Since the 1980s when the food pyramid was created, we were told to eat 11 grains and cereals and focus on a low-fat diet to lower cholesterol. We had been taught that cholesterol is a bad thing. I will never forget being in my early twenties with my cholesterol over 200, and the doctor wanted to put me on Lipitor. The reality is, there is absolutely no proof or study to show that lowering cholesterol reduces your risk for mortality.
Ansel Keyes in the 1950’s did a study on 7 countries and concluded that the more fat people consumed the more heart attacks they experienced. Then we were brainwashed into thinking this was true. The study was actually done on 22 countries, and the countries with high fat diets and low heart disease and the countries with high carb diets and high amounts of heart disease were left out. If you looked at all of the data, the study really doesn’t show any correlation whatsoever.
Cholesterol vs Triglycerides
Let’s take a step back and define the two types of fats in the body: triglycerides and cholesterol.
Triglycerides are fatty-acid molecules that store energy for later use and can be broken down for energy. Too many triglycerides in the blood are the cause of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and other metabolic diseases that most people connect with high cholesterol.
On the other hand, cholesterol is a waxy lipid produced in the liver that supports many functions in the body such as building hormones, maintaining the integrity of cell membranes, and aiding in the absorption of vitamins. One is damaging to the body (high triglycerides) and the other is necessary for the body. On average, 75% of the cholesterol is actually made in the body and the other 25% comes from dietary intake, so if you limit your dietary intake of cholesterol, your body will make all of the cholesterol it needs.
HDL and LDL
When talking about cholesterol, you may hear terms like HDL and LDL. They stand for High Density and Low Density Lipoproteins. They aren’t even cholesterol. These are not molecules themselves, but are the carriers of triglycerides throughout the body. Essentially think of them as the boats that carry cargo throughout the body and the cargo is the triglycerides.
HDL, known as the good cholesterol, transports cholesterol around the body, collects and returns unused cholesterol back to the liver to be recycled or destroyed. That is why HDL is known as good cholesterol, it makes sure not too much cholesterol is collected in the body. If it were bad for you, why would the liver recycle it?
LDL, sometimes known as “bad cholesterol” (it is actually much more complicated than that), moves slowly through the bloodstream and is vulnerable to oxidizing agents known as free radicals. It isn’t just the number of LDL particles but it is the size of the particles that are important and the collection of them.
Top 10 Reasons You Need Cholesterol
1. Cholesterol makes Vitamin D.
Without cholesterol you can’t make the most important vitamin, Vitamin D, which is actually a hormone.
2. Cholesterol Makes Sex Hormones.
All the sex hormones are made from cholesterol (testosterone, estrogen, cortisol, and progesterone). They say men on lipitor to lower their cholesterol are also put on Viagra because as it lowers cholesterol, it lowers their testosterone as well.
3. Your Body Makes Cholesterol.
Your body makes 3000 mg of cholesterol a day unless you get it from your diet. Your body wouldn’t make so much a day if you didn’t need it or if cholesterol were bad for you.
4. Cholesterol Heals Arteries.
There’s only a small part of cholesterol, VLDL, that is damaging to the body because it forms the plaque in the arteries. The purpose of cholesterol is to heal the damage within the body. So what is causing the damage and heart disease?
It is inflammation from sugar. This includes the whole grains that we were told are good for the heart. Cholesterol heals the arteries, essentially putting a band-aid on it. It’s like saying white blood cells are causing infection when it’s the infection that attracts white blood cells.
Another way to put it… it’s as if you’re blaming the firemen at the scene of a fire for starting it. Cholesterol is not the cause of heart disease; cholesterol is there to heal the wounds in the arteries created by sugar and carbs. It acts as a band-aid in the arteries to heal any lesions or wounds caused by sugars and carbs.
5. Your brain is made up of 50% fat and 50% cholesterol.
The brain synapses are made of cholesterol and cholesterol helps the serotonin function.
6. The myelin sheath surrounding your nerves are made of cholesterol.
They protect the nerves because in diseases such as MS, without cholesterol your nerves can’t work without the myelin sheath.
7. Cholesterol is Needed for Cellular Membranes.
All of your cell receptors for hormone communication, mineral communications, ion channels, neurotransmitter communications, and channels that are responsible for minerals to go back and forth in and out of the cells need cholesterol.
Cholesterol is needed to help the enzyme pumps for the cells to keep the bad stuff out and the good stuff in. Keeping the right stuff in and getting the bad stuff out of cells creates the proper balance to allow for the electrical potential with the cell and allows for muscles to relax and contract. It is also important for the fat soluble vitamins to get into the cell and all of the signaling communication throughout the body.
Cholesterol is there to protect us from dangerous things that want to invade our cells.
8. Cholesterol is the Precursor to Bile.
Bile is stored in the gallbladder and is needed to help digest fat and absorb nutrients. You need cholesterol to make bile, which is needed to break down fats such as DHA and Omega 3’s, extract fat soluble vitamins and use the healthy fats.
9. Cholesterol is Needed for the Immune System.
You will have immune issues without it.
10. Cholesterol Aids Digestion.
Cholesterol helps digestion, intestinal health, and feeds the microbes in the gut.
What Should You Be Eating?
Studies have shown that a low-carb, ketogenic diet versus a low-fat diet has doubled the numbers of HDL in the body, and another study showed people going from a high carb diet to a low-carb diet showed an improvement in their concentration of LDL, reduction in particle size and quantity of VLDL concentration. You should be eating a higher fat diet and keep your carbs low, focusing on green veggies as your carbs as it is laid out in the Keto Dietary Guidelines.
If you think about it, the healthy fats like coconut oil, avocados, olive oil, saturated fat from animal sources are slippery. Think of your arteries as a “slip and slide” with the fat running through it, and when you eat carbs and sugar, they rip holes or wounds in the arteries and the cholesterol goes in and creates a scab over the wound. This makes it so the arteries have bumps in them and makes it more difficult for blood to flow through. Eating a lower carb, higher fat, moderate protein diet will give your body the essential cholesterol it needs to satisfy the body’s needs to function.
You can follow the 3 Day Keto Kickstart Diet to get started. It doesn’t have to be complicated! I am not a chef, and I am a working mom with three kids. I don’t have much time to cook, but I make ketogenic meals every night that my family loves.