office, and never look back.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Red Meat & Iron

    _d220328Is it necessary to [include] some red meat [in one’s diet]?  Even just once a month to get iron?

    I often hear that the iron source best absorbed by our body is from red meat, so women, especially, need red meat.

    Is that true?

    — Coco (last name unknown)
    Via the blog

    Your question touches on a variety of issues.  Let’s take them one by one.

    It is true that heme iron (that from meat, poultry, and shellfish) is absorbed more efficiently by our bodies than non-heme iron (that in dairy, eggs, grains, nuts, seeds, and vegetables).  Consequently, vegetarians and vegans have higher iron requirements than their meat-eating counterparts.

    While all meat-based iron is highly absorbable, organ meats (like liver) have the highest absorption rate, followed by pork, beef, chicken, and fish.

    Non-meat-eaters can more easily meet their iron requirements by:

    • Abstaining from drinking coffee or tea with meals, as they strongly block iron absorption
    • Including foods/beverages rich in vitamin C in meals to enhance non-heme iron absorption
    • Consuming high-iron vegetarian foods (beans, nuts, seeds, fortified whole grain cereals) daily
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    You Ask, I Answer: Red Meat Consumption

    raw-meat-1This past weekend, one of my family members said that the consensus among nutritionists is that people should not eat any red meat.

    It sounds too extreme to be true, but I thought I would check with you.

    — Steve Hamilton
    (City withheld), KY

    What your family member said is indeed extreme — and incorrect.

    Does the presence of red meat make a diet healthier than one devoid of it?  Absolutely not.

    Do you need to shun red meat entirely in order to have a healthy diet?  Nope.

    That said, a good number of strong studies have indicated a link between high consumption of red meat and higher risks of heart disease and certain cancers (what is still being researched is whether there is an intrinsic component in meat that causes this, or if this risk increase is simply because diets rich in red meat are usually low in fiber and vegetable intake).

    The general consensus is that consumption of red meat should not exceed 18 ounces per week.

    I am often asked, “Is [insert name of food here] bad for you?”

    My usual response? “Depends.  How do you cook it, how often do you eat it, and how much of it do you eat?”

    A six-ounce steak once a week is very different from a steady diet of hamburgers, roast beef sandwiches, and cheesesteaks.

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    Obama Eats A Burger — And Reaffirms His Masculinity

    ObamaThe scene from yesterday’s  NBC White House special that stood out to me most was that of Barack Obama ordering burgers and French fries at popular East coast chain Five Guys.

    It struck me as odd and carefully orchestrated, particularly since many articles during Obama’s presidential campaign pointed out the healthfulness of his diet.

    When discussing  nutrition, it is imperative to also examine the cultural implications of food, particularly as they apply to gender, class, and ethnicity.  These are intangible, yet pervasive, factors that affect who eats what.

    This slightly dense, yet fascinating, essay discusses the masculinity of meat and its political symbolisms. A highly recommended read.

    I am not chastising President Obama for eating hamburgers.  Nor am I making the point that our eating habits are always a reflection of gender.  I am, however, pointing out the underlying messages in food choices (particularly in situations like this ones) as well as what I consider unfortunate cultural symbolisms that affect eating habits:

    • “A real man” eats beef, large portions, and does not care about calories or nutrition
    • Healthy eating is elitist
    • A “true American” supports his country by eating meat

    Thoughts?

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    Different Day, Same Cow?

    Would you ever eat the meat — or drink the milk — of a cloned cow?

    Heck, why am I even asking? You really have no choice!

    One of George W. Bush’s last decisions as Commander-in-Chief included quietly passing legislation allowing the meat and milk of cloned animals to be sold to consumers without being labeled as such.

    The Food and Drug Association’s argument is that since food from cloned cattle is no less healthy than that of “conventional” cattle, there is no need to differentiate between the two.

    In fact, some documentation quotes scientists as saying cloned meat can actually be better, since it often results in tender, juicier steaks (right, I am sure this was the driving force behind animal cloning).

    The main line of reasoning behind cloning is to provide more food to the American public.

    Really? The food industry is already supplying an average of 3,900 calories per person — almost double the requirement for most people. Do we really need more food? And if we do, why is red meat the chosen one?

    The chances of you having consumed food from a cloned animal is low, as the number of them is currently too low to enter the food supply.

    However, don’t expect any special announcements once this happens.

    Industry response to concerns from consumers? “If you don’t feel comfortable eating food from a cloned animal, buy organic.”

    Thoughts?

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    You Ask, I Answer: Weston Price Organization

    What do you know about the Weston Price Foundation?

    — Dennise O’Grady
    Bay Head, NJ

    Let’s start with the positive — they advocate for small farms, particularly the strengthening of farmer-to-consumer relationships.

    Other than that, I view them as an extremist group that tends to border on silliness. That’s their logo, by the way, which, they explain, illustrates Western societies’ narrow-mindedness towards food.

    An odd choice, since the “narrow vision” includes everything from Houston to Peruvian highlands to the Caribbean. Meanwhile, a lot of the nations in the “wide” circles have just as many problems with obesity, diabetes, and junk food consumption as the United States. I don’t get it.

    Their core belief? Full-fat raw dairy, butter, red meat, and soaked grains are the answer to a healthy life, while plant-based diets are the root of all health problems.

    I’ll let their writing speak for itself.

    Exhibit A:

    “According to an article in the Washington Post (“Don’t have a cow, Mom,” October 31, 2006) vegetarianism among teenagers is increasing. Vegetarian families eat a more varied diet, we are told, which includes such yummies as rutabaga and tofu. Not to worry, Mom, says the American Dietetic Association, “. . . a well-planned all-veggie diet for children and adolescents can be nutritionally sound. . . ” as long as teens consume soy beverages and cereals fortified with vitamin D and B12. The dietitians claim teens can get adequate calcium, iron, zinc and protein from vegetables, grains, fruit, and, of course, soy foods. No mention is made of vitamin A, so necessary for reproductive health, nor of the downside of all those soy foods. So, don’t have a cow, Mom. Just don’t expect to have any grandchildren.”

    I must have missed all the headlines about vegetarian women being physically incapable of having children!

    I have so many problems with that paragraph I don’t even know where to begin.

    Firstly, vegetarianism does not necessarily translate into a high consumption of soy foods.

    Additionally, the term “soy foods” is too broad. Adding nutrient-packed soy foods like tempeh or tofu to a dish is very different from eating two bags of processed soy chips every day.

    As for vitamin A: we know that 12 micrograms of beta-carotene equal 1 microgram of Vitamin A. We also know that women need 700 micrograms of vitamin A a day.

    Let’s do some math. A half cup of cooked sweet potato provides approximately 7,000 micrograms of beta carotene, which translates into roughly 580 micrograms of vitamin A (more than three quarters of a day’s worth).

    If this woman were to then eat some carrots, an orange, aor a grapefruit that same day, they would easily meet their vitamin A requirement. So, where is the risk of deficiency?

    Exhibit B:

    “George Rene Francis of Sacramento, who turned 110 this year, enjoys “tons of milk, tons of eggs, lard on bread and salt pork sandwiches.” He avoids visits to the doctor but smokes cigars. He credits his virility to a combination of fresh camel’s milk, daily walks and plenty of meat—rabbit, lamb, chicken and wild animals, which he still hunts himself (www.telegraph.co.uk, August 24, 2007).”

    This is what you call bad science. No, make that horrendous science. Using an anomaly as proof of something is ludicruous. It’s akin to a tobacco company using this news item to show that, hey, smoking is harmless!

    Exhibit C:

    “Today’s dietary gurus tell us that we must eat vegetables and fruit to obtain vitamins and minerals. Per Magnuson, an astute member from Sweden, points out that fruits and vegetables cannot compare in nutrient levels with animal foods, especially nutrient-dense animal foods like liver. Here’s what we came up with as a way of assessing the nutritional value of fruits and vegetables versus meat and liver. Note that every nutrient in red meat except for vitamin C surpasses those in apples and carrots, and every nutrient-including vitamin C-in beef liver occurs in exceedingly higher levels in beef liver compared to apple and carrots.”

    What a riot! How can someone in the nutrition field expect to be taken seriously when they don’t take into account phytonutrients (which, by mere definition, are only available in plant foods)?

    Good luck getting fiber from liver, too.

    I also can’t comprehend how so-called “experts” don’t mention that one of the causes of hypervitaminosis A (vitamin A toxicity) is frequent consumption of liver!

    Exhibit D:

    “According to government and media health pundits, the top best 14 foods are:

    1. Beans
    2. Blueberries
    3. Broccoli
    4. Oats
    5. Oranges
    6. Pumpkin
    7. Salmon
    8. Soy
    9. Spinach
    10. Tea (green or black)
    11. Tomatoes
    12. Turkey
    13. Walnuts
    14. Yogurt

    This uninspiring list reflects the current establishment angels (anti-oxidants and omega-3 fatty acids) and demons (saturated fats and animal foods).

    Our list of the 14 best top foods, foods that supply vital nutrients including the fat-soluble vitamins, looks like this:

    1. Butter from grass-fed cows (preferably raw)
    2. Oysters
    3. Liver from grass-fed animals
    4. Eggs from grass-fed hens
    5. Cod liver oil
    6. Fish eggs
    7. Whole raw milk from grass-fed cows
    8. Bone broth
    9. Shrimp
    10. Wild salmon
    11. Whole yogurt or kefir
    12. Beef from grass-fed steers
    13. Sauerkraut
    14. Organic Beets

    A diet containing only these foods will confer lifelong good health; a diet containing only the foods in the first list is the fast track to nutritional deficiencies.”

    No one is saying people should limit themselves to the first fourteen items; rather, the recommendation is to include as many of them in your diet as you can. Making an argument based on erroneous pretenses is futile.

    Again, illogical conclusions based on bad science. I rest my case.

    UPDATE: Since this post went up, I have received many comments on other (non-related) postings from “anonymous” sources who, ever-so-coincidentally, suggest I take a look at the Weston Price Organization’s website for the “truth.”

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    Numbers Game: Answer

    It is estimated that 30 to 40 percent of all cancers are directly linked to diet and exercise (mainly as a result of not eating enough health-promoting foods and not performing sufficient amounts of physical activity).

    Source: American Institute for Cancer Research

    Similarly, the National Cancer Institute estimates that up to 35 percent of cancer deaths are diet related.

    Believe it or not, the notion that diet had anything to do with risk reduction of certain cancers was considered laughable by the medical community as little as thirty years ago.

    By far the most important institution that has consistently — and successfully — worked on showing the strong links between diet and cancer risk within the scope of science-based clinical research is the highly respected American Institute for Cancer Research, which turns 27 years old this year.

    Among their recommendations — which include limiting consumption of salty foods and basing one’s diet on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes — the AICR strong suggests a weekly intake of no more than 18 ounces of red and processed meats, as the evidence between their consumption and a higher risk of colorectal cancer is too strong to ignore.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Saturated Fat

    You mentioned that saturated fat is the “bad” fat and this definitely is the common understanding these days.

    Have you read any conflicting evidence about this?

    After reading the first half of Gary Taubes’ Good Calories, Bad Calories I came to the conclusion that saturated fat really isn’t a big deal unless you’re in the extreme heart disease risk category, which, at 27 and with normal cholesterol levels, I don’t think I am.

    And, while I don’t agree with Taubes’ anti-carb approach, I found his evidence about regarding the fat-cholesterol link (and how research was so highly influenced by politics, guesswork, and some key personalities) very interesting, and moderately convincing.

    It seems that cholesterol levels are only veeery minimally affected by saturated fat in one’s diet.

    I’m wondering how you feel about this aspect of his argument, or if you’ve seen other people calling the evilness of saturated fat into question recently.

    I thought I had it all figured out, but this is the one thing I’m still not sure about.

    Thanks so much.

    — Meredith (last name unknown)
    Via the blog

    Gary Taubes is certainly not the first — or only — person to question the saturated fat/heart disease connection.

    Although some studies date as far back as the 1950s, Mr. Robert C. Atkins brought the research out of the scientific community and into the mainstream.

    He — along with his proteges — claimed that eating endless amounts of steaks, butter, and bacon actually led to healthier lipid profiles than low-fat, high-carb diets.

    And so we come back to the issue of flawed logic. Let me explain.

    Like Atkins, Taubes and his ilk approach this scenario from a very narrow “black or white” perspective.

    Firstly, they are quick to judge detractors as low-fat advocates.

    This is grossly inaccurate. For instance, I strongly disagree with Taubes, but a quick browse through this blog makes it clear I do not advocate low-fat diets.

    Instead, I believe that an adequate amount of the right fats is crucial for our health.

    I fail to understand why Taubes and his supporters practically worship saturated fat but completely fail to mention the health benefits of monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids.

    They aren’t saying “fat is healthy; make sure to include almonds, olive oil, and wild salmon in your diet!” Instead, they pretty much push red meat and bacon.

    Mind you, current guidelines do not call for a complete elimination of saturated fat from the diet; they simply suggest no more than 20 grams a day (assuming a daily intake of 2,000 calories).

    Many dietitians — myself included — recommend a low intake of saturated fat, but simultaneously urge people to seek out the healthy fats found primarily in salmon, olive oil, walnuts, flaxseed, and avocados.

    Although there are some professionals who advocate very low-fat diets — Dean Ornish comes to mind — many of the dietitians I know do not support skimping on healthy fats.

    Now, when you compare a high-fat (in this case, saturated fat) low-carb diet to a high-carb (conveniently, high in refined carbohydrate), low-fat diet, the high-fat diet will lead to a better lipid profile (triglycerides, for instance, are related to refined carbohydrate intake, not dietary fat).

    This, however, is misleading.

    It’s akin to only comparing bronze (diet high in refined carbohydrates and low in fat) and silver (diet high in fat, albeit saturated, but low in refined carbohydrates) and claiming silver to be the most expensive metal.

    Yes, the most expensive of the two.

    But, bring in platinum (a diet low in saturated fat but high in mono unsaturated fats and whole grains) and suddenly silver doesn’t look quite as amazing.

    I would like Gary Taubes to compare two high-fat diets (one high in saturated fats, one high in mono and polyunsaturated fats) and conclude, with a straight face, that the saturated fat-rich one is the healthiest.

    There are literally hundreds of human clinical research studies showing a correlation between saturated fat intake and heightened coronary heart disease risk.

    One interesting one was published in the July 2005 edition of the British Medical Journal.

    Turns out that, in 1991, the Polish government stopped subsidising foods high in saturated fat.

    Eleven years later, “deaths from coronary heart disease had dropped by over a third in the 45-64 age group – a 38 per cent drop for men and 42% for women.”

    During this time, saturated fat consumption fell by 7 percent, and — more importantly — polyunsaturated fat consumption increased by 57 percent!

    We again come back to the notion that the key is not in reducing total fat intake, but in replacing saturated fats with healthier varieties.

    Taubes happily bashes anyone recommending a low-fat diet, but what are his arguments against replacing saturated fats with Omega-3 fatty acids (a type of polyunsaturated fat) for improved lipid profiles?

    Moving on to red meat, there is also a good deal of research showing that colon cancer risk is indeed affected by red meat consumption (this 2006 meta-analysis from the Pakistan Journal of Nutrition summarizes some major findings well).

    A great Italian study by Talvani et al in 2000 also looked at red meat intake and cancer risk.

    I recall Mr. Taubes scoffing and referring to all this evidence as “questionable” when he was on Charlie Rose several years ago.

    How he came to that conclusion I do not know.

    In my mind, sanctifying saturated fat and telling people to eat it liberally is irresponsible.

    By the way, this idea that advice to eat less red meat is some sort of conspiracy relating to politics is rather laughable since, as Marion Nestle brilliantly explains in Food Politics, the national beef association threw a major hissy fit when Dietary Guidelines originally urged the public to simply “consume less red meat”.

    They were quickly changed to “choose lean cuts of meat,” so as to not offend the powerful beef lobby.

    We come back, as always, to the issue of moderation.

    Have a slice of Swiss cheese here and there or pour a splash of whole milk into your morning coffee if it makes you happy; just don’t make saturated fats the main players of your diet.

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    In The News: Corn-utopia

    The Wall Street Journal reports that the ever increasing prices of corn farming have led farmers to project this year’s planting estimates at 86 million acres — eight percent less than last year’s figure.

    Corn prices have skyrocketed in recent years, helped by the burgeoning ethanol industry, which turns the crop into fuel, and rising world-wide demand for food. The higher prices have hurt poultry, beef and pork companies, who use corn to feed their animals.

    Here’s a thought — how about feeding these animals the foods they are meant to eat?

    In the case of cows, not only is a corn diet detrimental to their digestive systems, it also results in meat higher in saturated fat and omega-6 fatty acids than that of cows subsisting exclusively on a grass diet.

    The repercussions also affect our wallets.

    Corn already is trading near its record-high price of $5.70 a bushel, more than double the price of two years ago.

    Meat and dairy prices will continue to rise.

    Additionally, since a large portion of this country’s food supply is based around corn oil and corn-based syrups, expect bread and convenience snacks to also take a hit.

    For more information on this very complex topic, I direct you to a highly informative 2002 interview with corn guru Michael Pollan.

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    Top of the Mocks

    A mere decade ago, faux meats were mostly a fringe food, sought after at small health food stores by vegetarians and vegans.

    Some tasted great, others were as appealing as dog food.

    I remember my first veggie hot dog, back in 1997, purchased at a speciality vegetarian supermarket. It reminded me of potpourri with salt.

    Over the past decade, vegetarianism (even if occasional) has been adopted by millions of people around the world, consequently resulting in a wider variety of much tastier faux-meat products available at conventional supermarkets.

    While they definitely fall into the “processed food” category and therefore should not be daily staples, they are okay to have once in a while.

    One of my absolute favorite products is the soy beef crumbles available from the folks over at Boca Burger and Morningstar Farms.

    I especially like to add some to my vegan chili.

    As I always like to say, you know a soy product is good when steak enthusiasts gobble it up, can’t believe that’s ground SOY beef they are eating, and ask for seconds!

    Now, let’s compare and contrast.

    Two ounces (two thirds of a cup) of Boca ground soy beef crumbles contribute:

    • 60 calories
    • 0 grams of saturated fat
    • 270 milligrams of sodium
    • 3 grams of fiber
    • 13 grams of protein

    The same amount of Morningstar farms soy crumbles adds up to:

    • 80 calories
    • 0 grams of saturated fat
    • 240 milligrams of sodium
    • 3 grams of fiber
    • 10 grams of protein
    • They are also fortified with half of the daily B12 requirement!

    If you were to use that same amount of 70 percent lean ground beef in a recipe, you would be adding:

    • 153 calories
    • 4 grams of saturated fat
    • 14.5 grams of protein

    This is not to say all your animal meat dishes should be replaced with vegetarian options.

    However, soy beef enables you to satiate your taste for red meat in a different way.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Vitamin A

    I know this is going to sound weird, but I kind of have an aversion when it comes to eating anything orange or red.

    Even if it’s supposed to be red (like a tomato), I still get freaked out.

    Does this mean I’m not eating Vitamin A?

    Paula (last name withheld)
    St. Louis, MO

    I’m sorry to hear about your aversion, especially since you’re missing out on delicious foods like watermelon, strawberries, red peppers, and raspberries!

    The good news is, your vitamin A intake is not affected, since green vegetables are also a good source.

    Half a cup of cooked broccoli provides 24 percent of the daily requirement, a half cup of cooked peas will give you 34 percent, half a cup of cooked kale contains an excellent 177 percent, and a half cup of spinach packs a mighty 229 percent!

    Dairy items also contain vitamin A, although in lower amounts.

    A cup of milk fortified with vitamin A contains ten percent of the daily requirement, an ounce of mozarella cheese provides a mere three percent, and an egg contributes approximately seven percent of the daily requirement to your diet.

    The most concentrated source of vitamin A is animal liver. A mere ounce (53 calories’ worth) of beef liver holds 178 percent of a day’s worth!

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    Numbers Game: Answer

    An eight-year-long National Institutes of Health-AARP Diet and Health study that followed 500,000 adults ages 50 – 71 — and was recently published in the Public Library of Science Medicine Journal — found that the top twenty percent of red meat consumers had a 20 percent higher risk of developing colorectal cancer than those who consumed lower amounts.

    According to the American Cancer Society, “researchers aren’t certain what it is about red meat that might influence cancer risk. The iron and fat it contains may be culprits. For processed meat, the salt, smoke residue, and nitrates and nitrites used as preservatives may play a role.”

    I would also add the fact that meat-centric diets tend to be low in fiber — a crucial weapon in reducing one’s risk of many cancers, especially colorectal.

    In any case, if you choose to consume red and processed meats, it is highly recommened you limit consumption to no more than two servings (a total of six ounces) a week.

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    Numbers Game: A Case for White Meats

    An eight-year-long National Institutes of Health-AARP Diet and Health study that followed 500,000 adults ages 50 – 71 — and was recently published in the Public Library of Science Medicine Journal — found that the top twenty percent of red meat consumers had a ____ percent higher risk of developing colorectal cancer than those who consumed lower amounts.

    a) 5
    b) 9
    c) 14

    d) 20

    Leave your guess in the “comments” section and come back on Sunday for the answer!

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    Say What?: The 4,886 Calorie Challenge

    The Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo, TX is home of the “Free” 72 Oz. Steak Challenge.

    To become a winner, simply eat a 72 ounce (that’s four and a half pounds!) top sirloin steak, shrimp cocktail appetizer, baked potato, salad, and dinner roll in 60 minutes or less.

    The “incentives” include getting your name on a list of champions, having your $72.00 bill refunded, and receiving a T-shirt, mug, and certificate.

    Amazingly, 8,000 people have successfully consumed 4,886 calories, 140.4 grams of fat (216% of a day ‘s worth), 51.1 grams of saturated fat (255% of the daily maximum limit), and 4,882 milligrams of sodium (203% of the daily limit) in under one hour.

    The accompanying photo illustrates all components of the challenge!

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