Your heart will thank you if you replace red meat with healthy plant proteins.
Doing so will lower your odds for heart disease, according to a new study.
Researchers analyzed data from 36 trials involving more than 1 800 people to learn how different diets affected heart disease risk factors such as blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides and lipoproteins.
They found no significant differences in total cholesterol, lipoproteins or blood pressure between diets with red meat and all other eating regimens. But diets higher in red meat were associated with higher levels of triglycerides.
Researchers also noted that people whose diet included more high-quality plant proteins such as legumes, soy and nuts had lower levels of both total and LDL ("bad") cholesterol.
"Asking 'Is red meat good or bad?' is useless," said senior author Dr Meir Stampfer, a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston.
"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," Stampfer explained in a school news release.
Lead researcher Marta Guasch-Ferre is a research scientist in the department of nutrition at Harvard. She said while previous studies evaluating the effects of red meat on heart disease risk have been inconsistent, the new study offers clear guidance.
Researchers recommend following healthy vegetarian and Mediterranean-style diets.
The study was recently published in the journal Circulation.