Full-fat dairy has been given a tick by the Heart Foundation, as has the number of eggs that can be eaten each week as part of a heart healthy diet.
“We have removed our restriction for healthy Australians on eating full-fat milk, cheese and yoghurt. While the evidence was mixed, this type of dairy was found to have a neutral effect, in that it doesn’t increase or decrease your risks for heart disease or stroke,” said Heart Foundation chief medical advisor, cardiologist Professor Garry Jennings.
“Given this, we believe there is not enough evidence to support a restriction on full-fat milk, yoghurt and cheese for a healthy person, as they also provide healthy nutrients like calcium.”
But the Heart Foundation says we need to rethink how much red meat we’re eating.
“We have introduced a limit of less than 350 grams a week for unprocessed beef, lamb, pork and veal. That’s around one to three lean red-meat meals a week, like a Sunday roast and a beef stir-fry,” said Prof. Jennings.
“Processed or deli meats should be limited, as they have been consistently linked to a higher risk of heart disease and other chronic conditions.
“Instead, we suggest people should get most of their heart-healthy protein from plant sources such as beans, lentils (legumes) and tofu, as well as fish and seafood, with a smaller amount from eggs and lean poultry. Heart-healthy eating is more about the combination of foods, eaten regularly over time.”
While the limits for full-fat dairy and eggs have been ‘eased’, Prof. Jennings warned that people who suffer high cholesterol or heart disease, should look for unflavoured reduced-fat milk, yoghurt and cheese and eating fewer than seven eggs per week.
“Butter, cream, ice-cream and dairy-based desserts are not recommended as heart-healthy, as they contain higher fat and sugar levels and less protein. Evidence found the dairy fat in milk, cheese and yoghurt does not raise bad LDL cholesterol levels as much as butter or other dairy products,” he said.
“We now advise people with type 2 diabetes to eat fewer than seven eggs per week, as growing evidence suggests an increased risk with eating more eggs.
“Type 2 diabetes, along with high cholesterol and high blood pressure, are risks for heart disease and stroke that we can all take steps to avoid through diet and lifestyle changes.”
Poor diet is the leading contributor to heart disease, accounting for 65.5 per cent of the total burden of disease, says the Heart Foundation. Yet if Australians were to eat the recommended daily intake of vegetables, it would reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases by approximately 16.6 per cent and reduce government health spending by $1.4 billion, based on 2015-16 estimates.
“Over time, the Heart Foundation’s advice for heart-healthy eating has shifted with the evidence to downplay individual nutrients and look more closely at whole foods and patterns of eating. What matters now is the combination of healthy foods and how regularly people eat them,” said Heart Foundation director of prevention, Julie Anne Mitchell.
“The increase in availability and promotion of highly processed foods at the expense of healthy foods has meant that too many Australian adults get more than a third of their total daily energy from high-kilojoule, nutrient-poor junk foods like cakes, muffins, pastries, alcohol and soft drinks.
“Our focus needs to be squarely on promoting healthy foods over unhealthy foods, with a comprehensive national approach, grounded in evidence, that helps make the healthy choice the easy choice.”
Australia – and the world – faces a ‘tsunami’ of obesity, according to research from The George Institute, with processed and packaged foods largely to blame.
The key to better health, says Heart Foundation dietitian Sian Armstrong, is choosing a variety of healthy foods regularly over time.
“Eating more plant-based foods like vegetables, fruits and wholegrains, and healthy proteins like fish and seafood with smaller amounts of animal-based foods, while cutting down on highly processed junk foods is key to good heart health.
“To be heart-healthy, it’s also important to be smoke-free, limit alcohol intake, maintain a healthy weight and get at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on five days a week.”
How much red meat do you eat? Will you reduce your intake?
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