Most people seek out low fat foods, and if possible zero cholesterol food to ensure their arteries stay clean. That’s what they are told to do, but that’s not necessarily a good approach. In fact low-fat menu may accomplish exactly the opposite.
No fat not same as healthy heart
Avoiding fats and cholesterol, in most people’s mind, translate to healthy heart, lower stroke risk, less atherosclerosis, and better health. After all fat is bad, and everything else matters less, right?
Unfortunately, picking “low-fat” and “no cholesterol” packages from the shelves will not give you the desired health benefits of stronger heart or better cholesterol numbers. Here are some facts you should bear in mind. Spend your money on health, not health-illusions.
1. Cholesterol comes from liver, not food
Cholesterol in your blood does not come from dietary consumption of cholesterol, but from your liver in response to your body needs. Avoiding dietarycholesterol does not lower cholesterol numbers. Eating egg yolks does not increase cholesterol of the risk for heart disease. Plants do not contain cholesterol, yet somehow vegans end up having cholesterol circulating in their blood.
Learn more about cholesterol physiology
2. You need cholesterol
Humans cannot live without cholesterol. Cholesterol is vital for life. Lower cholesterol does not ensure better health, even for the heart.
Learn how body uses cholesterol
3. High cholesterol is a warning, not a disease
High cholesterol is not a random event. Cholesterol goes up in response to a variety of factors: hormonal factors, liver function, oxidative state, microbiota changes, stress, and others. Dietary cholesterol plays an insignificant role in deciding about your blood cholesterol numbers.
- Learn what causes high cholesterol
4. Lower is not better
Low cholesterol is implicated in depression, suicides, and higher rates of violent accidents. Low cholesterol leads to higher infection rates and is correlated to higher mortality from those infections. Learn about psychological effects of low cholesterol. For more negative effects of low cholesterol read my recent book “The Cholesterol Trap!”
5. Think about nutrition
Eating low-fat foods put you at risk of vitamin deficiencies. Low fat foods mean low vitamin D, low vitamin E, low vitamin K, low vitamin A, and low CoQ10. Welcome to malnutrition. Vitamin D is necessary for immune system and bones. Vitamin E guards blood fluidity. Vitamin K is necessary for plaque-free arteries. Vitamin A deficiency leads to poor vision and dry skin. CoQ10 is a known factor in regulating blood pressure and preventing congestive heart failure.
Yes, low fat diets cause vitamin deficiencies: article 1, article 2
6. Low fat may be worse than high fat
Low fat versions of food contain more starch, sugar or chemical fillers. Excessive sugar consumption is known to cause obesity and contribute to cardiovascular disease. So your no fat food may actually contribute to bigger gut and poor heart health more than its full fat version. Here are some thoughts
7. Candida anyone?
High sugar and starch diets promote intestinal and systemic yeast overgrowth. Mycotoxins (fungus by-products) are well recognized to alter cholesterol numbers. Maybe bread and pasta boasts zero cholesterol on the label, but despite that they may turn out to be bigger contributors to poor cholesterol numbers than fat and cholesterol in your diet: study
8. Cholesterol helps immune system
Bile acids made by the liver (stored in gallbladder) are anti-fungal. Fungal mycotoxins contribute to poor cardiovascular health. Bile is made of cholesterol. You do the math. Check this out! They even try to make a buck on patenting these properties
9. Fat combats Candida
Fat is anti-fungal. Short chain fatty acid, present in butter, and medium chain fatty acid present in coconut and palm oil inhibit fungus growth. Low fat diets do not take advantage of anti-fungal properties of fatty acids. Fungus (such as Candida) promotes oxidized cholesterol and contributes to atherosclerosis: study 1, study 2
10. It is not about cholesterol, but its oxidation
Cholesterol can deposit as plaque in the arteries only after being oxidized. Low antioxidant status leads to increased oxidation. This is what causes plaque. Instead of checking for fat content you would be better off checking antioxidant value of your food: study
11. Microwave worse than high cholesterol
Microwaving your food removes 80-90% of its antioxidant content. It’s not only what you buy, but also how you prepare that makes a difference to your arteries. Cooking removes about 10% of antioxidants. If you want to point a finger at your arterial fatty streak blame your microwave rather than a fatty diet: study summary
12. The problem lies not in high fat, but low fiber diet
Excess cholesterol can be removed from the body through binding to soluble fibre. Low fibre diets are implicated in poor cardiovascular health. Next time instead of reaching for low-fat reach for high-fibre for a much better effect on your health. Here are additional benefits of fibre
13. Bread and cereals won’t do
Only soluble fibre can remove cholesterol. Insoluble fibre, a main component in wheat bran, and wheat bran cereals do not have the same effect and do not remove cholesterol. Soluble fibre is abundant in vegetables. Wheat bran just won’t do: article
14. Surprise: your heart likes fat
The main fuel for muscles, including cardiac muscle, is fat. That’s right. Your heart prefers to burn fat, not glucose to work. You need fat for a strong and tireless heart. Check it for yourself
So, think while shopping
What’s the moral of the story? Next time you are at the grocery store instead of getting swayed by low-fat, low-cholesterol labels that exploit your fat-o-phobia pay attention to REAL cardiovascular health promoters:
- high soluble fibre content,
- high antioxidant potential, and
- lots of fatty acids.
That means you should be buying full fat versions of carrots, peas, nuts, apples, Italian spices, cinnamon, and fish and IGNORE low-fat, low-cholesterol labels on bran flakes, carrot cakes, almond milk, apple pies, Italian pasta, cinnamon buns, and battered fish sticks.
I think you get the picture. Buying low fat foods may make you feel good emotionally, but the physical long-term effect of a low-fat diet may surprisingly turn against you: you may be looking at a weaker heart and hard-to-manage fatter version of yourself, so get smart and stop barking up the wrong tree. From now on think twice before buying low fat cholesterol food for health.
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