Nutrition Australia’s response to the Heart Foundation’s updated dietary advice for heart health

In August 2019, the Heart Foundation released updated dietary advice on the consumption of red meat, dairy, and eggs in light of revised evidence on how these foods impact heart disease risk.

The Heart Foundation’s revised dietary advice applies to a heart healthy diet, and not an overall healthy diet for the general population, as detailed in the federal government’s Australian Dietary Guidelines.
 

Nutrition Australia applauds the Heart Foundation for reviewing the latest evidence on the impact of diet and heart disease, and for revising its advice to reflect the findings.
 

We agree with the Heart Foundation’s position that "heart-healthy eating is not about one specific food or nutrient; it’s about regularly eating a variety of healthy foods over time."
 

Nutrition Australia believes that the Heart Foundation’s revised advice on red meat, eggs and dairy for a heart healthy diet continues to support the general recommendations on how to have a healthy diet according the Australian Dietary Guidelines.

It also doesn’t change our advice on how to have a healthy and balanced diet which we have been providing for nearly 40 years through the Healthy Eating Pyramid, which includes:

  • Enjoy a variety of foods from the five food groups
  • Choose mostly plant-based foods
  • Limit added saturated fats, sugar and salt
  • Choose water as your main drink

Looking at the bigger picture

Latest intake data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) tells us that on average, more than 30% of the average Australians daily energy intake (kilojoules) comes from ‘discretionary’ foods and drinks like confectionery, cakes and biscuits, deep fried foods, sugary drinks and alcohol.

However, less than 4% of Australians eat enough vegetables each day. In fact, the average person eats around half their recommended five serves of vegetables a day.

For most Australians, cutting back on discretionary foods and drinks, and enjoying more foods from the five food groups (in particular, plant foods like fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds) will make the greatest difference for most people’s overall health.

 

How does the Heart Foundation’s revised advice align to general healthy eating guidelines?

Eggs

The Heart Foundation has removed a limit on the maximum intake of eggs for the general population, but limits eggs for people with heart disease or type 2 diabetes to 7 eggs a week, which remains consistent with the Australian Dietary Guidelines’ recommendation for this food group.
 

Red meat

The Heart Foundation recommends consuming no more than 350g of lean red meat per week for a heart healthy diet, which fits within the Australian Dietary Guidelines’ recommended upper limit of 455g a week for overall health.

Nutrition Australia also recommends having a variety of meat and non-meat options from the ‘lean meats and alternatives’ food group, such as red meat, poultry, fish, legumes, eggs, nuts and seeds.
 

Dairy

The Heart Foundation states the saturated fat in nutritious dairy products (i.e., milk, cheese and yoghurt) has a neutral effect on cholesterol and risk of cardiovascular disease, and it no longer advises choosing reduced fat varieties of milk, yoghurt and cheese over full fat varieties to reduce the risk of developing heart disease. However, individuals with raised LDL-cholesterol or existing heart disease are advised to choose reduced fat products.

(Other dairy-based products such as butter, cream, and ice cream are not recommended as part of a heart healthy diet, as they can have a high saturated fat content and few beneficial nutrients.)

In practice, this still aligns with Nutrition Australia’s advice to “Choose reduced fat options of these foods to limit excess kilojoules from saturated fat”, as reduced fat dairy still offers the same nutritional benefits but with fewer kilojoules (if that is a concern to the consumer). This means that individuals without raised LDL-cholesterol or existing heart disease can feel comfortable selecting full fat and reduced fat varieties of milk, yoghurt and cheese according to their personal preferences.

Nutrition Australia still recommends full fat milk for children under 2 years old.

 

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