Hey, and welcome to my science based guide in which I'll show you some of the best (and richest) sources of CLA.

Scientists have discovered that the best sources of natural CLA are milk, cheese, and meats.

Among meats, beef is the richest in CLA, but it is also found in lamb, veal, pork, chicken, and turkey.

Among dairy products, butter is the richest in CLA.

But before we get to the specifics, here's a short overview you can use to navigate this article:

Best sources of CLA (food list)

You can see how much CLA can be found in natural foods here:

(The data is based on scientific research[1].)

MeatsCLA (mg/g fat)
Fresh ground beef4.3
Beef round2.9
Beef frank3.3
Beef smoked sausage3.8
PoultryCLA (mg/g fat)
Fresh ground turkey2.5
SeafoodCLA (mg/g fat)
Lake trout0.5
Dairy ProductsCLA (mg/g fat)
Homogenized milk5.5
Sour cream4.6
Plain yogurt4.8
Ice cream3.6
Sharp cheddar cheese3.6
Mozzarella cheese4.9
Colby cheese6.1
Cottage cheese4.5
Reduced fat swiss6.7
Am. Processed cheese5.0
Cheez whiz5.0
Vegetable OilsCLA (mg/g fat)
Safflower Oil0.7

This is how little CLA people are actually eating

If you eat a "nutritionally complete" diet, you'll get enough CLA to cover your body's basic needs.

But if you want to enjoy the extra health benefits of CLA, some studies have shown that you need to get in at least 1.5 g of CLA per day.

In America, the average intake is only about 0.15 g per day for women and 0.21 g for men[2]

(Which is way too low to enjoy any extra benefits of CLA on a standard diet.)

The reason why so many people don’t get enough CLA from their diets is because their meals are mostly made up of boxed, frozen and fast foods.

But even if you started eating only fresh and unprocessed foods (that were never frozen), you'll still run into this problem:

The biggest obstacle to getting in enough natural CLA

As you can see from the table above, the best sources of CLA are also very fattening.

For example, to eat 1.5 g of CLA, you'd have to eat around 300 g of butter, or over 2 pounds of cheese.

Now, you may be a cheese lover.

But I bet you don't like it nowhere near enough to eat two pounds of it a day.

(Needless to say, the calories you'd be getting in with that much dairy, would shoot your weight up faster than you can say "cheese".)

The bottom line is, even if you ate lots of fatty CLA-rich foods, it would be hard for you to get in even 1 gram of CLA per day.

But there's one more trick to it...

How to eat fewer calories with CLA-rich foods

The concentration of CLA in natural foods (meat and dairy) depends on the season, what the animals were fed, and the animal's age.

Grass is rich in linoleic acid and the special enzymes in the digestive system of the animal convert linoleic acid to CLA.

Because of this, milk from grass fed cows can have as much as 500% more CLA than milk from grain fed cows[3].

Also, free-range meats are widely known to be the healthiest meats available.

So ask your local butcher for grass-fed beef or check the food labels yourself.

Whenever you can, choose grass-fed meat over grain-fed meat and you'll maximize the amount of natural and safe CLA you're getting in.

Summary (actionable takeaways)

The richest, safest and natural sources of CLA are meats and dairy.

And while it's easy to satisfy your body's basic needs for CLA by eating a balanced diet, it's tough to get in enough CLA to enjoy any extra benefits of it.

By far the best way to do it without skyrocketing your calorie intake (in two words)?

CLA supplements.

Or at least, if you want to up your CLA intake with natural foods, stick with grass-fed meats that were neve processed (frozen).

If you're dying to find out more informatio on CLA, then you can go visit my thorough guide to CLA (lots more to learn there).

Written by

Rok Sprogar is a NASM Certified Nutrition Coach (NASM-CNC) and a NASM Certified Weight Loss Specialist (NASM-WLS) who has been contributing highly actionable and science-based content to Leanhigh.