When it comes to our health, and especially heart health, there is still the rumor that dietary cholesterol is the source of all evil and should be avoided like the plaque ☠️
So if you have a high total cholesterol, do not freak out and avoid animal fat!! You should look at the different kinds of lipoproteins present and evaluate from there 👀
You can check out my precious article about which fats to eat and cook with here 👩🏻🏫
While too much small particle LDL is in fact inflammatory (especially for our arteries), I can promise you that you will not raise your small particle LDL through the consumption of animal fats/dietary cholesterol.
In fact, there is no correlation between dietary cholesterol intake and blood levels since the body always manufactures its own cholesterol independently of intake.
HDL and LDL are lipoproteins which means their job is to attach to lipids/cholesterol in the body and carry them around. They also transport around fatty acids that we eat, in addition to antioxidants to fix broken cells.
The cholesterol is needed to make hormones and support digestion among other things as well! Cholesterol is also critical for brain health and cell structure 🧠. Our brains store about 20% of our total body cholesterol, and uses it to build myelin sheaths and synapses which protect and connect our neurons.
Contrary to modern belief, we can actually continue to build new brain cells as we age if our brain as a ready supply of cholesterol and essential fatty acids such as DHA and EPA.
Adequate cholesterol supply is also essential in the synthesis of vitamin D ☀️
When it comes to cholesterol, there are 3 terms to know:
1) HDL– this Stands for high density lipoprotein and is often referred to as good cholesterol because of its anti-inflammatory properties. It’s job is to attach to cholesterol in the body and to carry it back to the liver where it is then expelled from the body. The more HDL you have, the better since that means that less cholesterol will be built up in your arteries where it can potentially oxidize or adhere to the walls of the vessels.
To increase the amount of HDL, consume a lot of heart healthy Omega fatty acids, such as those in eggs, grass fed meats, seafood, avocados, nuts and olive oil 🐟🥑🌰
Here are some recipe ideas:
Oma Marlies’s famous Egg Pancake 🍳
Tasty German Style Gulasch 🥘
Whole Roasted Branzino 🐟
2) LDL– this stands for low density lipoprotein and is sometimes referred to as the “bad cholesterol”. While is is true in some cases, it needs to be noted that there are 2 kinds of LDL and that a differential panel always needs to be done to determine which kinds you have. The larger “buoyant and fluffy” particle LDL is not harmful and has a neutral effect in the body. It’s role is to carry around cholesterol and fatty acids produced by the liver so that hormones, etc can be made. They also carry around anti-oxidants to clean up damaged cells and free radicals! This is good. Sometimes an elevated LDL count can indicate that there is inflammation since more “clean up trucks” are in the blood.
When eating a diet higher in fatty acids, the larger LDL particle may become elevated (but this is not a cause for concern if vLDL is low).
LDL is actually like a transport truck: it transport fatty acids to the adipose tissue where it can be distributed to cells and other tissues for energy! We need LDL to fuel our bodies! In addition to distributing energy, LDL also carries cholesterol which we need to make hormones, cells and even certain vitamins (like D)! At the end of the day, LDL ≠ cholesterol, it’s just the transport boat 🚣🏻♀️
Monounsaturated fat consumption actually helps prevent the LDL particles from oxidizing and sticking to white blood cells! That’s great news and an excuse to enjoy this Dairy Free Mediterranean Flatbread 😋
3) vLDL– this stands for very low density lipoprotein (small and dense) and its job is to carry around triglycerides in the blood. If you have too many triglycerides floating around, this can lead to buildup of plague in the blood vessels (not good)! VLDL becomes elevated when there is too much sugar and starch in the diet- the liver converts the excess into triglycerides that are then carried by the vLDL to fat cells for storage. Since they are smaller, they can squeeze close to the arterial walls where they quickly oxidize (in the presence of sugar and starch) and wreck havoc! The more vLDL you have, the more likely it is that you have inflammation!
A total cholesterol test measures the amount of HDL, LDL, and vLDL in the blood. It can be elevated if any type of lipoprotein is elevated. It’s always good to look at the ratio of total cholesterol to HDL, a ratio of below 1.5 is concerned “good” meaning you are insulin sensitive!
As Dr Cate Shanahan summarizes:
“As the science has become more sophisticated, we now understand that native cholesterol is not disease causing, and that oxidized cholesterol and other oxidized fats are the important class of fat-related factors, with other factors involved in atherosclerotic vascular disease being cigarette smoking, genetics, stress, and nutrient deficiencies, specifically low intakes of B-vitamins that allow a toxic agent, homocysteine, to be distributed by lipoproteins.”– Dr Shanahan
Problem isn’t cholesterol, it’s oxidized cholesterol. And what causes oxidation? Excess sugar, starch and alcohol.
As you can see, a high cholesterol count is not always a reason to be concerned. Just make sure your vLDL count is low (aka eating a high fat low starch/sugar diet) and you’re good to go!