White meat is just as bad for you as red beef when it comes to your cholesterol
The red meat or white meat debate is a draw: Eating white meat, such as poultry, will have an identical effect on your cholesterol level as eating red beef, new research indicates.
The long-held belief that eating white meat is less harmful for your heart may still hold true, because there may be other effects from eating red meat that contribute to cardiovascular disease, said the University of California, San Francisco researchers. This needs to be explored in more detail, they added.
Non-meat proteins such as vegetables, dairy, and legumes, including beans, show the best cholesterol benefit, according to the new study published Tuesday in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
‘Bad’ cholesterol can lead to heart disease
It is well-known that saturated fats increase the concentration of LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, in your bloodstream and if this harmful waxy substance builds up in your arteries, the result could be a heart attack or stroke. Saturated fats, most of which come from animal sources, include butter, beef fat and poultry skin.
Dietitians have assumed that the generally high saturated fat content of red meat contributes to cardiovascular disease risk, yet no one has adequately tested this theory, according to the researchers. And so they put the long-held belief to the test.
Plant proteins had the healthiest impact on blood cholesterol, the study results showed. Meanwhile, the effects of white and red meats on participants’ cholesterol levels were identical when saturated fat levels were equivalent.
So, participants eating a diet high in saturated fats had higher total and LDL cholesterol levels than those assigned to a diet low in saturated fat — no matter their source of protein.
The researchers also looked at the size of cholesterol particles. It has been widely believed that large particles do not contribute as much as small particles to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) risk, but recent research suggests that both small and large bad cholesterol particles are associated with atherosclerosis.
We do not need to see the study results “as a white or black issue,” she said. Meat, whether red or white, does not need to be banished from everyone’s diet. While nutritionists make recommendations for the whole public, each individual is unique in nutritional needs.
“The take-home message is there is no need to put a label of restricted or forbidden on red meat,” said Romo-Palafox. “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.”