It might be a blue Fourth of July for those of you substituting chicken for burgers on the grill in the hope of lowering your cholesterol level. A surprising new study suggests that eating white meats like chicken raises your cholesterol level just as much as eating red meat.
For years, dietary guidelines from the government and health organizations have encouraged people to avoid eating red meats like beef, pork and lamb, and to eat more white meat, such as chicken and turkey, to lower cholesterol levels and reduce their risk of heart disease. The advice has also been standard nutrition guidance for people with high cholesterol levels.
Cholesterol content is about the same in all types of meat, but the belief has been that red meat contained more saturated fat than white meat, and that was what caused high levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol.
Eating large amounts of red or white meat caused higher levels of cholesterol in the blood compared to eating a similar amount of plant protein.
It came as a surprise to learn that eating large amounts of red or white meat caused higher levels of cholesterol in the blood compared to eating a similar amount of plant protein. The amount of saturated fat in the diet did not make a difference. Both red and white meat contain saturated fat in differing quantities, but plant foods contain more monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
The meats used in the study did not include grass-fed beef, processed meats like bacon or sausage; nor did they include fish, according to Ronald Krauss, senior author of the study. However, the results suggest that the healthiest proteins for lowering cholesterol levels are nonmeat proteins like vegetables, dairy foods and legumes, such as beans and peas.
The long-held belief that eating white meat is better for your heart may still be true since eating red meat may carry other negative health consequences that contribute to cardiovascular disease, according to the researchers, but this needs to be studied more closely.
So, if you are struggling with a cholesterol level that just won’t budge, your best bet, based on the results of this study, may be to eat less of all types of meat and substitute beans, lentils, soy products, higher protein grains like quinoa or whole grain pasta, or dairy foods. When you do eat meat, choose very small portions of the leanest meats possible, and while you are at it, have a Meatless Monday every week, too.