A great example - and one I will explain in more detail today - is the oft-vilified egg. I have defended eggs on many occasions, but I haven't written about them in a while, and I thought it would be a good topic to revisit, with all the talk of healthy eating going around at the start of the new year.
So just why did eggs get such a bad rap? And what is the real deal with cholesterol? Read on to find out the truth about eggs - and what they actually do for your health....
For many years, we have been told that we should keep our cholesterol intake as low as possible, as this will help decrease blood cholesterol, and improve our health. While this makes sense on a superficial level, if you really understand how the body works, it actually doesn't pan out that way at all.
In fact, for most people, the majority of cholesterol in the blood does not come from food at all - it's produced by your liver! Your body works to maintain a state of balance, and if you eat less cholesterol, well, guess what - your body just produces more of it to compensate! If you eat more cholesterol, your body regulates the production, and keeps your blood cholesterol levels more or less steady, so regardless of how much cholesterol you eat, your blood cholesterol will be about the same. (This is why low-fat diets have been notoriously unsuccessful at controlling cholesterol - hence the incredible surge in the use of cholesterol-lowering drugs over the past 20 years.
Okay but wait a minute.... If cholesterol is so bad, then why is your body producing so much of it??
Ahh - that's a great question - so glad you asked!
The truth is....cholesterol isn't bad per se.... In fact, it's actually an essential part of a healthy body. Cholesterol makes up a large part of the brain, as well as much of the cell walls throughout your entire body, and also is required for the production of many necessary hormones. But more importantly than that, at least when it comes to the blood cholesterol discussion, cholesterol acts as an antioxidant within the blood, fighting inflammation caused by free radicals, and it is also used as intravenous "spackle" one could say. That is, the body uses it to patch damaged arteries caused by inflammation and inflammatory substances.
The truth is, many people with heart disease, clogged arteries, and other inflammatory diseases DO have high blood cholesterol! But blaming the cholesterol for their disease is like blaming infection on high levels of antibodies. Or, as one of my favorite analogies goes, it's like blaming firefighters for starting fires, just because you see them wherever there's a fire!
Just like the firefighters, in fact, the cholesterol is actually there to help solve the problem.
When there are high levels of undesirable substances in the blood (caused by the dietary intake of damaged fats (i.e. processed vegetable oils), highly processed “junk” foods, and large quantities of sugars), cholesterol levels rise in order to combat these substances. If your body allowed cholesterol to fall in the presence of these unhealthy substances, your risk for heart disease would actually increase, and your body doesn't want that to happen.
So, the answer to decreasing blood cholesterol levels is not avoiding eggs, and not necessarily decreasing dietary cholesterol intake, but rather improving your diet overall by eating healthier in general (healthy, quality, organic proteins, lots of fresh vegetables, naturally fermented foods, etc.) and avoiding the other harmful types of foods mentioned - such as processed oils, simple carbs, sugars, and other highly processed foods.
Combine this with regular physical activity and both you and your cholesterol levels will be in even better shape.
So if you want to eat healthier this year, welcome yummy eggs back into your diet! Eat fresh, whole eggs from chickens raised on pasture, eating bugs and grass and all the things they're naturally suppose to eat, and you'll get even more heart-healthy fats, Omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidant vitamins. Plus they taste 10 times as amazing!
To your health - in 2015 and beyond,
P.S. If you didn't grab your gift yet, be sure to pick up your copy of the Detox Scams to Avoid e-book - it has lots of helpful info on what foods are truly healthy, and what health fads are really not so good for you.