When it comes to nutrition, we are inundated with contradictory information. This is made even more confusing to the general public by way of the media and health organizations. One of the greatest sources of confusion is dietary cholesterol. For years, we have been told that if one has elevated cholesterol, they should then avoid foods that are high in cholesterol. Very compelling research in the past decade has debunked this myth. We have learned that foods high in cholesterol, and foods high in saturated fat do not have a direct correlation to high blood levels of cholesterol.
Approximately 20% of the cholesterol in the blood comes from the food we eat, whereas the other 80% is made in the liver (1). The body also regulates the amount of cholesterol it makes based on how much it takes in through the diet. When we eat more cholesterol, our liver makes less, and when we do not eat enough, our liver makes more. It is important to fully understand cholesterol and not deem it the bad guy. Cholesterol is vital to our health and wellbeing.
New scientific studies have determined that trans-fats, partially hydrogenated oils, sugar, especially high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and processed foods, are the real detriments to abnormal lipid values, not foods high in cholesterol. From a nutrition perspective, we know that all animal protein contains cholesterol. Fiber helps bind LDL (often referred to as the ‘bad’ cholesterol) and help to remove it from the body to prevent its reabsorption.
Therefore, eating a mostly plant-based, fiber-rich diet that is void of processed and manufactured fats and sugars can allow even those with high cholesterol or high triglycerides to enjoy moderate amounts of animal protein, or cholesterol-rich foods. The portion size here is key – most of us need no more than 2-4 oz of animal protein with our meals. Menu 4 contained eggs and chicken (with the skin) coupled with plenty of fiber-rich veggies to help break down the cholesterol – a perfect meal, even for those who have been told they have high cholesterol.
Eggs – 1 egg yolk contains approx 200 mg of dietary cholesterol. If you eat only 200-300 mg of cholesterol a day, your liver will produce another 800 mg from raw materials such as fat, sugars, and protein.
Chicken with skin – In addition to making cooked chicken juicier and more flavorful, chicken skin is mostly monounsaturated, in the form of oleic acid. Oleic acid, also found in olive oil, is known for beneficial effects on cholesterol.