For years, we’ve been told that white meat like chicken is healthier than red meat like beef. But a new study suggest that, at least when it comes to cholesterol, the trick to being healthy might have less to do with the color of a meat and more to do with eating less meat in general.
In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition by a team of California-based researchers, 113 participants all went on a rotating diet featuring four weeks each of either red meat (mostly beef, but also lamb and pork), chicken, or plant-based protein. As expected, the plant-based diet had the most positive impact on cholesterol levels, but what the researchers didn’t expect was that the difference in “bad” cholesterol after the red and white meat diets was inconsequential. “We found that the results were exactly the same,” Ronald M Krauss, one of the paper’s authors and a professor of medicine at the University of San Francisco, told the site FoodNavigator. “White meat and red meat both resulted in near identical levels of blood cholesterol.”
The unfortunate takeaway for meat lovers is that, though white meat may still be healthier than red meat in other regards, swapping white meat for red meat might not benefit you when it comes to lowering cholesterol. Instead, no meat would be your best bet. That said, Krauss also stressed that the cholesterol results had “quite a bit of variation” across the study’s participants. “We had 113 people – which for a diet study is pretty large – but the results really represent an average across these people,” he said.
So in the end, though the researchers concluded that they did “not provide evidence for choosing white over red meat for reducing CVD risk,” Krauss added to FoodNavigator that “the average results may or may not apply to a single individual.”