SHARPSBURG, Ga. (FOX 5 Atlanta) - For more than 20 years, Dr. Nimish Dhruva, director of the Piedmont Fayette Cardiology program, has steered his patients at higher risk of heart problems away from red meat, like beef and pork.
"There was a thought, until now, that red meat is bad, and we should avoid red meat," Dhruva says. "If you have a plaque build-up, or you've had a stroke, you've had a heart attack, you should avoid red meat."
Dhruva would typically recommend white meat alternatives. like turkey and chicken.
But a new study out of Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute found leaner red and white meat can both elevate our cholesterol in almost identical ways.
"What this study shows is that the dangers of animal protein is just as high, and red meat and white meat are both equal," Dhruva says.
In the study, 113 volunteers took turns eating a red meat, white meat, and plant-based protein diet for a month, while their cholesterol levels were monitored.
The researchers found their levels of LDL, or "bad," cholesterol increased about equally on the red and white meat diet, but dropped significantly when the volunteers ate a plant-based diet of proteins like legumes, nuts, grains and soy products
"So if anything, the take home is the vegetable-based proteins are a little bit more safe, as far as cholesterol profile is going," he says.
If you're not ready to give up meat, Dhruva says, practice moderation.
He recommends choosing leaner cuts over fattier cuts of meat to reduce saturated fats, which may raise your risk heart attacks, stroke, and other cardiovascular problems.
"Portion control is very important," Dhruva says. "I go to restaurants and you have 12- to 14-ounce steaks. That is not the best for you. Limit it to 6 ounces."