Anyone who’s been scolded by their doctor about their high cholesterol levels has likely also been told to eat white meat instead of red. But it turns out, one is not necessarily better than the other when it comes to heart health.
In a new study, called Animal and Plant Protein and Cardiovascular Health (APPROACH), researchers were shocked to discover that both red and white meat led to the same elevation in LDL, or “bad cholesterol.” “When we planned this study, we expected red meat to have a more adverse effect on blood cholesterol levels than white meat,” senior author Ronald Krauss, MD, explained in a press release. “But we were surprised that this was not the case — their effects on cholesterol are identical when saturated fat levels are equivalent.”
You may read this news and think, well then, the next time you order a burger you’re going to stick with beef instead of opting for the “healthier” turkey option. But in reality, you should probably go for a veggie burger. The study observed 113 individuals who spent one month each on a red meat diet, white meat diet, and plant-based protein diet. Researchers compared their cholesterol before and after each month and found that plant-based proteins were the best choice for lowering blood cholesterol. Dr. Krauss summed things up saying, “Our results indicate that current advice to restrict red meat and not white meat should not be based only on their effects on blood cholesterol.”
Unlike the saturated fat found in both types of animal protein, plant-based options have monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, or “healthy fats,” plus plenty of fiber — all of which help to maintain a balanced diet. The results of the APPROACH study reflect a growing trend in plant-focused food plans, like the Mediterranean Diet.
That said, you might not have to cut out red or white meat from your plate entirely, but simply eat it in moderation. Just be sure to check with your doctor before changing your diet in any way.