The Five Biggest Myths about Cholesterol
You’ve heard the buzz surrounding Americans’ rising cholesterol numbers, but when it comes to treatment and prevention, can you really believe everything you hear?
With some help from one of our lead dietitians, here are the five biggest myths about cholesterol.
1. Myth: Eggs are Bad for You
Truth: Eggs Can Be Very Healthy
"While eggs do contain dietary cholesterol, they are an excellent source of protein, which is good if you are trying to keep your cholesterol down,” says Carrie Wissemeier, a Registered Dietitian and one of the lead dietitians for BistroMD.
If you still need the protein but are worried about the cholesterol you get with regular eggs, Carrie recommends eating egg whites instead. “They contain no cholesterol but are still very high in protein and lower in calories.
2. Myth: Cholesterol is Always Bad
Truth: Your Body Needs Cholesterol
"High cholesterol is bad, but a certain amount of cholesterol is needed for various bodily processes,” says Carrie. “Cholesterol is actually essential for maintaining nerve cells in the brain and it also provides structure to cell membranes."
The bad cholesterol you need to worry about is LDL, which is carried through the bloodstream.
3. Myth: If a Label Says 0mg Cholesterol, it Must be Heart Healthy
Truth: The Labels Refer to Dietary Cholesterol, Not the “Bad” Kind
"This information on the label generally refers to just one of the things found in your food that can cause your cholesterol levels to rise,” says Carrie. “There are much bigger contributors to high cholesterol that this label does not reflect."
One such factor? A high-fat diet.
Saturated fat, which is found in many animal products and trans fats, and found in more processed and shelf-stable foods, seem to have a much bigger impact on LDL (bad cholesterol).
4. Myth: I Can Only Lower Cholesterol by Taking Medication
Truth: A Healthy Diet Can Help Lower Cholesterol
As mentioned in myth #3, bad cholesterol is often caused by a high-fat diet. One of the best ways to lower your cholesterol is to simply make smarter choices when it comes to what you eat.
"Many cholesterol medications can be over-prescribed and aren’t really needed unless your cholesterol levels are critically high,” says Carrie. “Bad cholesterol can simply go away just by eating the right kinds of foods."
The right diet to lower cholesterol consists of foods that are high in protein, and that are balanced with complex carbohydrates and healthy fats. Foods like salmon are great, as well as high-fiber foods and oats and grains. Eating natural and organic varieties of meat can also help.
5. Myth: Everyone Should Strive to Have the Same Numbers
Truth: There’s Isn’t One Set Number for Every Person
"The right cholesterol levels for a person often have to do with their history of medical conditions and health problems,” says Carrie. “People who have a history of diabetes or high blood pressure or who have different risk factors for heart disease need to have lower LDL levels than someone who has been relatively healthy most of their life."
This will also depend on recommendations made by your doctor. If you feel like you are at risk for heart disease or you may have high cholesterol, it’s best to consult with your physician first.
For tips from our experts, please visit our healthy facts section for more information.