What should you eat if you don’t like poultry, fish, or beans — the often-cited heart-healthy sources of protein? One study showed that a diet including daily portions of lean beef can lower LDL cholesterol — as long as the rest of the menu includes fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Researchers gave 36 healthy men and women with elevated LDL cholesterol levels four different diets for five weeks each. All meals and snacks were prepared by the researchers and consumed either at the study center or at home.
One of the four diets was a so-called “healthy American diet” that contained less than an ounce of beef a day but 12% of total calories from saturated fat. The other three had varying amounts of lean beef — 1 ounce, 4 ounces, and 5.4 ounces daily — but were lower in saturated fat (6% of calories) and included more fiber and plant sources of protein. Total daily calories were the same for all diets.
Over the course of the study, LDL cholesterol levels fell further with the three beef diets than with the “American” diet. This isn’t altogether surprising, because the three meatier diets also contained more whole grains and fewer whole-fat dairy products than the American diet.
If you’re going to eat beef, look for the leanest cuts — top round, top loin, top sirloin, or 95% lean ground beef. And stay away from processed meats such as hot dogs, bacon, and cold cuts, a single daily serving of which has been associated with an increased risk of developing heart disease.