When it comes to a heart-healthy diet, most folks automatically flock to poultry or fish, but a recent study suggests it could be beneficial to reconsider positions on red meat.
According to the USDA, one 3-ounce serving of lean beef is about 150 calories and contains many B vitamins that are crucial to heart health.
"The (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet is currently the gold standard for contemporary diet recommendations. The DASH diet emphasizes plant protein foods, poultry, fish and small amounts of lean beef," said Michael Rousell a nutrition consultant.
"Consumers often interpret this to mean that red meat is restricted on a healthy diet."
Rousell and a few other Penn State researchers recently conducted the Beef in an Optimal Lean Diet Study to get more data about the inclusion of beef in healthy diets.
The findings of the study have been reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
"Our research is showing that if you can keep your saturated fat levels controlled and lean beef portions in check, you can incorporate lean beef into a heart-healthy diet and still see equal reductions as with white meat and fish."
For the study, the group’s test pool of 36 candidates randomly consumed each of four specific diets for five weeks, with a week or two between diet.
There was a controlled, "healthy American diet" that consisted of 12 percent saturated fat per day, which was double the saturated fat content in the other three diets.
There was also the DASH diet, which consisted of 1 ounce of beef and the BOLD diet, which had 4 ounces of beef per day.
The final diet was BOLD+, which included 5.4 ounces of beef.
At the beginning of the study period, each of the subjects had elevated levels of low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, which is known as the "bad" cholesterol that can cause blocked arteries and lead to heart attacks and strokes.
During the study, each of the participants maintained their existing body weight within about 5 pounds.
By the end of the study, the subjects on the BOLD diets saw their LDLs decrease by around 5 percent, compared to 4.5 percent on the BOLD+ diet and 6 percent on the DASH diet.
"Thanks to (The Beef Checkoff Program) funded research, science continues to document a growing number of healthy benefits in lean beef, while toppling some long-held negative beliefs along the way," said Brooke Williams, Georgia Beef Board director of industry information.
"The latest misperception to be scientifically unseated is the idea, still common among some Americans, that beef is bad for the heart. The BOLD study offers substantive evidence that eating lean beef daily as part of an overall healthy diet can actually lower cholesterol.
"(Consumers) can eat lean beef every day if they choose and feel confident that science supports beef’s healthy benefits, which now include cholesterol-lowering effects. And it tastes great!"
As shared by the Georgia Beef Producers, based on data from the USDA, there are nearly two dozen cuts of lean beef that have less saturated fat than the 2.6 grams found in skinless chicken thighs.
Cuts like the beef brisket, top round roast and top sirloin steak all have less than 2 grams of saturated fat. However, the skinless chicken breast still comes out on top with less than 1 gram of saturated fat.
Even still, the study is good news for beef producers. Maybe not so much for the cows themselves.
"Now the most health-conscious consumer can include lean beef in their diet," Williams said.
"And more beef on more plates, means increased beef demand in Georgia and the country as a whole."