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New guidelines approve cheese for a healthy heart diet

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In good news today for lovers of cheese, yoghurt and full-fat milk, the Heart Foundation have updated their advice on what constitutes a healthy diet when it comes to heart health.

New dietary advice for a healthy heart

Unflavoured full-fat milk, yogurt and cheese are now an option for healthy Australians, while the limit has lifted on the number of eggs that can be eaten per week for heart health.

But the Heart Foundation says many Australians need to rethink how much red meat they’re eating, as evidence indicates it increases risks for poor heart health and unwanted gains when it comes to our waistlines.  

Heart Foundation Chief Medical Advisor, cardiologist Professor Garry Jennings, said in a media release, “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, “ Professor Jennings said.

“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.”

“We have removed our restriction for healthy Australians on eating full-fat milk, cheese and yogurt.”

When reviewing the evidence that underlines this updated advice, the Heart Foundation says that this type of dairy was found to have a neutral effect in terms of heart health.

While they did note that the evidence was mixed, there wasn’t enough evidence to continue to restrict full-fat, milk, yoghurt and cheese in healthy people, as these foods are also important sources of other nutrients like calcium.
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Like all things when it comes to healthy eating, cheese, yoghurt and eggs should still be consumed in moderation if you have a history of heart conditions or are actively managing your cholesterol levels.

In this instance the Heart Foundation recommends unflavoured reduced-fat milk and cheese and eating less than seven eggs per week.

It’s also worth noting that ice cream and other dairy based desserts have not had the same reprieve. The higher sugar and fat content, along with lower protein, means that they miss out on the heart-healthy tick.

The cost of an unhealthy diet

Unhealthy eating habits are a key risk factor when it comes to poor outcomes for our health and wellbeing. A poor diet accounts for 65.5% of the total burden of heart disease.

And it’s not just our hearts that would love us more if we ate a healthy diet. If Australians ate the recommended daily intake of vegetables, it would save $1.4 billion in health spending, based on 2015-16 estimates.

A healthy diet consists of whole foods

Heart Foundation Director of Prevention, Julie Anne Mitchell, said in the same statement 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,” Ms Mitchell said.

“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.”

How to easily eat a healthy diet

Eating a healthy diet doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are a few key things you can do to instantly improve your plate.
  1. 1. Eat more plant-based foods including vegetables, fruit, whole grains and plant-based protein from legumes, tofu and tempeh
  2. 2. Eat more fish and seafood and less meat and other animal-based proteins
  3. 3. Limit processed foods and refined sugar
Get more tips and tricks by reading 5 easy ways to make healthy eating work for you

You can read the full media release on the Heart Foundation website