In reality, all foods can fit within a healthy and varied eating pattern. Rather than focusing on foods to shun, I encourage people to look at the foods that should make up the most of what we eat, as well as those that we can enjoy in small amounts.

Most Australians need to reduce the amount of “discretionary foods”—processed meals and snacks that have little to no nutritional value, such as cakes, biscuits, ice-cream, fried foods, crisps, pies, fast food, processed meats, soft drinks and alcohol.

While enjoying the occasional treat is perfectly fine, foods from the five core food groups should be prioritised. These include grain foods (such as bread, breakfast cereal, rice and pasta), vegetables, fruit, dairy and dairy-free alternatives
(reduced-fat varieties), and protein foods such as legumes, eggs and nuts.

If there was one food that is currently receiving a lot more credibility than it warrants, then that would be coconut oil. In a review of coconut oil and heart health, the National Heart Foundation of Australia found that coconut oil is not as healthful as commonly claimed, and the evidence to support adding coconut oil into the diet is limited and unconvincing.

At the end of the day, coconut oil is a saturated fat and consumption of saturated fats is known to increase the risk of heart disease. I would recommend replacing coconut oil in your cooking with a vegetable oil such as extra virgin olive oil, which is rich in antioxidants and helps keep our hearts healthy.

For more ideas on how to get the balance right, check out the helpful information on the Eat For Health website.

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Any advice given is general in nature and is not intended as a substitute for medical advice and must not be relied upon as such. For any healthcare advice, always consult a healthcare practitioner.

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