The Heart Foundation has removed its restriction for healthy Australians on eating full-fat milk, cheese and yoghurt. Evidence showed consuming full-fat diary did not increase or decrease your risks for heart disease or stroke.

The Heart Foundation in Australia has removed its restrictions on using full fat milk, yoghurt and cheeses in new eating guidelines published today (local time).

After a two-year review, the Heart Foundation has updated its eating guidelines and said full fat diary consumption provides healthy nutrients, such as calcium.

It recommends less than 350 grams a week of unprocessed beef, lamb, pork and veal in your diet.

“That’s around one to three lean red-meat meals a week, like a Sunday roast and a beef stir-fry,” said Heart Foundation Chief Medical Advisor, cardiologist Professor Garry Jennings in a published statement.

“Processed or deli meats should be limited, as they have been consistently linked to a higher risk of heart disease and other chronic conditions.

“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 yoghurt. 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, yoghurt and cheese for a healthy person, as they also provide healthy nutrients like calcium.”

Jennings said limits apply to new advice around dairy and eggs.

“For people who suffer high cholesterol or heart disease, we recommend unflavoured reduced-fat milk, yoghurt and cheese and eating less than seven eggs per week,” he said.

“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 yoghurt does not raise bad LDL cholesterol levels as much as butter or other dairy products.”

Poor diet is the leading contributor to heart disease in Australia, accounting for 65.5% 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 A$1.4 billion in health spending, based on 2015-16 estimates, the Heart Foundation said.

Heart Foundation Director of Prevention, Julie Anne Mitchell, said 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.

“Our focus needs to be squarely on promoting healthy foods over unhealthy foods, with a comprehensive national approach, grounded in evidence, that helps make the healthy choice the easy choice.”

Heart Foundation dietitian Sian Armstrong said 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.”