What We Get Wrong About Cholesterol and Diet

There are a lot of misunderstandings about cholesterol. For one thing, not all cholesterol in your body is bad. LDL cholesterol builds up in your arteries and is dangerous, but HDL cholesterol actually gathers up the bad kind and helps dispose of it. Many people also believe that our cholesterol levels come from our diet, even though 75 percent is produced by our own liver. And, there is the question of where dietary cholesterol is coming from. While you may think that how much cholesterol you eat would determine how much cholesterol is in your blood, fat plays a more significant role.

According to an analysis of research from the American Heart Association, unless people ate three times more cholesterol than the average amount, it didn’t impact blood cholesterol levels. There is no recommended daily amount of cholesterol, not because we shouldn’t eat it at all but because we don’t need to limit ourselves. We already naturally eat a safe amount of cholesterol, and it’s not considered a “nutrient of public health concern.” But, saturated fat did influence the amount of cholesterol in the body. Saturated fats are things like butter, lard and coconut oil.

Preventive cardiologist Dr. Stephen Devries explained that when you eat cholesterol, your body actually slows its own production. But it doesn’t react the same way to fat. In fact, it goes in the opposite direction: the body increases the production of cholesterol. “Saturated fat is a bigger culprit for raising blood cholesterol in general than dietary cholesterol,” he said.

Saturated fats raise both LDL and HDL cholesterol levels. Trans fats, solid fats made from vegetables, raise unhealthy LDL cholesterol levels while diminishing HDL cholesterol in your body. That makes trans fats the most dangerous of all the fats for cholesterol.
Many people think of eggs when they think of high cholesterol foods to avoid. Eggs are an interesting food because scientists go back and forth on whether or not they are healthy every few years. When it comes to cholesterol, they are quite high. But, the bigger question is, what fat are you cooking them in?

As a general rule, we don’t like to cut any food out of our diet. We think it’s unwise to say anything is 100 percent off-limits. But, we do believe this research shows that we should all think about what fats we use when we are cooking. If you are a huge fan of butter, you might want to think about using it more sparingly and adding more unsaturated vegetable oils into your cooking. You might want to try using butter as your spread and extra virgin olive oil as your cooking fat. Your cholesterol levels may thank you!

Banner image: Sorin Gheorghita via Unsplash
May 14, 2021

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