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- Researchers looked at the health effects of consuming white meat, dark meat, and plant-based protein and found that white and dark meats have similar heart disease risks associated with eating them.
- Study participants who ate diets high in saturated fat, regardless of the type of meat they consumed, had higher levels of LDL cholesterol than those who only ate plant-based proteins like nuts.
- LDL cholesterol, or “bad” cholesterol, can clog a person’s arteries and increase their risk of coronary artery disease and heart attack.
- People should aim to eat more fresh produce and healthy fats like avocados and olive oil to protect against this risk, according to the American Heart Association.
- Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more.
If you choose white meat over dark meat during meals to protect your health, you may want to rethink your decision.
Most people believe eating white meat is a healthier choice because it contains less saturated fat than dark meat, but a small study, published June 4 in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, suggests otherwise.
Researchers looked at the health effects of consuming white meat, dark meat, and plant-based protein and found that white and dark meats have similar risks associated with eating them. Specifically, eating both of these types of meat can increase LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol, which can clog the arteries and increase risk of coronary heart disease and heart attacks.
“When we planned this study, we expected red meat to have a more adverse effect on blood cholesterol levels than white meat, but we were surprised that this was not the case – their effects on cholesterol are identical when saturated fat levels are equivalent,” senior study author Dr. Ronald Krauss said in a press release.
To test this, researchers assigned 113 healthy men and women between the ages of 21 and 65 either a diet high in saturated fat or low in saturated fat. Within these two categories, the participants ate exclusively red meat for four weeks, then white meat chicken for four weeks, and finally no meat for four weeks. In between each of the four weeks, dieters were asked to eat their normal diets for between two and seven weeks as a reset period before trying the next type of diet.
After each four-week diet, the researchers took blood samples and measured dieters’ body weight, blood pressure, body fat percentage, and waist size. They found that people who were assigned diets high in saturated fat had higher levels of LDL cholesterol, no matter the type of meat they ate.
When people ate plant-based proteins, however, they had lower levels of LDL cholesterol compared to when they ate both red and white meat proteins.
There was no significant changes in dieters’ blood pressures or plasma glucose levels (a metric used to test for diabetes) no matter their protein source or amount of saturated fat intake, though.
Read more: 10 of the biggest downsides of the keto diet
Special menus created for the experiment ensured participants were eating the same types of foods for each diet phase and meeting the requirements for high or low saturated fat.
The researchers used urine samples, grocery receipts, and menu checklists to make sure participants stayed on track.
Eating less saturated fat could help protect against heart disease
The researchers suggested dieters fill their meals with more fresh fruits and vegetables while eating less meat-based protein, even if it’s white meat. They also suggested people eat more unsaturated fats – think avocados, olive oil, and nuts – and fewer saturated fats like butter, cheese, and whole milk.
These suggestions fall in line with guidelines from the American Heart Association, which recommends people get just 5% to 6% of their daily calories from saturated fat.
The study was small, however, so it’s not the the last word on white meat – and you don’t have to give up that turkey breast just yet.
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