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Why your heart doesn't love fad diets (and what to eat instead)

The reminder to steer clear of fad diets and focus on healthier options comes as many people resolve to overhaul their eating habits in the aftermath of the festive season.

Heart Foundation Director of Health Strategy, Julie Anne Mitchell, says diets promoting unrealistic weight loss or restricting food groups and nutrients can be a recipe for disaster for your health.

“The latest diet trends are on everyone’s lips each January, but we don’t recommend ‘quick fix’ fad diets or cutting out whole food groups, as we need a variety of foods each day to maintain good health, manage our weight and reduce our risks for chronic diseases,” Ms Mitchell said.

“Instead, we’re encouraging people to make small changes for a healthier lifestyle and think nutritious and delicious by filling up on plenty of colourful fruit, vegetables and wholegrains, a variety of healthy proteins and fats, with smaller amounts of animal-based foods." 

“Looking at the whole plate is also important. Eggs served with spinach, mushrooms and wholegrain bread, for example, will be a better choice than eggs with bacon and white bread.”

The Heart Foundation would like to see everyone tuck into more vegetables this year, with a staggering portion – more than 90% – of us not getting the recommended five serves a day.

“Adding just one extra serve of vegetables to your daily intake has heart health benefits, so eating more greens is a great goal. If all Australians met the vegetables target, it could cut the risk of cardiovascular diseases by about 16% and save $1.4 billion in health spending,” Ms Mitchell said.

Eating more plant-based foods for good heart health formed part of the Heart Foundation’s new dietary recommendations, unveiled in August following an extensive review of evidence. Here are some tips on how to up your veg intake. 

The updated advice added a limit of less than 350 grams a week for unprocessed red meats and lifted the limit on how many eggs healthy Australians can eat in a week. For people with heart disease, high cholesterol or Type 2 diabetes, it’s best to eat fewer than seven eggs a week.

Unflavoured, full-fat milk, cheese and yoghurt are back on the menu for healthy people if they prefer it, while those with high cholesterol or heart disease should stick to reduced-fat dairy.

Poor diet is the leading contributor to heart disease, so healthy eating and drinking is a vital part of protecting your ticker,” Ms Mitchell said. “You can start the year on a heart-healthy note by enjoying a variety of nutritious dishes, limiting highly processed foods and alcohol, being smoke-free and looking for ways to get moving daily.

What a healthy plate looks like 

  • As a guide, half your plate should be filled with a variety of colourful fruit and vegetables.
  • A quarter should be wholegrains, such as wholegrain bread or rice, or cereal grains such as buckwheat or corn.
  • The rest should be made up of healthy proteins – choose from beans, lentils, fish and seafood, with smaller amounts of eggs and lean poultry. If choosing red meat, make it lean and limit to 1-3 meals a week. Unflavoured milk, cheese or yoghurt can be included in a healthy meal or as a snack.


Want more information?

Our nutrition fact sheets, created by accredited dietitians, provide the latest nutrition and lifestyle information to help you understand which foods are the best to eat. Click here to see the heart health nutrition fact sheets

This article was originally published in Heart Foundation, which can be found here.