Five Cholesterol Myths and What to Eat Instead

Five Cholesterol Myths and What to Eat Instead
June 6, 2017

I’m jumping right on a few of the most damaging cholesterol myths because I make sure we’re on the same page when it comes to what exactly cholesterol is.

Myth #1: “Cholesterol” is cholesterol

While cholesterol is an actual molecule what it is bound to while it’s floating through your blood is what’s more important than just how much of it there is overall. In fact depending on what it’s combined with it can have opposite effects on your arteries and heart. Yes, opposite!

So cholesterol is just one component of a compound that floats around your blood. These compounds contain cholesterol as well as fats and special proteins called “lipoproteins”.

They’re grouped into two main categories:

  • HDL: High Density Lipoprotein (AKA “good” cholesterol) that “cleans up” some of those infamous “arterial plaques” and transports cholesterol back to the liver.
  • LDL: Low Density Lipoprotein (AKA “bad” cholesterol) that transports cholesterol from the liver (and is the kind found to accumulate in arteries and become easily oxidized hence its bad rep.)

And yes, it’s even more complicated than this. Each of these categories is further broken down into subcategories which can also be measured in a blood test.

So “cholesterol” isn’t simply cholesterol because it has very different effects on your body depending on which other molecules it’s bound to in your blood and what it is actually doing there.

Myth #2: Cholesterol is bad

Cholesterol is absolutely necessary for your body to produce critical things like vitamin D when your skin is exposed to the sun, your sex hormones (e.g. estrogen and testosterone), as well as bile to help you absorb dietary fats. Not to mention that it’s incorporated into the membranes of your cells.

Talk about an important molecule!

The overall amount of cholesterol in your blood (AKA “total cholesterol”) isn’t nearly as important as how much of each kind you have in your blood.

While way too much LDL cholesterol as compared with HDL (the LDL:HDL ratio) may be associated with an increased risk of heart disease it is absolutely not the only thing to consider for heart health.

Myth #3: Eating fats such as the saturated fats in coconut or fatty avocados and nut butters increases your bad cholesterol

Not really, but an unfit lifestyle of processed food combined with too much sugar combined with empty carbs and excessive animal protein will.

A large meta-analysis involving close to 350,000 participants found no association between plant based saturated fat such as coconut and other plant based fats such as avocados or nuts and heart disease. Another study done in Japan that followed 58,000 men for an average of 14 years found no association between plant based saturated fat intake and heart disease, and an inverse association between these fats and stroke (i.e. those who ate more of these fats had a lower risk of stroke).

Myth #4: Your cholesterol should be as low as possible

As with almost everything in health and wellness there’s a balance that needs to be maintained. There are very few extremes that are going to serve you well.

In rare cases having a very low level of low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad”) cholesterol or a very low total cholesterol level has been associated with some physical and mental health problems such as increased risk of death from other non-heart-related issues like certain types of cancers, as well as severe depression.

Myth #5: Drugs are the only way to get a good cholesterol balance

Don’t start or stop any medications without talking with your doctor.

And while drugs can certainly lower the “bad” LDL cholesterol they don’t seem to be able to raise the “good” HDL cholesterol all that well.

Guess what does?

Nutrition and exercise, baby!

One of the most impactful and simple ways to lower your cholesterol with diet is to eat massive amounts of fruits and veggies. I mean lots, say up to 10 servings a day. Every day.

Don’t worry the recipe below should help you add at least another few servings to your day but don’t hesitate to check all the recipes in my blog and FB page at Facebook.com/StreamlinedHealth.com. I’m on a very serious mission to get you healthy.

You can (should?) also exercise, lose weight, stop smoking, and eat better quality fats. That means fatty fish, avocados and olive oil. Ditch those over-processed hydrogenated “trans” fats present in packaged foods, even packaged food that says “no trans-fat” on the lable.

Summary:

The science of cholesterol and heart health is very complex and we’re learning more every day. My message to you is that you don’t need to be as afraid of it as many folks are. Remember there is a lot you can do from a nutrition and lifestyle perspective to improve your cholesterol level. Reach out if you want to chat more about this subject, I love to hear from you and address any concern or question you might have.

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Recipe (Dressing to go with your salad): Orange Hemp Seed Dressing

Makes about ¾ cup

½ cup hemp seeds
½ cup orange juice
1 clove of garlic, peeled
dash salt and/or pepper

Blend all ingredients together until creamy.

Serve on top of your favourite salad or steamed veggies and Enjoy!

Tip: Store extra in airtight container in the fridge. Will keep for about a week.

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References:

All About Cholesterol: Understanding nutrition’s most controversial molecule.

How to raise your HDL cholesterol

Top 9 Biggest Myths About Dietary Fat and Cholesterol

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Posted in Health/Fitness, Recipes by Mari Pizarro