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Health & Fit Adding Lean Beef into the Mediterranean Diet May Give Your Heart Health a Boost

08:51  06 may  2021
08:51  06 may  2021 Source:   bicycling.com

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a close up of a sandwich on a plate: Fish is still preferred with this way of eating, but the occasional burger may have benefits, new research suggests. © Alexander Spatari - Getty Images Fish is still preferred with this way of eating, but the occasional burger may have benefits, new research suggests.
  • Lean beef, long thought to not have a place in the Mediterranean diet, could offer heart-healthy advantages, according to new research.
  • Incorporating lean beef (cuts like loin and round, as well as 93-percent lean ground beef) into a Mediterranean diet lowered study participants’ LDL (bad) cholesterol numbers.
  • These findings are consistent with previous research that found the low amount of saturated fat in lean red meat keeps LDL amount controlled. And, with lower numbers of LDL particles comes reduced risk of cardiovascular issues.

In the Mediterranean diet, the preferred protein sources are fish, beans, and lean poultry (like chicken and turkey). But for a heart-healthy meal plan, a new study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that lean beef may not only have a place in this style of eating, but could also offer some serious advantages.

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Researchers did a randomized controlled study of 59 participants, who consumed a diet with just 0.5 ounces of beef per day—the amount recommended in the Mediterranean diet pyramid—for four weeks. Then, after a one-week“washout” period, they consumed a diet with 2.5 ounces per day, which researchers noted is about how much the average American consumes. A third month-long trial increased the beef amount to 5.5 ounces daily.

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All three trials included olive oil as the predominant fat source, three to six servings of fruits, and six or more servings of vegetables daily. All the beef included was either lean or extra lean—cuts like loin and round, as well as 93 percent lean ground beef.

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Using technology that measured the size and number of lipoprotein particles—which gives an indication of LDL cholesterol, the“bad” kind—researchers found that all people in the study had lower LDL numbers compared to the average American diet, no matter how much lean beef they ate during all three trials.

These findings are consistent with previous research that found the low amount of saturated fat in lean red meat keeps LDL amount controlled. And, with lower numbers of LDL particles comes reduced risk of cardiovascular issues. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that LDL cholesterol increases risk for heart disease and stroke.

That means if you’re adopting a Mediterranean style of eating, you can enjoy the occasional burger and still be doing your heart a favor.

One caveat here is funding for the study. Although it was supported in part by the USDA, some funding came from The Beef Checkoff program, a marketing and research effort designed to increase beef consumption. That doesn’t mean the results are a wash, but that type of transparency is important when evaluating study outcomes.

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Another element to keep in mind is that while the researchers here emphasized participants’ lean beef consumption, the lack of highly processed foods and inclusion of many fruits and vegetables could also play a major role in the study’s results, as well as the use of a healthy fat like olive oil.

“All of these elements lower inflammation, and help with lowering blood pressure and LDL cholesterol, so that’s why we recommend a Mediterranean diet with a strong emphasis on vegetables and good fats in particular,” Robert Greenfield, M.D., medical director of non-invasive cardiology and cardiac rehabilitation at MemorialCare Heart & Vascular Institute at Orange Coast Medical Center in California, told Bicycling.

Including lean proteins in your diet is important, he said, but remember to eat them in moderation and keep balance in mind as you load up your plate. For example, in the recent study, participants decreased servings of fish and legumes as they increased beef. The researchers also concluded that the focus should be on nutrient-dense plant foods, with low to moderate amounts of lean beef when it’s included.

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