I must confess that I had a period a few years ago when I had cholesterol levels above normal, at or around 260. Now, looking back, I am glad that I had high cholesterol values and that this scared me at that moment because it opened my appetite for “science”, I wanted to find out why and maybe why I am so passionate about nutrition.
I also went to the doctor, obviously who told me that it was genetic given that I already had a balanced diet. Genetically or not, today my cholesterol sits within the normal values and I am convinced that it is due to my being active.
So I read a lot about cholesterol. I wasted many egg yolks and now I’m sorry but I am grateful that I continued to study to find out (drum roll, please!) that yolk egg is good. Here’s what you should know…
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Something about cholesterol
- Cholesterol is NOT a poison, on the contrary, it is a substance you need for health.
- Increased cholesterol levels do not automatically lead to heart disease.
- People with low cholesterol levels have the same risk of heart disease as those with high cholesterol levels.
- Cholesterol that is found in the blood comes from 2 sources: from food and from the liver which makes it from the synthesis of other nutrients. The amount of cholesterol that your liver makes is different depending on how much cholesterol you eat. If you do NOT eat cholesterol, your liver MAKES MORE. This is why anti-cholesterol diets do not lower cholesterol levels very much.
- Cholesterol medicines do not lower your risk of dying from heart disease, nor do they prolong your life, on the contrary. There are some relatively new drugs – statins – that lower the risk of heart disease, but they appear to be based on mechanisms that are not linked to lowering blood cholesterol levels and have been shown to stimulate tumor growth in rodents.
What is HDL cholesterol? What about LDL cholesterol?
There are some information about cholesterol that surprised me when I studied:
- LDL and HDL are not cholesterol types
- LDL and HDL are lipoproteins that transport cholesterol through the blood
- LDL stands for Low Density Lipoprotein and HDL stands for High Density Lipoprotein
- LDL is (wrongly) considered “bad cholesterol” because it leads to cholesterol in the arteries
- HDL is considered “good cholesterol” because it takes cholesterol away from the arteries (in the liver)
- both carry the same cholesterol
Very important to know about cholesterol
Cholesterol that exists naturally in food of animal origin is not harmful to health (I know, shock and horror!). But cholesterol can become dangerous to health if it is altered by exposure to high temperatures or by ultraprocessing. Regular consumption of “altered” cholesterol products and foods high in free radicals leads to a high level of LDL that is correlated with an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
In other words, if you have a significant amount of “altered” cholesterol in your blood, you don’t want LDL to transport that cholesterol to your arteries, where it can contribute to atherosclerosis, but you want to have plenty of HDL available to clean cholesterol-degraded cholesterol from your arteries.
So it is true that an increased level of HDL may reflect a low risk of developing cardiovascular disease but the most important thing is to avoid foods of animal origin that have been prepared at high temperatures or ultra-processed foods.
Tips for an HDL / LDL / Cholesterol level within normal limits
There are personal rules that I apply to my family, based on many hours of reading and studying on this topic.
- Ideally, cholesterol levels should be above 150mg / dl. But if your cholesterol level is below this level, as long as you eat intensely nutritious foods, lots of vegetables and fruits and your health has not changed, you should not worry.
- A very low level of cholesterol in the long term can lead to depression, heart problems and many other hormonal problems. If you do not benefit from vitamin D in your diet (or supplements) and with low cholesterol, you may be deficient in vitamin D, as the sun creates vitamin D in your body by acting on the cholesterol found in your skin.
- Ideally, the HDL level should be above 25%. In general, the higher the level, the better. If this level is 10-15% or below, it may increase the risk of heart attack.
Instead of focusing on the numbers of your latest blood tests, you’d better:
- make sure your diet includes an important supply of quality nutrients from plants (vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts )
- you ensure a regular intake of healthy fats , such as avocados , olives, coconut, eggs, fish
- minimize the intake of cooked food at high temperatures or processed
- you strive to have a balanced life, to rest, to be active, to expose yourself to clean air and sun (not to over-tan) and socializing face to face with others