The idea that too much animal fat and high cholesterol are dangerous to your heart and vessels is nothing but a myth.
If you’re confused, it’s not your fault. Cholesterol has been a highly publicized scapegoat for causing heart disease for decades, and many have diligently cut all cholesterol-rich foods (which are often also nutrient-rich foods) from their diets as a result.
Others have opted to take cholesterol-lowering statin drugs at the behest of their physicians. But the real question is this: do you really need to be worried about cholesterol?
Here come some astonishing and frightening facts.
Myth: Cholesterol Is Bad
Cholesterol is not inherently bad. If it were, your liver wouldn’t produce it (unbeknownst to many, your liver makes about three-quarters or more of your body’s cholesterol—that’s how important it is).
Many of the healthiest foods happen to be rich in cholesterol (and saturated fats), yet cholesterol has been demonized since the early 1950s following the popularization of Ancel Keys’ flawed research.
In reality, cholesterol has many health benefits:
- It plays a key role in regulating protein pathways involved in cell signaling;
- It interacts with proteins inside your cells, playing a critical role within your cell membranes;
- It is the precursor to bile acids, so without sufficient amounts of cholesterol, your digestive system can be adversely affected.
- Plays an essential role in your brain, which contains about 25 percent of the cholesterol in your body. It is critical for synapse formation, i.e. the connections between your neurons, which allow you to think, learn new things, and form memories.
Myth: High Cholesterol Is Caused by High Fat intake
The biggest factor in cholesterol is not only diet but also genetics or heredity. Your liver is designed to remove excess cholesterol from your body, but genetics play a large part in your liver’s ability to regulate cholesterol to a healthy level.
Further, eating nutritious cholesterol-rich foods is not something you should feel guilty about; they’re good for you and will not drive up your cholesterol levels as you may have been told. It’s estimated that only 20 percent of your blood cholesterol levels come from your diet.
One survey of South Carolina adults found no correlation of blood cholesterol levels with so-called “bad” dietary habits, such as consumption of red meat, animal fats, butter, eggs, whole milk, bacon, sausage and cheese.
Myth: Everyone’s Cholesterol Level Should Be the Same
What is a healthy cholesterol level? That depends. Despite what your doctor may tell you, there’s no rule that says everyone’s total cholesterol should be less than 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) and your LDL less than 100 mg/dL.
Further, this will tell you very little about your heart disease risk. If your doctor tells you your cholesterol is too high based on the standard lipid profile, getting a more complete picture is important—especially if you have a family history of heart disease or other risk factors.
The following tests can give you a far better assessment of your heart disease risk than your total cholesterol alone:
– HDL/Cholesterol ratio: HDL percentage is a very potent heart disease risk factor. Just divide your HDL level by your total cholesterol. That percentage should ideally be above 24 percent.
– Triglyceride/HDL ratios: You can also do the same thing with your triglycerides and HDL ratio. That percentage should be below 2.
– Your fasting insulin level: Any meal or snack high in carbohydrates like fructose and refined grains generates a rapid rise in blood glucose and then insulin to compensate for the rise in blood sugar.
The insulin released from eating too many carbs promotes fat accumulation and makes it more difficult for your body to shed excess weight. Excess fat, particularly around your belly, is one of the major contributors to heart disease
– Your fasting blood sugar level: Studies have shown that people with a fasting blood sugar level of 100-125 mg/dl had a nearly 300 percent increased higher risk of having coronary heart disease than people with a level below 79 mg/dl.
– Your iron level: Iron can be a very potent oxidative stress, so if you have excess iron levels you can damage your blood vessels and increase your risk of heart disease. Ideally, you should monitor your ferritin levels and make sure they are not much above 80 ng/ml.
Myth: Children Cannot Have High Cholesterol
It’s possible for children to have high cholesterol levels, which is typically due to a liver problem that makes the liver unable to remove excess cholesterol from the body. Lifestyle changes, including exercise, limiting sugar intake and eating real (not processed) foods, will often help to restore healthy levels.
Myth: Margarine Is Better Than Butter for Cholesterol
Butter, especially raw organic butter from grass-fed cows, is a wealth of nutrition and nourishing fats. Research points to the fact that butter may have both short-term and long-term benefits for your health. A Swedish study found that fat levels in your blood are lower after eating a meal rich in butter than after eating one rich in olive oil, canola oil, or flaxseed oil.
Further, replacing saturated animal fats with omega-6 polyunsaturated vegetable fats (i.e., margarine) is linked to an increased risk of death among patients with heart disease, according to a 2013 BMJ study. Swapping margarine for healthy butter is the opposite of what your body needs for heart health. Saturated fats have been shown to raise HDL cholesterol.
What REALLY Causes Heart Disease?
– A diet too high in sugar, trans fat, and oxidized cholesterol, and too low in healthy fats – Added sugars, and processed fructose in particular, are a primary driver of metabolic dysfunction and heart disease.
– Lack of exercise – Exercise protects against heart disease primarily by normalizing your insulin and leptin levels, and it is indeed potent medicine
– Lack of sun exposure – Vitamin D is very important for reducing hypertension, atherosclerotic heart disease, heart attack, and stroke
– Lack of grounding to the Earth – Grounding effectively alleviates inflammation because it thins your blood and infuses you with negatively charged ions through the soles of your feet. It also helps thin your blood by improving its zeta potential, which means it improves the energy between your red blood cells
How to Protect Your Heart Health
Are you looking for a non-drug way to boost your heart health? Here are some of my top recommendations:
- Reduce, with the plan of eliminating, grains and sugars in your diet. It is vitally important to eliminate gluten-containing grains and sugars, especially fructose.
- Consume a good portion of your food raw.
- Make sure you are getting plenty of high-quality, animal-based omega-3 fats, such as krill oil. Research suggests that as little as 500 mg of krill per day may improve your total cholesterol and triglycerides and will likely increase your HDL cholesterol;
- Replace harmful vegetable oils and synthetic trans fats with healthy fats, such as olive oil, butter, avocado, pastured eggs and coconut oil (remember olive oil should be used cold only, use coconut oil for cooking and baking).
- Include fermented foods in your daily diet. This will not only optimize your intestinal microflora, which will boost your overall immunity, it will also introduce beneficial bacteria into your mouth. Poor oral health is another powerful indicator of increased heart disease risk.
- Optimize your vitamin D levels, ideally through appropriate sun exposure as this will allow your body to also create vitamin D sulfate—another factor that may play a crucial role in preventing the formation of arterial plaque.
- Exercise regularly. Make sure you incorporate high-intensity interval exercises, which also optimize your human growth hormone (HGH) production.
- Avoid smoking or drinking alcohol excessively;
- Be sure to get plenty of high-quality, restorative sleep.
- Practice regular stress-management techniques.