Thinking of scrambling up some eggs and still not sure if you should?
Welcome to the murky world of cholesterol phobia.
For as long as I can remember, eggs were practically poster children for bad fat build-up in your arteries. But it seems egg-dissing has waned as scientists have come to understand the difference between cholesterol in your food and cholesterol in your blood.
Still, you need to keep track of your low-density lipoprotein (LDL, the bad cholesterol) levels – because once they rise, it can be a struggle to bring them down. You’re also going to need to boost those high-density babies (HDL, the good stuff.)Something else to watch: trans fats are particularly nefarious in the cholesterol game, and although they are being phased out in manufactured goods, they still lurk furtively in many fast food eats, like the milkshakey things at some major chains. Beware.
What the experts say
“What raises blood cholesterol are saturated fats and trans fats. Saturated fats are found in animal products, so use 1 per cent dairy products and leaner cuts of [meat]. Omega 3 fats from fish and mono unsaturated fats in nuts, seeds or oils like canola, olive or hemp can raise HDL cholesterol, as can exercise and alcohol (five or six drinks a week). Eggs have 1.5 grams of saturated fat and 200 mg of dietary cholesterol, but have no impact on blood cholesterol; people can have one or two a day. Antioxidants in fruits and vegetables and dark chocolate protect blood vessels, so LDL [bad cholesterol] particles are less likely to stick. Oatmeal and other soluble fibres are good, and red rice yeast contains a chemical similar to statins, the cholesterol drugs.”
DOUG COOK, registered dietitian, Toronto
“There are herbs proven clinically to be useful in lowering cholesterol. One is garlic – a couple of cloves daily or several [less smelly] capsules of aged dried garlic powder each day. Another is an Indian herb, guggulipid, taken as a capsule. You could also use powdered garlic, cayenne, turmeric, fenugreek, onion and alfalfa as culinary spices. Cayenne capsules are good, as is turmeric in tablets. The juice or tincture of the globe artichoke is important. Khellin also works.”
CELINA AINSWORTH, herbalist, Toronto
“Those with mildly elevated cholesterol can benefit from dietary changes, but in reality, most patients who have very high cholesterol do not benefit much from this. That’s why drugs have been developed – statins are the main ones. This has been a revolution in cholesterol-lowering. They are quite safe, although they do cause symptoms like muscle weakness. Patients have been on these drugs for over a decade, and there haven’t been major concerns. A poor diet high in cholesterol causes high cholesterol, as does high sugar. Genetics is also a factor.”
KHOSROW ADELI, professor of biochemistry, University of Toronto
“There has been a lot of research on fish oils and how they can help lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels as well as increase good cholesterol – 1,500 to 2,000 mg per day of combined EPA and DHA. Make sure it’s purified, certified and third-party tested and that there are no heavy metals in it. You can also eat almonds. Fifteen a day can help lower triglyceride levels, as can olive oil, 2 tablespoons a day on salad. You want it to be unheated. Ground flax seeds are also helpful.”
MUBINA JIWA, naturopath, Toronto