The Heart House is pleased to announce that we will be opening up offices in Hammonton and Woodbury in February/March 2024.

For patients interested in being seen in one of those offices, please call 856-546-3006 ext 2100 and leave a message with your information for a Heart House team member to call you back.


Are Beef/Meat Substitutes Heart Healthy?

Been substitute with seasonings and rosemary

Food is big business, and an unbelievable amount of research has gone into the healthfulness of the foods we eat and creating new products with claimed health benefits. Like any other business, however, plenty of marketing also drives some questionable claims of health consciousness. While there are many new and exciting products on the market, today, we will focus on whether meat, particularly beef, substitutes are better than their animal-based counterparts.

On the surface, you would imagine they are. After all, red meat contains a significant amount of saturated fat, which is the stuff that promotes high blood cholesterol and eventually leads to atherosclerosis, or the narrowing of the arteries due to plaque buildup on their walls. Plant-based beef substitutes sound a lot better. Vegetables are good for you, right?

Comparing the Two

Though made from plants, beef substitutes may still contain significant amounts of oil that increase their saturated fat levels. They may not quite reach the levels of a fatty cut of red meat, but it’s still more than what you would get from pork, chicken, or fish. Further, to keep the taste exciting, these beef substitutes often have a significant amount of sodium, which can cause temporary blood pressure increases and weight gain. In substantial quantities, this sodium can increase the risk of heart disease. As a point of comparison between a leading brand of beef substitute and lean ground beef…The typical substitute has more calories, more saturated fat, more carbs, more sodium, and less protein. However, it also has more fiber and less dietary cholesterol. The balance begins to tip in the beef substitutes’ favor as the fat content of the ground beef increases.

The comparison, of course, cannot end at the beef or beef substitute product itself. What we eat with it also makes a big difference. French fries, sugary sodas, condiments, and bread can all increase caloric levels to the point where what’s in the protein product itself is only a tiny fraction of the overall calories consumed. Thinking of buttering the bun? That can add a significant amount of saturated fat to your diet. Similarly, French fries are some of the worst offenders regarding saturated fat.

What’s the Answer?

Many of us love our red meat, and staying away from a nice steak or burger for too long is hard. However, we must reframe how we look at red meat and, by extension, beef substitutes. Ultimately, anything in excess is problematic, including plant-based foods. On the flip side, it’s important that you enjoy your life and what you eat. Therefore, occasionally having beef or a beef substitute meal is reasonable as it will not appreciably increase your risk of heart disease or worsen your existing heart disease.

Of course, when starting on any diet, first speak to your cardiologist to understand if what you’re eating is heart-healthy. Feel free to contact us and schedule a consultation.

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