Cholesterol: The Misunderstood Molecule

Cholesterol is commonly misunderstood.

Cholesterol is part of every single cell membrane in our body and helps to keep these cells fluid, stable and strong! Cholesterol is also a “precursor to steroid hormones, bile salts and vitamin D.” This is critical for: hormone production (the chemicals that regulate your body), fat digestion with regard to bile production, and the optimal function of your immune system and absorption of calcium with regard to vitamin D. By suppressing your cholesterol through statin drugs, you may be compromising these critical functions.

When your cells and tissues are damaged by sugar, hydrogenated oils, genetically modified grains, toxins, preservatives, dyes and/or chemicals, your body becomes inflamed. Some of these substances can ultimately enter the bloodstream and cause abrasions to the inside of the arterial walls… ultimately causing small lesions. The body tries to defend itself by depositing cholesterol, among other substances, over these “lesions” to help heal. You will show a rise in cholesterol as the body’s natural defense to invading, unrecognizable substances

How can you avoid not getting enough of the good cholesterol and getting too much of the bad cholesterol?

All plants include some amount of a substance known as phytosterols that naturally help maintain healthy cholesterol levels already within the normal range. Your body sees the phytosterols as cholesterol. Therefore, as you digest a meal, phytosterols compete with the cholesterol, forcing your body to absorb less of the cholesterol. The FDA has approved the following health claim: “Foods or beverages containing at least 400mg phytosterols, when consumed twice a day for a total intake of 800mg/day as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.”

Here are 6 of the most common myths and facts that you should know:

  • Myth: The healthiest diet is one that limits all fats
  • Fact: You need to get 25-35 percent of you total calories from fats because your body can’t manufacture some essential fatty acids that it requires for proper functioning.
  • Myth:  Products that are labeled “low fat” are generally also low calorie options.
  • Fact:  Some food manufacturers replace the fat with other ingredients that may have just as many calories.
  • Myth: Foods labeled “trans fat free” are usually healthy options.
  • Fact: Food manufacturers may replace trans fat with saturated fat, which can also raise your LDL (bad) cholesterol. By law, food manufacturers are still allowed to include .5 grams of trans fats per serving even if the food is labeled “zero.”
  • Myth: Plant sterols (phytosterols) reduce cholesterol in the blood by dissolving it in the intestines.
  • Fact: Plant sterols work by reducing the absorption of cholesterol from your intestines, which in turn reduces the level of LDL (bad) cholesterol in your body. Cholesterol that is not absorbed is eliminated from your body.
  • Myth: If a food label says “contains plant sterols” each serving will contain enough to lower cholesterol.
  • Fact: Not always. To make sure you are receiving an optimal amount of cholesterol-lowering plant sterols, look for the amount of plant sterols per serving on the package information.
  • Myth: If you are trying to lower your cholesterol, you should try to eliminate it from your diet almost entirely.
  • Fact: For most people, it’s perfectly safe to have about 300 mg of cholesterol daily, which is the recommended daily limit.

When in “diet doubt” it’s always a good idea to take a phytosterol supplement that can promote your cardiovascular health while enjoying many of the same foods you eat every day.