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The Buttery New Truth About Cholesterol

By now, you’ve likely heard the phrase “Fat doesn’t make you fat.” And now? “Cholesterol doesn’t kill you.”

In other words: Bring on the butter.

OK, we should clarify this point, since for years, experts advised people to limit their intake of foods like eggs and shellfish, based on the belief that they would raise levels of “bad” blood cholesterol (LDL), which is linked to heart disease.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States, and the risk increases signficantly after menopause, when levels of LDL tend to increase and levels of “good” cholesterol (HDL) decrease, so the concern is legit.

But in January, when the USDA issued its revised Dietary Guidelines for 2015–2020, it eliminated cholesterol as a “nutrient of concern for overconsumption,” based on the most current research. A few months later, another long-term study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that eating high-cholesterol foods did not increase the risk for heart disease.


High cholesterol in your body is still a bad thing, but eating cholesterol is not thought to contribute to raising that level.


Basically, high cholesterol in your body is still a bad thing, but eating cholesterol is not thought to contribute to raising that level.

“Many people still think they can eat Frosted Flakes but not eggs when the doctor says they have high cholesterol,” says Nutritious Life founder Keri Glassman. “People should feel free to eat grass-fed butter and eggs.” (We’ll call her the brunch fairy.)

Of course, she does offer a few guidelines. Fatty, cholesterol-rich foods “do need to be eaten with some regard to portions, unlike other foods such as veggies,” she explains. And opting for quality — as in organic, grass fed, or pasture raised — is crucial.

The most important thing, Glassman says, is to “focus on eating quality fats and real foods.”

That strategy will set you up for definite success, since the ingredients that research shows do raise levels of bad cholesterol in the blood and have the strongest associations with heart disease risk are found mainly in processed foods. The biggest culprits? Trans fats and sugar, which has been shown to lower levels of good cholesterol and raise heart disease risk by as much as 400 percent.

A dozen donuts for the family? Skip ’em. Frittatas all around? Enjoy!

Photo: Olha_Afanasieva

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