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The first thing we must understand is that food is our friend, not our jailer. And although, cholesterol has become an ever increasing business for both the medical and food industry, it has also generated a wave of awareness about the importance of food. It’s also birthed many myths about “cholesterol lowering diets” that promote unnecessary and ineffective restrictions. To help combat this misinformation, I’m going to go over 4 cholesterol lies that have kept you from eating in peace.
Lie # 1: Cholesterol is bad for your health
Contrary to popular belief, cholesterol is one of the most important fats for our bodies. It’s essential for the overall function of our bodies thus guaranteeing that everything is working properly.
- Indispensable for the physical integrity of the nervous system and cell membranes.
- It’s necessary to produce steroid-hormones such as cortisol, corticoid, and sex hormones like estrogen and testosterone.
- Helps for Vitamin D
- Helps in digesting fats, and with the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins such as A, D, E and K (being the raw material of bile)
Lie # 2. A low-fat diet reduces Blood Cholesterol
Although cholesterol is a type of fat, reducing the consumption of fats in your overall diet does NOT guarantee the reduction of cholesterol blood levels. This is yet another restriction based on a myth that many people fall prey to, then they get frustrated when they aren’t seeing their desired results. This is because they aren’t considering other factors:
- They replace the energy usually provided by fats with those of carbohydrates (many times super over processed), generating additional complications such as increased blood triglyceride levels and weight gain.
- People stick to unhealthy habits like smoking and a sedentary lifestyle which aid in imbalanced blood cholesterol levels.
- People ignore or don’t consider a family predisposition to hypercholesterolemia (where your predetermined genes determine the production of cholesterol in the body) later submitting themselves to unnecessary and restrictive diets.
Why is it important to have a balance of HDL and LDL (HDL “good cholesterol” and LDL “bad cholesterol”) ? It must be noted that both of them are necessary for our bodies to function properly. HDL carries excess cholesterol to the liver to later be eliminated. Whereas, LDL does just the opposite and transports the cholesterol from the liver to the other parts of the body to help everything function as mentioned in point 1. The complication comes when the two aren’t balanced, generating an accumulation of cholesterol in the blood.
Lie # 3.Avoiding foods with Cholesterol lowers your blood levels.
This sentence is as pointless as saying “If I eat lettuce, I’ll lose weight”. If that were true, there wouldn’t be so many cases of high cholesterol around the world. Keep in mind that a good portion of cholesterol is made by our own Liver making our lifestyle (physical activity, balanced diet, smoking…) more important than the quantity of cholesterol in our diet.
For example, Fish contains cholesterol but also provides us with beneficial fats that help us control our blood levels and improve our cardiovascular health. While there are products like pastries that don’t have cholesterol but rather have trans fats from margarine or palm oil that later affect blood cholesterol levels in the future.
What about the evil egg? Although it’s true that chicken eggs are high in cholesterol it is well documented that the effects on our blood cholesterol level from eggs is minimal especially when compared to trans fats. In fact, researchers have stated that the majority of healthy people can eat up to 7 eggs per week without increasing the risk of heart disease.
Lie# 4. Having low cholesterol levels is good for the body
Any kind of extreme is bad, this case being no exception. While having elevated levels of cholesterol in the blood is associated with an increased risk for cardiovascular diseases, having low levels is also unhealthy and not good for the body.
As we explained in Myth #1, cholesterol is necessary for our bodies. Several studies have shown their overall value, both HDL and LDL. If either one is low, they can be associated with the development of health related problems such as cancer, hemorrhagic stroke, depression and anxiety.
As always when it comes to health matters, “shortcuts don’t work”. In the end, the best way to keep your cholesterol levels balanced is to work on your habits and and start adopting a healthier lifestyle based on:
- Natural food with a good amount of fiber, eating fruits, vegetables and seeds.
- Increase the amount of fish you eat.
- Choose polyunsaturated fats such as olive oil, avocado and nuts.
- Stay physically active.
- Quit Smoking .
Isn’t it interesting how the final recommendations are always the same? Let’s stop believing once and for all that shortcuts, diets and miracle products work. Let’s start adopting healthy habits, listen to our body, and feed it foods which make our bodies feel good so that we may live longer and better.
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