The Effect of White Meat on Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a type of lipid (fat) called a sterol made by the liver and present in every cell in an animal’s body, including human animals. It is found only in foods of animal origin – white meat, fish, eggs, and every other meat and dairy product. Foods from plants – all types of fruits and vegetables, pulses, wholegrains, nuts and seeds – are cholesterol-free.

Our livers make all the cholesterol we need – approximately 1,000 milligrams per day – and it is used in the manufacture of hormones and cell membranes and in other parts of the body. It follows that we have no need for cholesterol in our diet at all.

Cholesterol can’t be avoided by choosing lean cuts of meat as it’s mainly found in the lean parts. Neither is white meat lower in cholesterol than red meat as chicken contains as much cholesterol as beef. One small, grilled, skinless chicken breast contains around 100 milligrams of cholesterol – an amount that can add roughly 0.13 mmol/L (or 5 mg/dL) to your cholesterol level!

Animal products also contain saturated fat which causes our livers to manufacture even more cholesterol. Unsaturated fats don’t have this effect.

Despite a welter of evidence that a vegetarian diet is the best way to avoid high cholesterol levels and the diseases which go with them, official advice, amazingly, is not to go vegetarian.

But to switch to a lower fat diet – avoiding fatty cuts of red meat, eating white meat and fish and ditching butter for margarine.

Dr Neal Barnard, president and founder of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, states that: “…chicken-and-fish diets are not low enough in fat or cholesterol to do what vegetarian diets can… The leanest beef is about 28 per cent fat as a percentage of calories. The leanest chicken is not much different, at about 23 per cent fat.

Fish vary but all have cholesterol and more fat than is found in typical beans, vegetables, grains, and fruits, virtually all of which are well under 10 per cent fat.

“So, while white-meat diets lower cholesterol levels by only about five per cent, meatless diets have three to four times more cholesterol-lowering power, allowing the arteries to the heart to reopen.”

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