Heart Foundation urges against paleo diet
The National Heart Foundation of Australia has urged Australians not to go on any “fad diet” that eliminates any particular food group, including the paleo diet.
The paleo diet, which the Heart Foundation said seemed to be very topical at the moment, in general appears to encourage people to avoid carbohydrates and dairy and eat large amounts of meat and saturated fats.
The Heart Foundation said that while there were elements of paleo diets that are healthy– such as limiting salt and eating a diet with seafood, vegetables, fruits, and nuts – this type of diet often “unnecessarily excludes important parts of a healthy eating pattern such as wholegrains, fruit and milk, cheese, yoghurt and alternatives as identified in the Government’s Australian Dietary Guidelines”.
Heart Foundation’s National CEO Mary Barry said the Heart Foundation does not endorse or recommend any “fad, novelty or crash diets” especially for those with heart disease. Instead, she said the Heart Foundation encouraged people to “follow healthy eating patterns that are backed by strong evidence”.
“The key to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is to enjoy a variety of foods and be physically active every day,” Ms Barry said. “We encourage all Australians to stay healthy by eating a wide variety of foods from all food groups,” she said.
“Currently Australians are not eating high quality diets in line with the national guidelines,” Ms Barry said. “The recent Australian Health Survey found that more people eat a biscuit each day than fruit, and more than a third of people’s energy is coming from ‘sometimes’ foods,” she said.
Ms Barry said the survey showed almost 70 per cent of adults were eating biscuits and cakes daily, while only 7 per cent were eating enough fruit and vegetables daily.
“In view of such appalling statistics, the focus should on getting more people to follow the dietary guidelines,” Ms Barry said. “Demonising carbohydrates or grains is not helpful, as many foods with carbohydrates are a good source of energy, while providing essential nutrients and fibre,” she said.
Ms Barry said that advice such as ‘avoid all grains or all dairy’ “only ensures people will miss out on vital nutrients, and adds confusion to an already noisy world filled with fad diets and empty promises of rapid weight loss”.
“It’s important to understand that all foods are needed each day for good health, and giving people challenging diets only sets them up to fail and head straight into overindulging,” Ms Barry said. “Fad diets are not the way to achieve or maintain a healthy weight – it may sound a bit boring, but the key is to enjoy a variety of foods and be active every day,” she said.
The Heart Foundation recommended people choose:
- mainly plant-based foods, such as vegetables, fruit, legumes (e.g. chick peas, kidney beans, baked beans and lentils) and plain unsalted nuts
- wholegrain cereal foods, such as bread, pasta, breakfast cereals, rice and other grains (e.g. quinoa, oats etc)
- moderate amounts of lean unprocessed meats, skinless poultry and reduced, low or no fat dairy products
- oily fish – include a 150 gram serve in two or three meals per week
- good fats – include avocado, plain unsalted nuts and plant-based oils, such as canola, sunflower, soybean, olive, sesame and peanut oils
- mainly water to drink.
- take-away foods, such as pastries, pies, pizza, fried fish, hamburgers, hot chips and creamy pasta dishes to once a week or less
- sugary, fatty and salty snack foods, such as crisps, cakes, pastries, biscuits, lollies and chocolate, to once a week or less
The Heart Foundation said the paleo diet did not seem to have a clear and consistent definition, which “makes healthfulness claims of such a diet hard to verify”.