Eating for a healthy heart and enjoying one of your favorite foods—these two things don’t have to be at odds with one another! Recent research1 shows that eating a heart healthy dietary pattern including lean beef can help maintain normal cholesterol levels.

In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition1, researchers from Penn State University found that people who participated in the Beef in an Optimal Lean Diet (BOLD) Study maintained healthy blood cholesterol levels while consuming a dietary pattern rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and beans, with lean beef as the primary protein source. The BOLD diets contained 4-5.4 ounces of lean beef daily, while providing less than 7% of calories from saturated fat, consistent with current fat intake targets

Getting to the Meat of the Mediterranean Diet

Additional research, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that following a Mediterranean-style dietary pattern that incorporates fresh lean beef can reduce heart disease risk factors, including total and LDL cholesterol, and blood pressure. By incorporating 7-18 ounces of cooked, fresh, lean red meat per week, individuals can improve their cardiometabolic disease risk factor profile including high blood pressure, low HDL cholesterol and diabetes risk.2

The Beef WISE study, conducted by the University of Colorado Anschutz Health and Wellness Center, also demonstrates that eating lean beef four or more times a week, as part of a healthy, higher-protein diet, combined with physical activity, can help people lose weight and fat mass while maintaining lean muscle, and supporting heart health.3 This study shows that lean beef is just as effective as other protein choices to improve weight loss potential, body composition and support heart health, when included as part of a healthy, higher-protein diet. 

This research adds to the growing body of scientific evidence demonstrating that lean beef can be part of healthy eating patterns to improve cardiovascular health.1,2,4,5 In fact, over 20 studies support the role of lean beef in a heart healthy diet and lifestyle.6

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Beef as Part of a Heart-Healthy Lifestyle

Incorporate lean beef into your lifestyle by following these simple tips:

  • Choose lean beef at the meat counter. There are more than 36 cuts of beef that meet government guidelines for lean7. A tip for finding lean beef cuts is to look for the terms “round” or “loin” in the name (e.g.: Sirloin, Tenderloin, or Eye of Round).
  • Keep portion size in mind. A sensible and satisfying 3 ounces cooked serving of lean beef is about the size of a deck of cards.
  • Trim away visible fat from cooked beef before serving.
  • When it comes to lowering cholesterol, small steps can give big results. The American Heart Association recommends eating a variety of nutritious foods from all the food groups.  When choosing meats, choose the leanest cuts, trim visible fat and prepare them in healthy and delicious ways like broiling, roasting or poaching and pairing them with fiber rich vegetables, fruits and whole grains.8

Heart-Healthy Recipes

Enjoying lean beef in a heart-healthy lifestyle is easier than you think with these recipes featuring lean beef, fresh fruit and vegetables, and whole grains. These Beef It’s What’s For Dinner recipes are all certified by the American Heart Association®. 

Check out the recipes.

  1. Roussell MA, et al. Beef in an Optimal Lean Diet study: effects on lipids, lipoproteins, and apolipoproteins. Am J Clin Nutr 2012;95:9-16.
  2. O’Connor LE, et al.  A Mediterranean-style eating pattern with lean, unprocessed red meat has cardiometabolic benefits for adults who are overweight or obese in a randomized, crossover, controlled feeding trial. Am J Clin Nutr 2018;108:33-40.ii
  3. Sayer DR, et al. Equivalent reductions in body weight during the Beef WISE Study: Beef’s Role in Weight  Improvement, Satisfaction, and Energy. Obesity Science & Practice. 2017; 298-310.    
  4. Layman DK, et al. A moderate-protein diet produces sustained weight loss and long-term changes in body composition and blood lipids in obese adults. J Nutr 2009;139:514-21.
  5. Maki KC, et al. A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials comparing lipid effects of beef with poultry and/or fish consumption. J Clin Lipidol 2012;6:352-61.
  6. McNeill, SH. Inclusion of red meat in healthful dietary patterns. Meat Sci 2014;98:452-60.
  7. According to the USDA, a cute of cooked fresh meat is considered lean when it contains less than 10 grams of total fat, 4.5 grams or less of saturated fat and less than 95 mg of cholesterol per 100 grams (3 ½ oz) and per RACC (Reference Amount Customarily Consumed) which is 85 grams (3 oz) cooked.