A high consumption level of red meat greatly increases a person’s risk for heart disease, according to a recent study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

In clinical studies from 1980 to 2006, scientists studied 84,136 women between 30 and 55 years of age. What they found was not surprising, and validated what many doctors have for years told patients who are trying to lose weight or lead a healthier lifestyle: cut down on the red meat.

Dr. Adam Bernstein, research fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health, said that just reducing your serving size of red meat can have positive health effects.

“We found that red meat and high-fat dairy is in fact associated with a higher risk of coronary heart disease,” he said. “Substituting these particular foods with nuts, fish, low-fat dairy and poultry reduces the risk of coronary disease.”

Bernstein noted that this is the first study done to quantify the effects of making these dietary substitutions. They did not study the dietary effects of the recent rise in the popularity of organic foods and farm-raised meats. However, the study did find an association between elevated risk of heart disease and serving size.

“We found a 30 percent increased risk of heart disease among women who were eating two servings of red meat per day compared to those who had a half a serving,” said Bernstein. Replacing the steak at dinner with chicken and having pastrami for lunch can make a significant difference in heart health.

“It need not be cutting out red meat completely,” he said, “but trying to reduce it in the easiest way possible will still show a benefit. If you’re having trouble at first, try substituting a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for the red meat or processed meat sandwich.”

While the primary subjects of the study were White women, Bernstein said that the results of reducing red meat consumption can be beneficial to both Black women and men as well.