If you're looking to optimize your heart health, analyzing your current diet is a great place to start. Making informed dietary choices can help you reach a healthy weight, decrease your risk of heart disease, and maintain an overall heart-healthy lifestyle.
Advice on how to curate a heart-healthy diet is everywhere, from your primary care provider to cooking magazines, and many of them cite red meat as a major dietary offender in terms of heart health. While it's true that red meat can be high in saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, and calories, is it really a 'red food' -- something to be completely cut from your nutrition system in order to prevent cardiovascular disease?
At , Dr. Hurst is passionate about giving his patients all the information they need to make informed lifestyle decisions that truly optimize their health. By consulting with Dr. Hurst on a personalized Healthspan Action Plan, you can get a thorough, data-based overview of your current health and then work together to create achievable, long-term goals to increase your lifespan.
Keep reading to learn more about the truth behind red meat and its links to heart disease:
Nutrition And Heart Disease
It's well-documented that 'poor' nutrition can create risk factors for many chronic conditions, including obesity and heart disease. But why?
Certain foods that may be considered unhealthy are often higher in ultra-processed fats, sugar, and refined grains, resulting in an unhealthy metabolic state that can lead to weight gain.
Does Red Meat Really Increase Your Risk of Heart Disease?
Historically, it has been believed that high levels of saturated fat (found in many red meats) have been linked to increased LDL cholesterol. But is this really true?
A number of widely-cited studies have shown that yes, diets higher in red meat are associated with a greater risk of life-threatening conditions like cardiovascular disease. However, it's important to understand that the majority of nutrition studies are largely flawed, and there are many variables at play when it comes to these studies.
First, these are observational studies, meaning that the researchers ask questions and observe outcomes without manipulating any of the variables.
There is very little control in these studies for many reasons. One reason is that most people are not very good at reporting accurate amounts of what they’ve eaten.
This means most of these studies can't prove that red meat is a direct risk factor for heart disease. It just suggests that it might be an indicator.
Second, the results of these studies showed a relatively small difference between subjects who ate more red meat and subjects who ate less. This makes it difficult to quantify the correlation between red meat consumed and the markers of potential disease.
It is also important to note that many of these studies do not take into account the quality of red meat individuals are eating and what they are seasoning and eating the meat with.
This is not to say that red meat has zero effect on your risk of heart disease. Dr. Hurst's conclusion is this: 'I believe that regularly eating red meat is LIKELY to have a small, negative effect on your health.'
Making Informed Dietary Decisions
At HealthspanMD, we consider red meat a 'yellow food:' that is, a type of food that is fine for some people to incorporate into your diet in moderation. In others, it may be best to be minimized or avoided.
To determine whether red meat (a yellow food) can be part of a healthy nutrition system for you, we take a look at your health objectives.
If you have a high LDL cholesterol level, red meat may not be the best option for you to consume on a weekly basis. However, if it is an important part of your life to have high-quality red meat occasionally, then we can use lab data to test if it is truly having a negative effect on your cholesterol levels.
In general, it comes down to moderation and quality. According to Dr. Hurst, 'Red meat is not the reason that we are seeing epidemics of obesity and diabetes and all the associated health problems. The bigger culprit is highly processed and refined foods. If you are eating for Optimal Health, the best place to start is to focus on real food.'
As long as you're enjoying good quality, unprocessed red meat on a fairly moderate basis (for example, once a week), the effects on your heart health will likely be marginal, and there are often bigger opportunities for improving your health we can tackle before having you give up your Sunday night steak.
Get Started With HealthspanMD
If you're looking for personalized nutrition advice tailored to your individual health goals, consider working with the board-certified cardiologist and lifestyle coaches at . We'll work with you to develop a personalized Healthspan Action Plan that includes diet, lifestyle, and supplementation recommendations tailored to your needs.