These days, you never read social media posts or hear cocktail-party chatter in which people rave about their balanced, omnivorous diet.

Red meat is about as popular as sugar. But that need not be the case, according to a recent, randomized, controlled trial.

Researchers at Purdue University and the University of Texas decided to focus on heart-risk outcomes of subjects consuming different amounts of lean, unprocessed red meat while otherwise following a healthy Mediterranean diet that included lots of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, fish and olive oil.

The paper was registered at and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The Purdue-Texas team gathered 41 overweight or obese adults who were not following a Mediterranean diet and put them on such a diet that also included either 500 grams of lean red meat a week or 200 grams. The subjects followed each diet for five weeks, then switched to a four-week “washout period” when they ate a self-selected diet and then switched to the other red-meat Mediterranean approach.

The two dietary approaches did not differ in their effect on high-density lipoproteins, triglycerides, insulin or glucose. Contrary to what many may have expected, the results showed slightly greater weight loss during the higher red-meat phase, as well as greater lowering of harmful low-density lipoproteins.

No one’s arguing for fat-marbled meats, processed meats or meats chargrilled to a crisp on the barbecue. These carry known health harms.