Harvard Heart Letter

No beef with beef if it's lean

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.

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