Following a substantial review of current evidence, the Australian Heart Foundation has issued new advice on meat, dairy and eggs.

Unflavoured full-fat milk, yogurt and cheese are have been given the green light and the limit has lifted on the number of eggs that can be eaten per week in a heart-healthy diet. But red meat intake should be reduced as it increases risks for heart disease and stroke and may lead to weight gain.

Heart Foundation 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.

“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.

Jennings says that while there were differing opinions on dairy products, the Foundation has lifted the restriction for full-fat milk, cheese and yogurt.

“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.

“Given this, we believe there is not enough evidence to support a restriction on full-fat milk, yogurt and cheese for a healthy person, as they also provide healthy nutrients like calcium.”

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, yogurt 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 yogurt does not raise bad LDL cholesterol levels as much as butter or other dairy products.

“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,” Professor Jennings said.

Heart Foundation dietitian Sian Armstrong said when it comes to eating, the big picture matters, and choosing a variety of healthy foods, regularly over time, is key.

“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.”

The updated advice comes after the Heart Foundation commissioned the Sax Institute to investigate the scientific evidence regarding unprocessed red meat, poultry and heart health. Heart Foundation policy and nutrition staff reviewed scientific evidence into dairy and eggs. The Heart Foundation convened an advisory group of cardiology and nutrition experts to discuss this evidence and advise on a final position.

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