Eggs, cheese, and red meat may not be as bad for your LDL cholesterol and heart health as officials thought. Find out why, and what it means for your meals
Move over fat! As of today, there’s a new wrongly convicted food group in town: Foods high in cholesterol will no longer be considered a health hazard, according to a draft report from the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. (Should We Really End the War on Fat?)
“The committee is not necessarily reversing their advice about the risks of high levels of LDL cholesterol, but are revising dietary cholesterol as a ‘nutrient of concern,’” explains Penny Kris-Etherton, Ph.D., R.D., professor of nutrition at Pennsylvania State University and spokesperson for the American Heart Association.
First of all, we’re talking about two different kinds of cholesterol here. Blood cholesterol (both HDL, or "good" cholesterol, and LDL, or "bad" cholesterol), is found in your bloodstream, and unhealthy levels can cause heart attacks or strokes. That's different from dietary cholesterol, which is a compound found in foods like egg yolks, red meat, and cheese.
It’s a huge misconception that dietary cholesterol affects blood cholesterol levels—study after study has disproved this, explains Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., author of The Great Cholesterol Myth. (What else has been wrongly convicted? These 11 Bad-for-You Foods That Aren't So Bad for You.) >There’s actually stronger evidence tying saturated fat and trans fat to high blood cholesterol levels—enough to justify the current dietary recommendation to decrease these both to keep your heart healthy, Kris-Etherton explains. (Ask the Diet Doctor: How Much Saturated Fat Should I Eat?)
In fact, taking high-cholesterol foods off the hit list may actually help your health. “Dietary cholesterol tends to be found in foods that are non-processed and high in nutrients, making them very good for you,” Bowden adds. Eggs, for example, have countless nutrients that help your brain and eye health, not to mention, they're a great source of protein.
While the panel hasn’t released its final report just yet, it will very likely include the same stance as the draft, according to The Washington Post. The committee will send its final recommendations to the Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which will issue the final dietary word later this year.
Until then, what’s the best way to maintain healthy blood cholesterol levels? “People still should plan a healthy diet with a wide variety of foods from all food groups, include high cholesterol foods—but, just like all food groups, not in excessive amounts,” Kris-Etherton says. (And eat more of The Best Fruits for a Heart-Healthy Diet.) Look beyond your diet, too: Stress, smoking, and obesity are all huge culprits of high cholesterol—far more than the wrongly convicted dietary cholesterol, Bowden adds.
Justice is served—now with an egg and cheese omelet. (For more healthy eating updates, download the latest special edition of our digital magazine—free!)