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What A PURE Diet Looks Like

Appropriately portioned dairy and red meat might not be total villains, study shows.

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Perhaps a heart-healthy diet has room for steak, after all.

That’s one conclusion of the PURE (Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology) study, a global dietary research project involving more than 136,000 people from five continents, including North America. PURE research presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress in August 2018 raised some eyebrows when it showed that consuming more dairy and nonprocessed red meats could reduce the risk of all-cause mortality and, specifically, of death from heart disease. Experts say much the same about eating more fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes and fish.

The authors of the study argue that people can benefit from certain nutrients in red meat and dairy, such as iron and vitamin B12, that other food groups like fruits and vegetables cannot provide. But study critics point out that a significant percentage of the study population hailed from poorer countries where malnutrition is common, so adding any nutritious foods—including beef and full-fat dairy—can help correct dietary deficiencies and make people healthier.

By contrast, people in higher-income regions like North America, where populations generally consume plenty of meat and dairy, are less likely to overcome nutritional shortcomings and fend off life-shortening diseases by ingesting these foods. If anything, the take-home message here is that a well-balanced diet that includes appropriate portions of all food groups should still be considered a recipe for longevity.

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD, is a James Beard Award–winning food journalist, dietitian and author of the cookbook Rocket Fuel: Power-Packed Food for Sport + Adventure (VeloPress 2016). He has written for dozens of magazines, including Runner’s World, Men’s Health, Shape, Men’s Fitness and Muscle and Fitness.

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