Guys - Five Cholesterol Myths and What to Eat Instead
I'm betting you knew there was a bit of an over-emphasis (borderline obsession) about cholesterol. Am I right?
Well, before we go jumping the gun on this, let's make sure you and I are 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 making its way through your blood is more important than just how much of it there is overall. In fact, can have opposite effects on your arteries and heart depending on what it's combined with. Yup, you read that right - opposite!
So cholesterol is just one component of a compound that floats around your blood. These compounds contain cholesterol as well as fats and unique 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 their “badness”).
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 merely 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 a critical 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 cholesterol increases your bad cholesterol
Most of the cholesterol in your blood is made by your liver. It's actually not from the cholesterol you eat. That why cholesterol medications are effective. They block an enzyme in your liver (HMG Co-A reductase, to be exact) 'cause that's where it's made!
What you eat still can affect how much cholesterol your liver produces. After a cholesterol-rich meal, your liver doesn't need to make as much.
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.
People with too-low levels of cholesterol have increased risks of death from other non-heart-related issues like certain types of cancers, as well as suicide.
Myth #5: Drugs are the only way to get the right cholesterol balance
This is not a suggestion that you dump the drugs. In fact, you shouldn't start or stop any medications without talking with your doctor.
However, here's the curious thing; while drugs can undoubtedly 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 ways to lower your cholesterol with diet is to eat lots of fruits and veggies. I mean lots, say up to 10 servings a day. Every day.
You can (should?) also exercise, lose weight, stop smoking, and eat better quality fats. That means fatty fish, avocados and olive oil. And, ditch those over-processed hydrogenated “trans” fats.
Now, if you're looking to make a change yourself - whether you're ready to lose fat, build confidence, gain strength, get off meds, have more energy, whatever... I'm here and ready to help.
Consider joining my Performance Plus Coaching Program, or feel free to book a free Strategy Session with me for an honest no sweat, no pressure, and no bull conversation on the best options for moving toward a better you.