Although the consumption of red meat can increase cholesterol levels, you can still enjoy family meals without worry.
A new study found that halving the amount of red meat and processed meat from the diet can have a significant impact on health, reducing the amount of “bad” LDL cholesterol in the blood. This is the type of cholesterol that increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, especially atherosclerosis and myocardial infarction.
The researchers consider by the terms of red meat and processed meat the following preparations: fresh pork, beef, lamb and veal, but also meat that has been smoked, preserved or preserved by any method other than freezing. These meats are usually rich in saturated fatty acids that cause an increase in LDL cholesterol in the blood. This “bad” cholesterol is oxidized and collected in the walls of the blood vessels, where it can cause blockages and thus increases the risk of a heart attack.
Increased awareness of the risks associated with the consumption of red meat and processed meat has led to an increasing number of people adopting vegetarian and vegan diets, where meat is completely eliminated. Researchers at the University of Nottingham wanted to find out if reducing the amount of red meat consumed, not eliminating it completely, would have a positive effect on health.
Reducing the portion of meat could be enough
To conduct this study, 46 people agreed to reduce their intake of red meat over a 12-week period, replacing it with white meat, fish or vegetable meat substitutes. These people also had the option to reduce the size of the red meat portion, but not to change anything else in their diet. All subjects kept a food diary throughout the study and were given blood tests at the beginning and at regular intervals.
The results showed that the most significant change was the decrease in the amount of LDL cholesterol in the blood, and those with the highest levels at the beginning of the study had the largest reduction. Overall, there was an average reduction in LDL cholesterol of about 10% in men.
In addition to lowering LDL cholesterol, the researchers also observed a decrease in white and red blood cells. Meat is a rich source of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) needed for the production of blood cells. While it is possible for the body to get these nutrients from herbal diets, the results of the study suggest that those who reduce their intake of meat must ensure that their new diet contains a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains to provide to the body all the necessary nutrients.
Why is excessive consumption of red meat dangerous?
The consumption of red meat and processed meat has been correlated with the risk of cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases (especially colon cancer) due to the high amount of saturated fatty acids. Studies have shown that people who often eat red meat have a risk of up to 61% higher cardiovascular disease.
The results of the British researchers showed that the relatively easy change in the intake of red meat and processed meat significantly reduced the risk of mortality, including in young and healthy people. If changes in the level of LDL cholesterol were maintained over a longer period of time, people could reduce the risk of developing heart disease.
Foods that reduce “bad” cholesterol
The difference between bad LDL cholesterol and good HDL cholesterol comes from the source of these fatty acids, namely saturated and unsaturated fats. A high intake of unsaturated fats (cold pressed vegetable oils, fish oil capsules, etc.) could lower the level of bad cholesterol in the blood and thus encourage cardiovascular health.
The top foods recommended by nutritionists for lowering cholesterol are:
Legumes – beans, lentils, peas; thanks to the rich supply of fiber and nutrients;
Avocado – rich in unsaturated fats, fiber and vitamins;
Omega 3 supplements – fish oil protects the health of the heart, supports the immune system and promotes the good health of the cardiovascular system;
Dark chocolate – although it seems surprising, dark chocolate cocoa (with more than 70% content) has anti-inflammatory properties, so it will prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol and the installation of atherosclerosis;
Whole grains – dietary fiber helps to slow the intestinal transit slightly, thus increasing the process of intestinal absorption of nutrients. In addition, they also serve as prebiotics, encouraging the development of the intestinal bacterial microbiome.