If there’s one thing that keeps you at the top of your performance, it’s keeping your heart in the best shape it can be in. So, which foods should you be including in your diet to maximize your heart health?
The idea that a diet low in cholesterol promotes a healthy heart has been around for many years now. However, heart attacks have continued to be a major health problem with cardiovascular disease now affecting 26 million Americans. Last year, the USDA removed the previous recommended daily limit of cholesterol of 300mg from its dietary guidelines.
Why is this so? A closer look at the evidence surrounding cholesterol’s role in the body shows that if you want a healthy heart and to optimize your health, then you may need to eat a diet that includes foods rich in cholesterol.
Dietary cholesterol doesn’t translate to blood cholesterol
Heart attacks are caused by buildup of fatty plaques in arteries that starve cardiovascular tissue of oxygen and can eventually cause a heart attack. Doctor’s recommendations for a healthy heart have previously been based on limiting dietary cholesterol due to the belief that there is a direct relationship between heart attack and cholesterol in the diet.
The big problem here is that dietary cholesterol must go through many processes in the body before it gets into the blood. This includes gut bacteria digesting and absorbing nutrients in the body. The gall bladder also plays a big role in releasing cholesterols into the digestive system.
Studies have looked at dietary cholesterol and measured the levels of both HDL and LDL levels. They found that whilst people respond differently to cholesterol, dietary cholesterol intake didn’t change measurements in blood cholesterol. In other words, cholesterol from food doesn’t directly translate to the HDL and LDL readings in the blood.
High blood cholesterol doesn’t cause heart disease.
The second big misconception surrounding dietary cholesterol is that high cholesterol in the blood is actually the cause of heart disease. The idea behind this is that raised ‘bad cholesterol,’ or LDL cholesterol, was long the foundation for the thinking behind why dietary cholesterol was bad for our heart.
Since then, large studies published by the American Heart Journal show that most people hospitalized for a heart attack don’t have cholesterol levels that are deemed a risk for cardiovascular event.
It’s believed that one of the big problems was that the initial studies that gave birth to the proposed link between blood cholesterol and heart disease were based on feeding rabbits (who are herbivores) and not humans. They were fed high amounts of cholesterol and found to have plaque build ups in their blood. So unless you’re a rabbit, you don’t need to worry about cholesterol causing a heart attack.
Cholesterol’s real role in the body
Scientists have learned so much in the last 10 years about the role of cholesterol in the body and in fact, how crucial it is. Cholesterol is produced by the liver and without it, we wouldn’t be able to absorb the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K2 which modulate many of the vital processes in the body.
What’s more is that foods that contain cholesterol (like egg yolks) are packed with other vitamins like B vitamins and one particular we know as choline. Officially recognized as an essential nutrient in 1998, choline is crucial for brain and other neural development in the body as well as our metabolism, cell structure and liver detoxification process.
Put simply, foods containing cholesterol are essential components to keep your body working at its best. If you want to optimize your health you should make sure that you’re eating foods rich in cholesterol.
Eating cholesterol to your heart’s content
Previously it was recommended that you should be limiting your daily intake of cholesterol, however we’ve now realize that there is no link between dietary cholesterol and heart disease.
On the flip side, cholesterol is crucial for a healthy body and comes packed with plenty of other nutrients like choline.
So for a healthy heart, you should eat a diet rich in cholesterol with serving per day of any of the cholesterol rich foods like:
- Oily fish
- Red Meat
Dr. Steven Lin is a practicing board accredited dentist, writer and speaker. As passionate health educator, Dr. Lin works to merge the fields of dental and nutritional science to show how the mouth is a crucial part of our overall health.
As a TEDx speaker his work has been featured on influential health websites such as MindBodyGreen and About.com. Dr. Lin is now working on his own publication ‘The Dental Diet’ an exploration of how food is the foundation of oral health and how it connects to the body. Follow Dr. Lin on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
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