For too long cholesterol has been demonised by the media and doctors who claim it is the main protagonist of cardiovascular diseases.
What if we were to tell you that cholesterol was actually good for you and so important that your body produces it every single day. Cholesterol makes up part of every cell membrane in the body - we couldn't function without it. It plays a vital role in metabolic functions, helps muscles grow and repair and is the basis for reproductive hormones.
Take eggs for example. We love eggs at Mindful Chef and include them in our recipes all the time. Eggs are one of the most nutrient dense foods you can eat providing you with calcium, iron, zinc, vitamin B6, folate and vitamin B12. They also contain vitamins A, D, E and Omega 3s.
Eggs are high in cholesterol and for anyone trying to lower cholesterol they are advised to eat less foods like eggs. The belief is the more cholesterol you eat the higher your levels - this simply isn't the case. The body's production of cholesterol actually decreases when you eat cholesterol rich foods like eggs. The same is true if you don't eat any cholesterol rich foods - the body will produce more of it. If you are looking to improve your general health eggs are a great addition to your diet due to the numerous nutritional benefits mentioned above.
So why the association between cholesterol and heart disease?
Increased levels of cholesterol are a result of the body reacting to a problem. Inflammation is the body's response to a problem and is a vital part of the body's immune response. When you eat trans-fats (think chocolate, crisps, processed foods) the body's reaction to these foreign invaders is inflammation. Cholesterol is sent to the arteries to heal inflammation. If successful everything returns to normal. However, if inflammation doesn't stop the body sends more cholesterol to the site and it can build up. This can cause a problem as the body tries to fight inflammation.
As you can see although cholesterol is being sent to fix the problem - it is not the instigator. The best way to think about it is if there's a problem and cholesterol is there to fix it then why would you take measures to lower cholesterol rather than putting steps in place to reduce the inflammation in the first place? This would prevent the need for the body to produce more cholesterol than is needed for daily functions.
We have been led to believe that low fat diets are the best way forward. By cutting our nutritious animal fats you inevitably end up replacing these foods with grains or processed foods which in turn can increase inflammation. Find out why you shouldn't fear good fats like eggs, avocados and animal fats here.
Having too low levels of cholesterol can have a negative impact on your body and mental state. Taking drugs to lower cholesterol (while we have proved above cholesterol is not the root problem) is not without it's own dangers. You start changing the body's natural function which is a dangerous path to go down.
The main takeaway from this article is cholesterol doesn't deserve the bad reputation it has gained. Stopping people from eating foods like eggs, red meat or butter isn't the answer. For most people these foods won't increase blood cholesterol or the risk of heart disease. When you look at the advantages of including these foods in your diet it would seem far more beneficial to eat them rather than completely omit them.
Bottom line: lower inflammation and you'll lower your cholesterol levels naturally. Lower levels of inflammation will reduce your risk of diseases.