Beef in a Heart Healthy Diet

By Katie Serbinski, MS, RDN, Director of Nutrition and Consumer Communications for the Michigan Beef Industry Commission

February is American Heart Month, and it is the perfect time to showcase beef’s role in a heart-healthy diet. The Beef Checkoff supports numerous research studies that explore beef and heart health and provide sound science about beef’s positive nutritional profile. In fact, many of these research studies have shown that incorporating lean beef in a heart healthy diet can maintain healthy cholesterol and blood pressure levels. So, what does the science say?

Recent research conducted at Indiana University shows that individuals at risk for type 2 diabetes can choose to substitute lean, unprocessed beef for refined carbohydrates without increasing cardiometabolic risk factors such as elevated cholesterol or blood pressure levels. Further, this research provides evidence that individuals have the flexibility to include up to about 6 oz of lean, unprocessed beef as part of a heart-healthy, diabetic-friendly diet that supports metabolic and cardiovascular health. (Maki KC et al.)

Additional research findings from the Beef in an Optimal Lean Diet (BOLD) Study show that a heart-healthy, DASH-style diet including 4-5.5 oz of lean beef daily also supports heart health. Individuals who participated in the BOLD Study maintained healthy blood cholesterol levels while consuming a dietary pattern rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean proteins with lean beef as the primary protein source. The BOLD study is a robust addition to the body of evidence supporting lean beef in a heart-healthy diet. (Roussell M, et al)

Another research study conducted at Purdue University found that by following a Mediterranean-style healthy dietary pattern incorporating 7-18 oz of fresh, lean beef, individuals can reduce heart disease risk factors, such as total and LDL cholesterol and blood pressure, while also improving cardiometabolic disease risk factors for individuals who were overweight or moderately obese. (O’Connor L, et al.)

The Beef WISE study, conducted by the University of Colorado Anschutz Health and Wellness Center, demonstrates that lean beef is just as effective as other proteins in improving weight loss potential and body composition and in supporting heart health. Specifically, the Beef WISE Study illustrates that eating lean beef four or more times a week, as part of a healthy, higher-protein diet, combined with physical activity, can help people lose weight and fat mass while maintaining lean muscle, and supporting heart health. (Sayer RD, et al)

With the abundance of sound scientific evidence supporting beef in a heart-healthy diet, the Beef Checkoff develops resources and educational materials based on these nutrition research findings to promote beef’s nutritional value to health professionals and consumers.

While there are more than 36 cuts of beef that meet government guidelines for lean, any cut of beef can support a healthy diet when enjoyed in sensible portions as part of an overall balanced diet.

Visit for a collection of 20 American Heart Association® certified heart-healthy recipes.

Maki KC, et al. Substituting Lean Beef for Carbohydrate in a Healthy Dietary Pattern Does Not Adversely Affect the Cardiometabolic Risk Factor Profile in Men and Women at Risk for Type 2 Diabetes. J Nutr 2020. Jul 1;150(7):1824-1833.

Roussell MA, et al. Beef in an Optimal Lean Diet study: effects on lipids, lipoproteins, and apolipoproteins. Am J Clin Nutr 2012;95:9-16.

O’Connor LE, et al. A Mediterranean-style eating pattern with lean, unprocessed red meat has cardiometabolic benefits for adults who are overweight or obese in a randomized, crossover, controlled feeding trial. Am J Clin Nutr 2018;108:33-40.

Sayer RD, et al. Equivalent reductions in body weight during the Beef WISE Study: beef’s role in weight improvement, satisfaction and energy.  Obes Sci Pract. 2017;3(3):298-310.