Q&A: Meat and cholesterol

Q:  My cholesterol is a little high but my doctor isn’t too worried yet. We’re eating some vegetarian meals several times a week now. We were wondering if pork is any better than beef, comparatively speaking?

A:   Thank you so much for the question.  It is great that you are being proactive about your health.

Many people think that to lower your blood cholesterol you should decrease the amount of cholesterol in your diet.  While this can help, you should focus more on the amount of saturated fat in your diet, since that actually contributes more to high blood cholesterol than dietary cholesterol.

For healthy adults, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommendation is to consume less than 10% of your calories from saturated fat (about 22 g for a 2,000 calorie diet) and less than 300 mg of cholesterol each day.  If you want to lower your cholesterol, the National Institutes of Health recommend that you consume less than 7% of your calories from saturated fat (about 15 g for a 2,000 calorie diet) and less than 200 mg of cholesterol daily.

With that in mind, here are the amounts of fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol in a three ounce serving of several meat products: 

Food (3 oz serving)

      Fat (g)

   Saturated Fat (g)

    Cholesterol (mg)

Beef tenderloin (trimmed of fat)




Ground beef (95/5)




Pork loin chop (trimmed of fat)




Chicken breast (no skin)












As you can see, beef has the most saturated fat of the meats listed, even when you choose lean cuts.  Pork does have a bit less, making it is a slightly better choice, but there are even better choices out there.  Bison is much leaner than beef and has a fairly similar taste.  However, it can be fairly expensive and difficult to find.  Chicken and salmon are also excellent choices — both are low in saturated fat and generally available.

I hope that helps.  Thanks again for the question!

Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!

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