Bison: The Best Red Meat For Your Heart

I’d like to tell you about an amazingly healthy food I think you should try.  No matter what your age, it can help you achieve both weight loss and better general health.

Bison: The Other, Healthier Red Meat

For centuries, the Native Americans treasured the American bison and gave it a place of great honor in their culture.  It helped feed and clothe them and was likely what kept them so healthy.  But it really wasn’t until the last few years that the truly amazing health benefits of bison meat were fully appreciated.

Now, for starters, to clear any confusion, American bison is sometimes, mistakenly, referred to as “Buffalo”.  Many retailers sell bison as “buffalo meat”.   But that title rightly belongs to the “water buffalo” variety of this animal found in Asia. The American west/northwest variety is a bison and health researchers are very excited about its nutritional benefits – especially for your heart.

Many cardiologists tell their patients to cut out or seriously limit their intake of red meat.  It’s just too high in cholesterol, fat and calories to enjoy very often especially if you need to reduce your weight and cholesterol levels.

On the other hand, red meat also contains some very beneficial nutritional properties that you’d also miss out on, especially in grass fed beef, such as high vitamin B12, carnitine, and Omega-3 fatty acid levels.

Then there’s bison – the other red meat.  Bison seems to have been created just for people who have to watch their cholesterol, reduce their weight, and yet get all the great nutrition that red meat offers.  If I told you that Bison has about 3.5 times less fat, less cholesterol, and about 50 calories less than the same serving size of chicken, you might not believe it.  But, it’s completely true.

Bison has 2.42 grams of fat, 143 calories, and 82 mg of cholesterol for a 3.5 ounce serving compared to chicken’s 7.41 grams of fat, 190 calories and 89 grams of cholesterol.  Regular beef has over 4 times the amount of fat at 9.28 grams and 211 calories.  If your doctor has recommended that you limit beef, you can actually enjoy more bison meat per week.  At about a 4 ounce serving, you could enjoy bison 3-4 times a week, compared to 1-2 for beef.  Even Weight Watchers’ plans lists bison/buffalo as a poultry exchange.

But, nutritionally, bison actually surpasses both chicken and beef.  And, its nutrients are especially helpful for your heart.  They include:

  • Vitamin B2:  Riboflavin helps make red blood cells that carry oxygen to your heart and brain.
  • Vitamin B3:  Niacin, promotes nerve function which regulates heart function.
  • Vitamin B6:  Boosts muscle energy.  Remember, your heart is all muscle.
  • Vitamin B12: Boosts red blood cell production.  Anemia, low hemoglobin can profoundly affect your heart function.
  • Vitamin E:  A major antioxidant that helps lower vascular inflammation.
  • Potassium:   Your heart muscle, as well as all your muscles, needs potassium to “fire” correctly.  Potassium helps ensure a strong and stable heart beat.
  • Phosphorus:  Works with potassium to regulate heartbeat and nerve function.

Bison also includes important nutrients that keep your immune system, as well as your nerves, bones and muscles healthy, as you get older.  These include:

  • Selenium, a major antioxidant that helps clear heavy metals from your blood.
  • Copper, supports nerve function, regenerates bone cells, boosts the immune system.
  • Beta carotene, boosts immune function, keeps eyes healthy, and reduces cancer risk.
  • CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), a fatty acid, helps you burn fat instead of storing it.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids. Helps lower blood pressure and decrease inflammation that can damage your vascular system. Your body can’t make Omega-3’s, so you need it daily.
  • Zinc, stabilizes hormones and strengthens the immune system.
  • Iron. Keeps red blood cells healthy.  Bison contains about 69% more iron than beef.
  • Protein.  Bison has several grams more protein per serving than beef at about 25 grams. Older people need to maintain protein intake to ensure strong muscles.

Plus, being a grass fed animal, bison is raised with no:

  • Steroids
  • Antibiotics
  • Artificially added growth hormones or other drugs

But, I’ve saved the kicker for last…the taste.  People who eat bison regularly say that it tastes like beef used to taste, or should taste, before cattle started being mostly grain fed.  When cooked properly at a low, slow heat, bison is juicy, tender and has a slightly sweeter taste than beef.  It’s also more easily tolerated digestion-wise than beef and is almost completely hypoallergenic.  People who react badly to beef can almost always tolerate bison.

Bison can be found at health food stores like Whole Foods, et al.  You may also find it at specialty meats stores in your area.  You can also buy it online, frozen, from a number of distributors.  There’s even a retailer who sells bison on the home shopping network.

So put yourself on a whole new road to better health.  Get out and socialize more, do things you enjoy, and exercise more.  These activities help decrease stress levels that negatively affect your heart health.  In addition, make some healthier diet changes, like decreasing refined sugar, alcohol, and salt, and please try a little bison!  I know you’ll love it like I do.  All these things can be a big boon to, not only your heart health, but your emotional, and general health, as well.

Stay Well,
Ron Blankstein, M.D.



Buffalo Meats,

Health Benefits of Bison,



Ronald Blankstein, M.D.

Ron Blankstein, MD, FACC, FASNC, FSCCT, FASPC is the Director of Cardiac Computed Tomography, Associate Director of the Cardiovascular Imaging Program, Co-Director of the Cardiovascular Imaging Training Program, and a Preventive Cardiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

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