In a new study from Penn State, researchers found lean beef may have a place in healthy diets.
They found that a Mediterranean diet combined with small portions of lean beef helped lower risk factors for developing heart disease, such as LDL cholesterol.
The study suggests that healthy diets can include a wide variety of foods, such as red meat, and still be heart-friendly.
The researchers say that when people create a healthy diet built on fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based foods, it leaves room for moderate amounts of other foods like lean beef.
There are still important nutrients in beef that you can benefit from by eating lean cuts like the loin or round, or 93% lean ground beef.
According to the researchers, red meat such as beef has been linked to an increased risk for heart disease in previous studies.
But it has remained unclear whether red meat actually causes these effects or if they actually are caused by other diet and lifestyle choices that people engage in alongside red meat consumption.
In the study, the team tested 59 participants. Every participant consumed each diet for four weeks each.
Three of the four diet periods contained different amounts of beef to a Mediterranean diet plan, which provided 41% calories from fat, 42% from carbohydrates and 17% from protein.
The team used a special technology called nuclear magnetic resonance — or NMR technology — to measure the number and size of lipoprotein particles.
They found that participants all had lower LDL cholesterol following the Mediterranean diet periods compared to the average American diet.
But while the total numbers of LDL particles were reduced following all three Mediterranean diet periods, they were only strongly decreased when following those periods that included 0.5 or 2.5 ounces of beef a day compared to the average American diet.
This is important because there is growing evidence to suggest that LDL particle number is more strongly associated with cardiovascular disease risk than total blood LDL concentrations alone.
Moreover, the researchers were able to identify changes in apolipoproteins, specifically apoB, which are also linked to increased CVD risk.
Additionally, non-HDL cholesterol and apoB — a protein involved in lipid metabolism and a marker of CVD risk — were lower following all three Mediterranean diet periods compared to the average American diet.
The team says the study underscores the importance of consuming healthy, well-balanced diets that can include low to moderate amounts of lean beef.
If you care about heart health, please read studies about drinking more coffee linked to lower heart failure risk and findings of excess fat in the neck may increase heart disease risk.
The study is published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. One author of the study is Jennifer Fleming.