Recent research, however, suggests these fats may not be as evil as the food pyramid once made them out to be. In fact, according to new research presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress, eating red meat and full-fat dairy may actually be in your best interest.
Wait…Meat And Cheese?
You read that right: The researchers linked eating red meat and dairy with potential health benefits. “The results suggest that dairy products and meat may be beneficial for heart health and lower risk of total mortality,” explains registered dietitian Jonathan Valdez, R.D.N., owner of Genki Nutrition and spokesperson for the New York State Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Related: The Truth About Saturated Fats
“These findings are limited but interesting, because they shine a different light on previously villainized foods.”
The researchers analyzed five large studies that recorded the dietary patterns of over 218,000 participants from over 50 countries. The study participants reported how often they ate seven food groups: vegetables, fruit, pulses, nuts, fish, dairy, and unprocessed red meat. Each participant’s diet was given a score of seven to 35, based on how often they ate each food group. (Food groups they ate little of received a score of one, while food groups they ate lots of received a score of five.)
The researchers noticed that people with lower-score diets (below 11) typically ate a high-carbohydrate, low-protein diet that featured very few nuts and pulses, and almost no dairy and meat.
On the flipside, those whose diets scored higher than 18 typically ate high amounts of fruits and vegetables, two to three servings of nuts and legumes, three servings of dairy, and one-and-a-half servings of red meat per day, plus about two servings of fish per week. This group had a 25 percent lower chance of early death and 22 percent lower chance of fatal heart attack than the lower-scorers.
Those who reported eating the most dairy and unprocessed red meat (three servings and about four ounces per day, respectively) experienced the greatest health outcomes of all.
Studies like this one only observe trends and patterns, not determine cause and effect. Still, the fact that those who reported eating diets higher in meat and dairy were healthier long-term has intrigued many experts.
The researchers don’t suggest that meat and dairy singlehandedly improve health, but they do suggest that diets higher in these foods also tend to be lower in carbohydrates and offer a balance of fats, carbs, and protein that better supports longevity.
According to Valdez, this study highlights the importance of eating a balanced diet rich in fruit, vegetables, nuts, legumes, fish, dairy, and meat. Ultimately, it supports the case for a lower-carb diet that includes its fair share of fats, he says.
Related: Is A Higher-Fat Diet Right For You?
“While the review isn’t permission to eat a 12-ounce steak and tons of dairy every day, it is a reminder that red meat and dairy aren’t villains,” agrees registered dietitian Wesley Delbridge, R.D., a spokesman for the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics. “It’s a reminder that the moderation of all foods is good for your health.”