Red Meat: Good To Eat?

When was the last time you stood at a grocery-store counter without a little twinge of guilt in your heart, buying some beef?

It's something we've heard for years, reports CBS News Correspondent Bobbi Harley: red meat has no place in a heart-healthy diet. Or does it? In a study released Sunday in the Archives of Internal Medicine, doctors followed the eating habits of nearly 200 people with mild to moderately high cholesterol levels for nine months. Half ate chicken and fish; the other half ate lean red meats.

Dr. Peter Kwiterovich of Johns Hopkins University Lipid Clinic, said "If they ate six ounces of lean red meat five to six times a week, then their cholesterol level fell the same amount as the individuals who were eating white meat." About five percent.

That's good news for the group that paid for the study, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. But there's a catch - small servings. One portion is three ounces, the size of a deck of cards. Not exactly the sizzling steak you'd like to see land on your plate.

But not all red meats got a passing grade. Take ground beef for example. Even if you choose the leanest cut, you're still getting more saturated fat than is recommended.

Dr. Kwiterovich says, "The best way to do it is to buy the round steak, have the fat trimmed and ground it up. Now you have an excellent choice for your burgers on the grill this summer."

But critics say that's too much work for many people. And there's an easier choice.

Dr. Michael Jacobsen of the Center for Science in the Public Interest says, "If these people are trying to avoid heart disease, they should cut much farther back on their intake of red meat and poultry."

CBS News Health Correspondent Emily Senay says it is important that you talk to your grocer about looking for the leanest cuts, sirloin or rounds - and you can include pork and veal.

She also says this is probably not the end of this type of research and that there will be more research done. But, she says, it does show that portion has some association with cholesterol.

If you want to make the extra effort of looking for the leanest cuts, you may feel a little less guilt at the grill.