Most of us already know that our cholesterol levels play a significant role in determining risk for heart disease. Increased levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad cholesterol” are associated with an increased risk of heart disease. Studies show that particular types of saturated fats can further increase bad cholesterol levels. As a result of these findings, many leading health organizations recommend reducing saturated fat in the diet. This is commonly interpreted in vague, general statements such as “reduce intake of red meat” or “eat less beef” without taking into consideration the role oflean red meat. In short, not all red meat is created equal. For example, did you know that half of the fatty acids in a serving of beef are heart-healthy mono-unsaturated fatty acids, the same type of fat found in olive oil? Moreover, nearly one-third of the saturated fat in beef is stearic acid, a fatty acid that has been shown to have neutral effects on cholesterol levels.
According to the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology, lean beef, which has less than 10 grams of total fat and 4.5 grams or fewer of saturated fat per 3.5-ounce serving, can fit in a heart-healthy dietary pattern. In addition, the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet is one of the premier heart-healthy diets recommended by health professionals today. This diet, rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy and lean protein, has been extensively studied in both observational as well as clinical trials and recommends up to six ounces of lean meat, including lean red meat, poultry or eggs, every day.