The truth about cholesterol

When you’re concerned about maintaining good health, one of the things you might look into is regulating your blood cholesterol levels.

Why should you care about cholesterol? Well, different types of cholesterol can increase or decrease your risk of heart disease: high cholesterol is a major health issue that a growing number of people have to face.

Low-density lipoproteins (LDL) cholesterol hardens the arteries whereas high-density lipoproteins (HDL) cholesterol moves away from the arteries. Because of that, LDL cholesterol is related to a higher risk of heart disease and HDL is related to a lower risk.

It’s important to note that cholesterol is not all bad.

We need cholesterol because it plays a role in building adrenal and sex hormones in the body, in addition to being a major part of brain and nervous tissue.

Humans produce enough cholesterol in the body that we don’t actually need any extra cholesterol from food sources.

Cholesterol is only produced in animals, which means that plant-based foods do not contain dietary cholesterol: only animals and animal-based products contain dietary cholesterol.

That being said, dietary cholesterol has little to no impact on our blood cholesterol levels. So, that means that even when you eat foods high in cholesterol – such as whole eggs – you don’t have to worry about it affecting your blood cholesterol levels unless you are already at risk for heart disease.

Eating real, whole foods that are high in dietary cholesterol, such as eggs and shrimp, will have less of an impact on blood cholesterol levels than fast food or heavily processed food, which might be lower in dietary cholesterol

Blood cholesterol is linked to metabolism and trans fats more than it is to dietary cholesterol. Trans fats are only found in processed foods.

Eating real, whole foods that are high in dietary cholesterol, such as eggs and shrimp, will have less of an impact on blood cholesterol levels than fast food or heavily processed food, which might be lower in dietary cholesterol.

In Nina Planck’s book Real Food, she notes that 22 different countries across the globe were studied to see if there was any correlation between the amount of fat in the traditional diets of these countries and the death rate from heart disease.

The results turned out to be completely random, proving that the amount of animal and animal products in traditional diets doesn’t relate to an increase in blood cholesterol levels.

Real food that contains cholesterol is also rich in many other nutrients, including vitamin B12, iron, omega-3 fats and complete protein.

It is the combination of each of these nutrients that makes the food so powerful. We need the entire real food as a whole with every nutrient it contains – cholesterol and all – to fully reap the benefits.

Eat eggs in good conscience, knowing that they aren’t likely to contribute to health problems and are, in fact, a highly nutritious food source. But avoid processed “fake foods” at all costs, because they may cause your LDL cholesterol levels – and your risk of heart disease – to skyrocket.

Real food contains the nutrients your body needs to keep everything in good working condition: processed food is what causes trouble.

Sagan Morrow is a freelance writer and editor. She writes a health and wellness blog at www.livingintherealworld.net/healthy.

Published in Volume 65, Number 13 of The Uniter (November 25, 2010)

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