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Is This The Green Light Steak Lovers Have Been Hoping For?
If you've been shunning red meat for the sake of your heart, get a load of this: New research published in theJournal of Nutritionsuggests that eating animal proteins—yes, even steak and pork—could actually improve your cardiovascular health. How? The study found that people who consume more protein from animal sources, in addition to protein from plant sources, have lower blood pressure and healthier arteries than people who eat less protein.
MORE:13 Power Foods That Lower Blood Pressure Naturally
Researchers trace these heart-boosting benefits to amino acids, the building blocks of dietary protein. Your body can't make amino acids on its own, so you need to get them from protein-rich foods, like dairy, fish, whole grains, and legumes. Previous research has shown that consuming more amino acids can lower blood pressure. (Snack AND lose weight with this box of .)
But in this study, researchers at the UK's University of East Anglia wanted to determine which amino acids were most beneficial to heart health—animal sources vs. plant sources—and focused on seven in particular, three of which are found only in animals. Then they tested the blood pressure and arterial stiffness of 1,900 women and found that those who ate more protein in general (around 89 grams per day) had significantly lower blood pressure.
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And here's the even more surprising part: Researchers found that only amino acids from animal protein were associated with lower arterial stiffness, a risk factor for heart attack and stroke. In fact, researchers say, the improvement in artery health for women who ate the most of these amino acids was equivalent to the boost you'd get by quitting smoking.
How can you add them to your own diet? You can get the exact amount of amino acids needed to reap these artery health benefits by eating 2.5 ounces of steak, 3.5 ounces of salmon, or a 16-ounce glass of milk once daily, the researchers say.
But don't ditch plant proteins, like whole grains, nuts, soy, and black beans. Remember: Women who ate the most protein fromallsources had the lowest blood pressure. (Plus, these plant-based sources are rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals you need, too). Ultimately, researchers say that upping your overall protein intake—and making sure to include those animal-based amino acids—could be the easiest way to keep your heart healthy. Score one for steak—with a side of lentils.
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