No fads, no fuss, no ‘diets’: new healthy eating advice

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No fads, no fuss, no 'diets': new healthy eating advice. Table spread with food.
The Heart Foundation urges Australians to turn their back on fad diets and instead take a long-term approach to healthy eating that focuses on healthy foods and how to combine them into healthy, delicious meals.

All is not lost for Australians who enjoyed big breakfasts and long lunches over the weekend, but a ‘fad diet’ is not the way to cure post-indulgence regrets, says the Heart Foundation.

Following a major new review of the health evidence for several of the most common eating patterns, Heart Foundation nutritionist Beth Meertens urged Australians to turn their back on fad diets and instead take a long-term approach to healthy eating that focuses on healthy foods and how to combine them into healthy, delicious meals.

“People don’t just eat individual nutrients such as fat, sugar or carbs – people eat food, and foods contain many different nutrients,” she said.

To help Australians say goodbye to fad diets, the Heart Foundation commissioned a major review into the international evidence on healthy eating patterns. It found that the eating patterns with the best outcomes for heart health all shared the same characteristics, which have been used as the basis for the Heart Foundation’s new Healthy Eating Principles .

The new principles say that you can improve your heart health by focusing on a few simple things:

1. Plenty of fruit, vegetables and wholegrains.

2. Variety of healthy protein sources including fish and seafood, lean meat and poultry, legumes, nuts and seeds.

3. Reduced fat dairy such as unflavoured milk and yoghurt, and cheese.

4. Healthy fat choices with nuts, seeds, avocados, olives and their oils for cooking.

5. Herbs and spices to flavour foods instead of adding salt.

“By eating like this, your diet will be naturally high in the right nutrients such as fibre, antioxidants and unsaturated fats, and low in nutrients that are harmful to heart health such as saturated and trans-fat, salt and sugar,” Ms Meertens said.

“Rather than fixating on diets which focus on single nutrients or cutting out specific foods, people should focus on the foods that they can eat and enjoy, and how to build those foods into a pattern of eating that is sustainable over the long term.”

The Heart Foundation-commissioned review looked at specific eating patterns and their impact on high blood pressure, blood fats and weight. It revealed that:

  • The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) – which focuses on core foods (vegetables, fruits and low-fat dairy, moderate amounts of whole grains, fish, poultry and nuts) that are low in salt to reduce hypertension – showed the strongest evidence for the prevention of heart disease. It was also found to decrease the risk of death from heart disease, heart failure and stroke in healthy adults, as well as reducing the risk of high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
  • The cholesterol-lowering Portfolio dietary pattern – a vegetarian eating pattern rich in fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, nuts and plant sterols – had the strongest evidence for reduction in risk factors for heart disease such as high cholesterol in people who already have heart disease.
  • The Mediterranean and Prudent diets also showed substantial evidence for lowering the risk of heart disease across all people.
  • The Portfolio, calorie restricted, andvegetarian dietary patterns were linked to improvements in some risks for heart disease.
  • The Nordic diet and nutrient-focused diets including low-carbohydrate,high-protein, and low GI diets were linked to some improvements in different risks for heart disease but the body of evidence was considered weak.

More than 2.3 million Australians aged 15 years and over are on a diet in any one year, according to the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data.

“If we think less about what we need to cut out, and more about how we can combine the basic healthy foods into healthy meals, it becomes a healthier way to think about and enjoy food,” says Ms Meertens.

To learn more about how to eat for heart health go to the Heart Foundation website at , where you can find more information on our Healthy Eating Principles as well as new heart-healthy recipes which help to put delicious, healthy foods together into simple meals. Our newest cookbook "Simple and Affordable" includes recipes that take less than 20 minutes to prepare.