Over the years, cholesterol has gained a bad reputation in
the world of health and nutrition. But like they say, you can't always believe
everything you hear. So before you swear off those scrambled eggs forever, take
a look at these popular cholesterol myths, and the truths behind them.
Cholesterol Myth #1: Cholesterol is bad for your heart
High cholesterol can increase your risk of heart disease by
causing plaque buildup in your arteries, but all cholesterol in not bad. In
fact, your body produces about 75% of the amount circulating in your
bloodstream, and this is in part determined by your genetics. Cholesterol is important to the functioning of
cells, and many hormones are derived from cholesterol. Truth is, all
cholesterol is not created equal. There are ‘bad’ cholesterols and good
cholesterols; it is important to distinguish which is which and to try to
minimize your intake of bad cholesterol..
Cholesterol Myth #2: Eggs are bad for you
Eggs contain high amounts of cholesterol (approximately 200
mg each). This is quite high, particularly for a person who already may have
high cholesterol. But eggs offer other healthful nutrients like protein and
unsaturated fats. If you want to reduce your risk of heart disease, consider
cutting down on other breakfast foods that are high in saturated fat, like
sausage and bacon, and eating egg whites only. The majority of cholesterol in
an egg is in the yolk.
Cholesterol Myth #3: All cholesterol is bad
Nowadays, doctors actually measure two types of cholesterol:
low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL). In the
simplest terms, HDL is the "good" cholesterol that may actually
reduce your risk of heart disease, and LDL is the "bad" cholesterol
that can cause plaque buildup in your arteries. The American Heart Association
currently considers less than 100 mg/dL an optimal LDL level for people without
heart disease or other risk factors for heart disease. If you have heart
disease or a risk factor for heart disease like diabetes, you doctor will likely
recommend an even lower LDL target for you.
Like most of the myths on this list, there is some truth to
this, but all fats are not created equal. Saturated and trans fats, like those
found in processed foods, meat, butter, and cream can contribute to elevated
cholesterol levels. Unsaturated fats may actually help lower your LDL (bad
cholesterol). Some of the best sources of unsaturated fats include:
Olives and olive oil
Foods high in fiber, like oatmeal and whole grain bread, may
help reduce your total cholesterol.
Cholesterol Myth #5: People who exercise have low
While exercise is certainly an important part of a
heart-healthy lifestyle, there are many other factors to consider when it comes
to cholesterol, such as diet, age, medications, and gender (women have a
slightly increased risk of developing high cholesterol.) Research also
indicates that high cholesterol is largely hereditary, so check your family
history to see if you may be predisposed.