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Cholesterol Myths Uncovered

According to the Centers for Disease Control And Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death for citizens of the United States—and high cholesterol can be a major contributing factor. Yet there are many myths associated with cholesterol, leaving many people confused about what to eat and what to avoid. Here are some myths and facts about eating a low-fat low cholesterol diet.

Myth: Avoid foods with high levels of dietary cholesterol.

Fact: Dietary cholesterol is not the problem.

The American Heart Association recommends a limit of 300 mg of cholesterol a day. But in Canada, the focus is on lowering saturated fats and trans fat to keep blood cholesterol levels in check.

The truth is, only some of the cholesterol in food ends up in your bloodstream. When cholesterol levels rise, your body actually compensates by producing less. Therefore, it’s alright to eat foods like eggs in moderation as a source of protein and unsaturated fat.

Myth: Check food labels and only purchase foods with 0 mg of cholesterol.

Fact: Saturated fats and trans fats are the real issue.

Along the same lines, it’s important to remember that dietary cholesterol is just one contributor to high cholesterol. The biggest problem is a high-fat diet. Packaged foods contain saturated fats and trans fats, which have the biggest impact on LDL (“bad cholesterol”). A low-fat, low-cholesterol diet is ideal, but you don’t need to stay away from cholesterol permanently.

Myth: The cholesterol in eggs and butter will clog your arteries.

Fact: There is very little cholesterol or saturated fat in arterial plaques.

Only 2/3 of arterial plaque contains unsaturated fat, and 1/2 of it is polyunsaturated. Moreover, the more polyunsaturated fat in plaque, the more likely it will rupture, a primary cause of heart attacks.

Myth: Our bodies don’t need cholesterol.

Fact: Cholesterol plays an important role in bodily processes.

While high cholesterol can be dangerous, our bodies still need it. Cholesterol is the parent molecule for hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. It also helps the immune system and insulates nerve cells in the brain. A low fat low cholesterol diet can give your body what it needs for optimum health.

Myth: High cholesterol levels cause heart disease.

Fact: LDL is the culprit—and only in certain circumstances.

The primary cause of heart disease is inflammation. When the lining of the arteries becomes inflamed due to injury, low-density lipoproteins (LDL) particles get trapped. As a result, inflammation increases and the damage can turn into plaque. Therefore, it’s the LDL cholesterol in cases of inflammation.

While you don’t need sky-high levels of cholesterol in your diet, you don’t have to stop eating eggs and butter either. A low-fat, low-cholesterol diet can be the perfect recipe for a healthy life.