If I told you I cooked up a steak every night, you’d probably think I was halfway to a coronary, right? And why wouldn’t you? Since the ‘70s, red meat’s been vilified as an artery-clogging outlaw that puts people on the fast track to a heart attack. But you know what? I love steak—and lots of other red meat —and I’m not scared of it.
And I’m also not a complete idiot, either. So although I eat steak—or some form of red meat —almost daily, I do it with the confidence that it won’t increase my heart attack risk. And it won’t increase your risk, either—if you’re eating it the right way.
The Truth about Red Meat & Cholesterol
First, let’s look at the reason why red meat’s got such a bad rep: cholesterol. Yes, red meat has cholesterol and there are various fatty cuts that are crammed with calories. But guess what? The cholesterol in red meat is neutral, meaning it doesn’t have a negative impact on your body; it just kind of floats around as permeable cloud, meaning that blood gets through it and it doesn’t deposit along arterial walls.
Generally speaking, there is “good” HDL cholesterol and “bad” LDL cholesterol. You’ve heard that, I’m sure. But did you know that there are various forms of LDL cholesterol—and a bunch of them are neutral? The bad form of LDL that gets deposited on arterial walls and leads to conditions like atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, and heart attacks, believe it or not, actually comes from refined carbohydrates and sugars. I kid you not: the hamburger bun and ketchup surrounding your burger are more dangerous to your health than the burger itself—most of the time.
Avoid Unprocessed Meats
All the statements I’ve made about red meat are true as long as you’re eating unprocessed meats. So, hot dogs, sausages, store-bought burgers, ribs, lunch meats, and the like cannot be counted amongst the good or neutral cholesterol meats. I’m talking about the raw meat you go to the grocery store and buy and then cook yourself: that stuff is straight.
Help Yourself to Healthy Fats
Not only does red meat not pose the health dangers to heart health that some claim, but it also packs a mighty nutritional punch. Protein, iron, B-vitamins, and countless other trace elements are all present. And if you select organic meats, you’ll likely get a better helping of healthy fats in there, too.
Keep an Eye on Those Calories
Now, some cuts of red meat are more calorically dense than others due to fat deposits. If you want lower-calorie options, buy lean cuts like flank steak, sirloin, extra-lean ground, and game meat, such as bison and wild boar. Of course, if you want to stick to a more calorically dense—read “fattier”—cut, just make sure you account for the calories in your overall daily meal plan to avoid packing on too many unwanted pounds. After all, having too much body fat can lead to heart problems.
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Sources for Today’s Article
Neubert, A., “Nutrition data review shows red meat has neutral effect on cardiovascular disease risk factors,” Purdue University, December 19, 2016; https://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/releases/2016/Q4/nutrition-data-review-shows-red-meat-has-neutral-effect-on-cardiovascular-disease-risk-factors.html, last accessed February 3, 2017.
“The Cholesterol Question,” CBC News, July 30, 2015; http://www.cbc.ca/natureofthings/episodes/the-cholesterol-question, last accessed February 3, 2017.