Is the Mediterranean diet still good for the heart if you include lean meat?

Following a Mediterranean diet that also includes lean met can still help people manage their cholesterol and lower their risk of heart disease, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The Mediterranean diet typically prioritizes eating fruits and vegetables and limiting fatty foods and animal products. However, researchers wanted to see if adding moderate portions of lean meat might also produce favorable results—and maybe even appeal to a wider audience.

“When you create a healthy diet built on fruits, vegetables and other plant-based foods, it leaves room for moderate amounts of other foods like lean beef,” lead author Jennifer A. Fleming, PhD, an assistant teaching professor at the Penn State College of Health and Human Development, said in a prepared statement. “There are still important nutrients in beef that you can benefit from by eating lean cuts like the loin or round, or 93% lean ground beef.”

The study included data from 59 participants who took turns following a traditional Mediterranean diet with limited beef, a Mediterranean-like diet that included a moderate amount of beef and a third Mediterranean-like diet that included much larger portions of beef. All beef included in this study was either lean or extra-lean.

Diets were followed for four weeks at a time, and there was a one-week waiting period between each diet. The authors also compared every diet to an “average American diet.”

Overall, the researchers found that study participants had lower LDL cholesterol when following the traditional Mediterranean diet and the two Mediterranean-like diets than when they followed the average American diet. No significant differences were seen between the three diets, even though they all included different amounts of lean and/or extra-lean beef.

Beef Checkoff, a national marketing and research program, did fund this research. Also, a representative from the United States Department of Agriculture was also involved in the study.

“The financial supporters had no role in the design and conduct of the study, collection, analysis and interpretation of data, or preparation, review or approval of the manuscript,” Fleming et al. wrote.

Click here to read the full analysis.

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