According to new research, eating white meat – such as poultry – will have a similar effect on your blood cholesterol as eating red meat.
However, the belief that eating white meat is less harmful to heart health may still hold true. That’s because there could other effects that contribute to cardiovascular disease from eating red meat, according to the researchers of the University of California, San Francisco.
On Tuesday, a new study was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, which stated, “Non-meat proteins such as vegetables, dairy, and legumes, including beans, show the best cholesterol benefit.”
It is a well-known fact that saturated fats can increase your bad (LDL) cholesterol, which could lead to atherosclerosis that is characterized by the accumulation of a waxy substance in your arteries, resulting in a heart attack or a stroke. Saturated fats are commonly found in animal sources such as beef fat and poultry skin.
The recent study looked at more than 100 healthy men and women aged 21 to 65, who were randomly assigned to eat foods rich in saturated fats and foods low in saturated fats.
The researchers provided beef as the main source of red meat and chicken as the main white meat protein. They collected the blood samples from all the participants at the beginning and end of each test diet.
The investigators found that the plant-based proteins had the healthiest impact on blood cholesterol, while the effects of white meat and red meat on blood cholesterol levels were identical and their saturated fat levels were equivalent.
So, the participants who ate a diet rich in saturated fats had higher total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels than those who ate a diet low in saturated fat, irrespective of their protein source.
Registered dietitian Maria Romo-Palafox from the University of Connecticut said the study as “excellently planned.” She was not involved in the study. She noted that participants were even given their meals in this “well-controlled” study.
Romo-Palafox said, “If you have problems with cholesterol or if you have a family history of cholesterol or heart disease, then it is best to consume less of both red and white meats and instead substitute ‘beans, lentils, higher protein grains like quinoa, and soy-based products like tofu and tempeh.’”
She added, “Finding by finding, we are confirming that a plant-based diet tends to have better health results and tends to have less [negative environmental] impact.”
The dietician explained researchers do not know exactly why plant-based proteins are heart-protective; however, it is believed that vitamins, minerals, and protein that come with the plants are more beneficial for the cardiovascular system. Romo-Palafox concluded, “The take-home message is there is no need to put a label of restricted or forbidden on red meat. Make sure you are choosing the leanest meats possible. If you can adopt a meatless Monday, why not? That might help you balance your risk.”