PORTLAND -- If you have high cholesterol, you may be able to re-introduce a long-forgotten friend back into your diet: red meat.
A new study suggests a diet that includes lean beef may produce similar results to a diet centered around fruits and veggies.
KGW spoke with a doctor and a patient who lost close to 40 pounds.
"I just really decided I was going to cut down on the garbage we've been eating," said Rick Smith, of Tigard.
Smith, 51, had a physical exam last year and doctors gave him some unnerving news. "I was very borderline diabetic and had a pretty serious liver problem - a very fatty liver. So finally last year I decided to just do a little bit more exercise and took to heart what he was talking about, cutting out the sugars and white breads."
But, he was able to keep something in his diet that he expected his doctor would tell him to cut out.
"I'll eat steak. I was surprised to hear that it was okay to continue with that," he said.
A new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that eating lean beef with vegetables is a good thing and could be just as good as a diet of only veggies.
"Beef is part of an overall diet that emphases vegetables that appears to be part of a healthy diet," said Doctor Miles Hassell, Medical Director for the Providence Integrative Medicine Program.
He said simply, lean, red meat is healthy.
"The beef, which can add a lot of enjoyment and good quality protein for a lot of people was equally healthy based on their studies of cholesterol and the parameters of heart disease risk," Hassell said.
For two years, researchers followed 36 people with borderline-high cholesterol who were assigned to eat several different diets for five weeks each.
One diet included mostly fruits and vegetables.
Two others included lean meats eaten everyday in the form of grilled, braised or fried top round, chuck shoulder pot roast and 95 percent lean ground beef. All the diets had about the same number of calories.
Turns out, the fruit and vegetable-based diet and the diets which included lean cuts of beef almost equally lowered the patients' cholesterol.
"If we look at diets that have done really well at reducing heart disease, stroke and cancer like the Mediterranean Diet, which includes beef, we find that the diets that have a lot of vegetables plus animal protein, people do really, really well on," Hassell said. "There's something about the whole complex of an omnivorous diet that seems to lead to better health."
And that's something that patients like Rick Smith were especially happy to hear. He's lost nearly 40 pounds since last year.
"If I'm going to have dinner, then I'm going to have dinner. I can have steak and just make sure it's more vegetable as opposed to all the other stuff that comes with it," said Smith.
Doctor Hassell also noted that people should remember to make sure the beef is lean and small - about the size of a fist.