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Can red meat be part of a healthy diet?

THE Heart Foundation has released new recommendations on how much red meat and chicken New Zealanders should be eating as part of a heart-healthy diet.

“The latest evidence shows eating high levels of red meat can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke,” says Heart Foundation chief adviser food and nutrition, Dave Monro.

Research shows eating less than 350g of unprocessed red meat a week can reduce this risk.

“That's about three lean red-meat meals a week.”

It was found that each additional 100g of red meat eaten per day, above the recommended level, was associated with a 15 percent higher risk of heart disease and a 12 percent higher risk of stroke.

The review of the latest science also showed it's more heart healthy when red meat is replaced with other plant-based protein options.

“Red meat can certainly be part of a healthy diet but replacing red meat with alternatives such as beans, chickpeas, soy and nuts has been shown to reduce cholesterol levels — a key risk factor for heart disease,” says Mr Monro.

The review found that chicken was neutral for heart health, meaning it doesn't necessarily do harm, but it doesn't have the benefits that some of the plant-based options have.

“While chicken is another important protein source in the New Zealand diet, we need to have a variety of options in a heart-healthy diet and include beans, chickpeas, nuts, seeds, and fish — and foods that have all been shown to help prevent heart disease.

“Heart disease is New Zealand's single biggest killer.

The update of position statements like this one is part of our ongoing commitment to support Kiwis to improve their nutrition, prevent heart disease and improve the quality of life for the 170,000 New Zealanders living with heart disease,” Mr Munro said.

Processed meats, such as ham and sausages, were not included in the review, conducted by Auckland and Otago Universities, as there is already substantial evidence linking processed meat intake with colorectal cancer.