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Full-fat dairy is OK, says the Heart Foundation, but watch your meat intake

Blog post | 28 Aug 2019

The Heart Foundation no longer advises against full-fat milk, yoghurt and cheese for healthy Australians, but does warn against consuming too much red meat. The foundation has also removed a limit on the number of eggs a person should eat per week as part of a healthy diet.

The new advice, released last week, is based on a substantial review of current evidence.

Who can eat full-fat dairy?

It's OK for healthy people to consume unflavoured full-fat milk, yoghurt and cheese, since the Heart Foundation found this type of dairy has a 'neutral' effect on the risk of heart disease and stroke. In other words, full-fat diary won't increase or decrease your risk if you are otherwise healthy.

Dairy foods are also an excellent source of calcium and protein.

However, people who have high cholesterol or heart disease should avoid full-fat dairy and consume unflavoured, reduced-fat milk, yoghurt and cheese.

But the new findings are not permission to devour butter and ice cream, warns Heart Foundation Chief Medical Advisor, cardiologist Professor Garry Jennings. "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," Professor Jennings explains.

Eggs contain 11 essential amino acids, as well as vitamins A, E and B12, selenium, choline and iron. One egg contains about 6g of protein.

Can we eat red meat?

You can enjoy red meat, but not by the truckload.

The Heart Foundation has set the ideal limit for unprocessed, lean beef, lamb and veal, as well as pork, at 350g per week — the equivalent of 1 to 3 meals such as a roast or a beef stir-fry.

The evidence indicates that eating too much red meat does increase the risk of heart disease and stroke and may lead to weight gain.

Processed or deli meats (such as ham and bacon) should also be limited because they have been consistently linked to a higher risk of heart disease and other chronic conditions, says Professor Jennings.

"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," he explains.

How many eggs should you eat per week?

As with dairy, the evidence suggests that eggs don't increase or decrease the risk of heart disease or stroke in healthy people. The Heart Foundation does not recommend a limit on egg consumption for healthy Australians.

However, there is evidence of risk for heart disease in people with type 2 diabetes. A maximum of 7 eggs per week is therefore recommended for those people.

For more information

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