Healthy heart guidelines updated for meat, dairy and eggs
Unflavoured full-fat milk, yoghurt and cheese are now an option for a healthy heart, according to the latest review from the Heart Foundation. The limit has also been lifted on the number of eggs that can be eaten per week in a heart-healthy diet. But the Heart Foundation has asked Australians to rethink how much red meat they’re eating.
The Heart Foundation’s Chief Medical Advisor, cardiologist Professor Garry Jennings, said, “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.
“Processed or deli meats should be limited, as they have been consistently linked to a higher risk of heart disease and other chronic conditions,” Professor Jennings said.
But Professor Jennings warned that limits apply to the new advice around dairy and eggs. “For people who suffer high cholesterol or heart disease, we recommend unflavoured reduced-fat milk, yoghurt and cheese, and eating less 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.”
Heart Foundation Director of Prevention Julie Anne Mitchell said healthy eating advice should reflect new evidence. “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,” Mitchell said.
The essential changes are:
- Limit of less than 350 grams a week for unprocessed red meats like beef, lamb, pork and veal.
- Unflavoured full-fat milk, yoghurt and cheese are now an option for healthy Australians, if they prefer it over reduced fat milk, yoghurt and cheese. But for people who suffer high cholesterol or have heart disease, unflavoured reduced-fat milk, yoghurt and cheese is still recommended.
- Limit removed on the number of eggs that can be eaten in a week for healthy Australians. But for people with Type 2 Diabetes, the Heart Foundation has advised eating fewer than seven eggs per week as evidence suggests eating more eggs is associated with an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. And for those people with heart disease, it continues to recommend eating fewer than seven eggs a week.
Poor diet is the leading contributor to heart disease, accounting for 65.5% of the total burden of disease. Yet if Australians ate the recommended daily intake of vegetables, it would reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases by approximately 16.6% and save $1.4 billion in health spending, based on 2015–16 estimates.
The Heart Foundation’s Heart Healthy Eating advice recognises that healthy eating patterns do not rely on one type of food or nutrient to promote heart health. Heart Healthy eating patterns are based on a combination of foods, chosen regularly over time, which encourages Australians to eat:
- Plenty of vegetables, fruits and wholegrains.
- A variety of healthy protein sources especially fish and seafood, legumes (such as beans and lentils), nuts and seeds. Smaller amounts of eggs and lean poultry can also be included in a heart healthy diet. If choosing red meat, make sure the meat is lean and limit to 1–3 times a week.
- Unflavoured milk, yoghurt and cheese. Those with high blood cholesterol should choose reduced fat varieties.
- Healthy fat choices with nuts, seeds, avocados, olives and their oils for cooking.
- Herbs and spices to flavour foods, instead of adding salt.
To find out about the Heart Foundation’s research program, visit www.heartfoundation.org.au.
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