– EN Fitness & Wellbeing – Replacing red meat in your diet with plant proteins significantly cuts your risk of heart disease, according to a new study.
Researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Purdue University have analysed controlled trials in which some participants ditched red meat and ate chicken, fish or protein-rich plant foods such as legumes, soy products, or nuts instead.
Of the 1,803 participants, those who ate the plant-based diet lowered their levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), often referred to as “bad cholesterol” – high levels of which put you at risk of heart disease.
Marta Guasch-Ferre, a research scientist at Harvard’s Department of Nutrition, who lead the study, said that getting your protein from plants rather than red meat could reduce your risk of cardiovascular problems.
“Previous findings from randomised controlled trials evaluating the effects of red meat on cardiovascular disease risk factors have been inconsistent,” she explained. “But our new study, which makes specific comparisons between diets high in red meat versus diets high in other types of foods, shows that substituting red meat with high-quality protein sources lead to more favourable changes in cardiovascular risk factors.”
However, the Harvard team found that there was no significant reduction in other risk factors, like blood pressure and total cholesterol when compared with other diets.
Meir Stampfer, a professor of epidemiology and nutrition, added that the research showed that what matters is not dropping red meat from our diets – but replacing it with a healthy alternative.
“Asking, ‘Is red meat good or bad?’ is useless,” he said. “It has to be, ‘Compared to what?’ If you replace burgers with cookies or fries, you don’t get healthier. But if you replace red meat with healthy plant protein sources, like nuts and beans, you get a health benefit.”
Instead of eating red meat, the authors of the study, which is published in the journal Circulation, recommend taking up vegetarian or Mediterranean style diets high in protein-rich plants.