I was recently at a gathering and heard some folks discussing some nutrition issues that plague our society today. Cholesterol issues and sugar issues. I have talked about these things before in various ways but after hearing the discussion and the VERY ill-informed response that was provided to them by their doctor (who has had NO nutrition training) I wanted to talk about these issues again and show you how they LINK together.
Did you know that dietary cholesterol (eating foods with cholesterol in them) has little to no impact on your cholesterol profile? I am guessing probably not because traditionally, and in some conventional medical practices still, this is believed to be true.
It is important to understand the types of lipids being looked at for cholesterol and heart disease risk before we look at what changes those profiles.
The total cholesterol number may not actually be significant in most cases. It is the ratio of different lipids in that profile that make the most difference when it comes to heart health and determining where dietary changes should be made.
LDL – not all LDL is BAD for you. Some are very helpful for your body. So this number is important to be broken down. VLDL is the negative stuff. This is the stuff that is inflammatory in nature and harmful to your heart. If you have a significant number here on the VLDL you know it’s time for a change.
HDL – the good stuff. Most people know this and you want this number to be higher. It should be the highest number in your bunch. It is the clean-up crew to the cholesterol in the bloodstream. It removes the plaques that are used to repair and decrease inflammation in the arteries. If this number makes up most of your total you are in great shape.
Triglycerides – this needs to be in a functional range. If this number is outside of range it can indicate inflammation, poor fats (the kind that does lead to heart issues), and more. You need some for normal function, but not too many and not too few. Balance is key here.
With this simply said then – if saturated fat and dietary cholesterol are NOT the causes of heart disease – what is and what can we do to get our cholesterol in line to be heart healthy?
Cholesterol is the response – not the cause of issues. What that means is that chronic inflammation present inside the artery wall will get covered with lesions for protection. This is good! The body sends cholesterol to heal this. But then what should happen is the body will deflame and then the area is removed and carried off. However, when there is chronic inflammation (caused by things listed below) more saturated fat and cholesterol are sent and need to stay to keep damage from getting worse. So it’s not the fat that is the issue, but the INFLAMMATION.
What are the causes of inflammation and heart issues today?
• Metabolic syndrome (chronically high levels of glucose, insulin, and triglycerides in the blood) caused by eating a diet high in sugar and refined carbohydrates. (AND THIS RIGHT HERE IS YOUR LINK TO SUGAR LEVELS).
• Trans fats, hydrogenated oils, and processed seed oils like canola, soy, corn, etc. These raise LDL cholesterol levels and triglycerides, lower HDL cholesterol, and are implicated in the development of insulin resistance.
• Toxic chemicals from industrial pollution, pesticides, chlorine, fluoride, cigarette smoke, personal care products, domestic cleaning products, and detergents (laundry and dishwasher).
• Infectious microbes like Chlamydia pneumoniae, Helicobacter pylori, Cytomegalovirus, Herpes zoster virus, Bacteroides gingivalis, etc.
• Gut dysbiosis (microbial imbalances in the digestive tract) and intestinal permeability. This means – get your gut in line – learn more about the importance of gut health here.
• Deficiencies in vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and essential fatty acids. Deficiency in vitamins B6, B12, and folate, for example, can cause high levels of homocysteine, which damages the endothelium. Vitamin D, for example, is required by every cell in the body and is essential for repairing injuries (such as to the lining of blood vessels), yet deficiency in the vitamin from a lack of sun exposure is widespread.
• Modern lifestyles that are high in stress, high in processed foods, low in relaxation, and low in movement.
Right here again – this is it – the TIE TO SUGAR!
BUT the MOST IMPORTANT piece of this lies with blood sugar control! Diets high in sugar and refined carbs lead to chronic inflammation. This leads to other problems beyond the heart as well like – kidney issues (renal failure), Alzheimer’s Disease, and things like male reproductive issues. There is often a deficiency in magnesium as well connected to this type of eating.
What foods can we eat then for better cholesterol AND better sugar levels?
1- LOTS OF VEGETABLES! This is the number one thing that most people do not eat when they eat a highly processed diet and sugar. Vegetables taste odd, or they do not know how to properly prepare them to make them taste delicious. Using healthy fats like olive oil, and butter makes vegetables taste delicious. You should also always use a lot of seasoning. Make your seasoning match your meal type – eating Italian style – go with oregano, basil, parsley etc. Going Mexican – add chili powders and other spices.
2- EAT MEAT – what? I know right? You can eat meat but the SOURCE of that meat is so important. Why do you ask? The fat profiles are different and toxins from the way the animal was raised are different, and the byproduct of what they were fed is different. Grass-fed beef, pastured chickens, wild-caught seafood. The closer to the wild animal the better fat profile. The more omega exists. No need to worry about the fat content of properly raised animals as it’s naturally lower and naturally cleaner. Ditch GMO-fed and processed animals.
3- FOCUS ON GOOD OIL SOURCES – it’s time to ditch products with weird oils, and not cook with them at home either. Even the ones you have been told are OK – they are not. We should ditch – canola, vegetable, soy, and other random seed oils. We should focus on butter, ghee, avocado oil, olive oil, and coconut oil. Unrefined is best. Learn more about oils here.
4- DITCH PROCESSED FOODS & SUGAR – If you go to a whole food (real food) diet – as close to nature as possible – you will be well on your way to a better life and a heart-healthy one. Plants before boxes, whole foods like eggs instead of cereal, greens for lunch, clean meat sources, fruits and veggies for snacks. Increase your fish and seafood to 4 or more days per week, pastured chicken is OK a few times a week, and beef once a week.
So the takeaway here is REDUCE SUGAR and PROCESSED FOODS, eat whole healthy fats, avoid processed oils and you will get that heart-healthy that you need to stay alive and live a healthy lifestyle.
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