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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 in a heart-healthy diet.

However the Heart Foundation says many Australians need to rethink how much red meat they’re eating, as evidence indicates 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.

“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.”

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.

Poor diet is the leading contributor to heart disease, accounting for 65.5 per cent 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.

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