Meat or no Meat? Which is Healthier?

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There have been so many studies over the years that discuss the benefits or risks of eating meat, it is no wonder everyone is confused.

Jerome Schutzman, MD, Cardiologist with St. Elizabeth Heart & Vascular Institute, says there is still a lot of controversy. He says, “The impact of meat in your diet on your overall health is a gray area. Some studies say it has little to no impact—others say the opposite.”

Dr. Schutzman and the American Heart Association can agree that a balanced diet is the most important aspect of a heart-healthy diet.

“Your diet should keep saturated fats and cholesterol low, but you don’t have to avoid them altogether,” says Dr. Schutzman. “Red meat is higher in saturated fat, and of course I want you to limit saturated fats, but more importantly you need to limit overall calories and modify behavioral risk factors.” 

Heart Healthy Diet

The American Heart Association says that eating healthy doesn’t mean dieting or giving up the foods you love—it’s about calories. They recommend taking in as many calories as you burn each day. If you need to lose weight, it is about burning more calories than you consume.

“Variety is also important,” says Dr. Schutzman. “You want to make sure your body gets the nutrients it needs to be healthy. A balanced diet of protein, vegetables and fruits and grains high in fiber can help you controlling your weight cholesterol and blood pressure.”

Eliminating Risk Factors

If you are maintaining a healthy weight and eating a balanced diet you are ahead of most people in the United States. But is is just as important to manage other lifestyle risk factors that can increase your chances of heart disease.

Lifestyle risk factors include:

  • Excessive alcohol intake
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Smoking
  • Managing chronic disease such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol

Dr. Schutzman recommends, “Taking the actions to eliminate the lifestyle risk factors are what can save your life.”

When is Diet Not Enough?

When do you decide that diet, exercise and lifestyle modifications aren’t enough? Dr. Schutzman says, “If you are an adult between the age of 40 and 75 and have a LDL cholesterol between 70 and 189 with other cardiac risk factors not improved by risk factor modification you should talk to your doctor about starting medical treatment.”

Your liver makes 80% of the cholesterol your body produces. So, if your cholesterol is high, modifying your diet can only affect a certain percent of your levels. If you have a strong family history and have tried diet and exercise to lower your cholesterol without any success, it is time to see your doctor.

You should also see your doctor regularly to manage other chronic diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure, as they can have an impact on your overall heart health. If you are looking for more information on how to live a heart-healthy life sign up for our Take Time for Your Heart classes at stelizabeth.com/taketimeforyourheart