Why our family won’t participate in Meatless Monday, but its OK if you do (Part 3: Research Round-up)

If you’re just joining me, each Monday I’ve been taking a closer look at the claims of #MeatlessMonday and specifically how beef has earned it’s place as part of a healthy diet. To learn more about the #MeatlessMonday movement check out part one here.

Last Monday I talked about my past life as an anti-beef eater and more about how beef is a nutrition powerhouse! As a dietitian I take my responsibility to be an evidence-based practitioner pretty seriously, always depending on research to guide my recommendations and beliefs. There are two studies (BOLD: Beef in an Optimal Lean Diet and the Beef WISE study: Beef’s Role in Weight Improvement, Satisfaction, and Energy) that have been published somewhat recently that support including beef as part a heart healthy diet.

The WISE study was conducted last year at University of Colorado Anschutz Health and Wellness Center. Almost 100 overweight or obese participants completed a sixteen week weight management program that included regular moderate intensity exercise, behavioral strategies, and controlled diet. One group was to eat four or more servings of lean beef each week while the other eliminated all red meat. When all was said and done, both groups lost equal amounts of total weight and fat mass while improving health metrics such as total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and blood pressure. (A few limitations – most study participants were women, short duration of only 16 weeks) – if you want more of the nitty gritty you can read the full text here.

The BOLD Study (Beef in an Optimal Lean Diet) was published back in 2011 and set out to see if including lean beef in the “DASH” diet plan would provide similar results. The DASH diet is known to lower risk of cardiovascular disease by lowering blood pressure and cholesterol by encouraging intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low fat dairy products, beans, nuts and seeds while limiting saturated fat, refined grains, added sugar and red meats. To compare the effects of each diet, 36 participant followed the four diets for five weeks each: HAD , DASH , BOLD, BOLD+.

  • HAD (Healthy American Diet – includes full fat dairy, oil, butter, refined grains
  • DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension)
  • BOLD (Beef in an Optimal Lean Diet) – similar to DASH diet but included 4oz lean beef per day as primary protein source.
  • BOLD+ (Beef in an Optimal Lean Diet with high protein) – Similar to BOLD diet but included higher protein overall and average of 5.4oz lean beef per day

At the end of the study, it was found that eating a DASH-like eating pattern without or without lean beef would still lead to a reduction in total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol by a similar amount (~10%).  Link to full text here.

I think the key component of both of these studies is that they were looking at lean beef vs all red meat. Red meat typically describes beef, pork and lamb and includes processed meats (think sausage, bacon, hotdogs) that are higher in fat and sodium and wouldn’t qualify as lean (less than 10gm total fat with 4.5gm or less of that being saturated fat and less than 95gm cholesterol per 3.5oz serving). I wouldn’t recommend staying away from all “red meat” but choosing cuts wisely, like lean beef, and being mindful of portion sizes and frequency when selecting processed red meats, like bacon 🙂

And just for fun here are some pictures of me eating a taco – one of my favorite ways to eat beef 🌮🌮🌮


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