(from “Lower Your Cholesterol, Save Your Life”, 2nd edition)
Saturated fats are generally found in meat but we need not eliminate all types of meat from our diet. The trick is to reduce or eliminate the ones which have an excessive amount of saturated fat. This would be most, but not all, red meat (beef has the most saturated fat, pork comes in second, and lamb has the least). There are however, cuts of red meat, such as pork tenderloin and eye of the round in beef, which are low in saturated fat. The meat with the least saturated fat is chicken (breast is better than leg). Chicken eaten with the skin contains 11% fat, and without the skin contains only 5% fat, compared to 30-40% for beef. Furthermore, the fat in chicken is 2/3 unsaturated, whereas the fat in beef is saturated. A good alternative to red meat is Tofu (see below). Alternatives to meat can be found in the Canada Food Guide (appendix 3).
Tofu (bean curd) is made from dried soybeans that have been ground, filtered, and boiled, and is a healthy alternative to red meat. In addition to being inexpensive, tofu is high in protein, low in fat, and very low in saturated fat. A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, analyzed existing data and showed that eating 47 grams of soy protein a day reduced cholesterol levels by an average of 9.3 percent in a month.
It is unclear whether cholesterol levels were reduced by the tofu itself, or simply because the tofu replaced animal proteins (red meat), but since that is exactly what we are doing, that distinction is unimportant to us. I admit that I do not like tofu. If you do, kudos to you. Eat it in good health. If you don’t, you can do what I did and buy tofu disguised as ground beef. Not only does it replace red meat in a nutritional sense, but it can be used wherever ground beef is usually used, for example in spaghetti sauce, hamburgers, etc.
Fish is an excellent meat replacement and also contains healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Eat at least two servings of fish per week. The highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids are in mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna, salmon and halibut. You should bake or grill the fish or use “good oils” (see below) if you wish to fry, to avoid adding saturated fats. It is unclear exactly why, but studies show that it is better to get your omega-3 acids by eating fish rather than with supplements.
Act now, your heart will thank you!
Harvard School of Public Health
J.W. Anderson, B.M. Johnstone, and M.E. Cook-Newell, Meta-Analysis of the Effects of Soy Protein Intake on Serum Lipids, New England Journal of Medicine, August 3, 1995