You know what has always confused me? Cholesterol. Conventional wisdom tells us that if we want to have healthy cholesterol levels then we should avoid foods that are high in saturated fat, such as: bacon, eggs, and butter.
After a full year of eating a primarily Paleo diet and consuming a minimum of two eggs almost every single day, with coconut oil (which is loaded with saturated fat), and the occasional slice of bacon, I decided it was time to get my cholesterol levels checked. Now, I’m no expert on cholesterol but I know it takes time for unhealthy cholesterol levels to build in your system. I searched online to see how long it can take for an unhealthy diet to be reflected in a cholesterol test.
On Discovery Health’s website, it says “Your cholesterol levels are also clearly affected when excessive calories are consumed or your intake of saturated fat and cholesterol is increased…To ensure that your test results are consistent, therefore, you need to have the test performed after you’ve maintained your usual diet and weight for at least two weeks. In other words, you don’t want to have your cholesterol tested the day after Thanksgiving…” http://health.howstuffworks.com/medicine/tests-treatment/cholesterol-tests7.htm
Usual diet maintained for a minimum of two weeks? Check. Not having the test done the day after Thanksgiving? Check. I also followed my doctor’s recommendation of fasting for 12 hours before the test to insure the most accurate results.
Mayo Clinic’s website says the guideline for total cholesterol is:
Desirable: Below 200 mg/dL
Borderline high: 200-239 mg/dL
High: 240 mg/dL and above
My total cholesterol was in the desirable range at 135.
Mayo Clinic’s website says the guideline for LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol) is:
Desirable: Below 70 mg/dL
Near ideal: 100-129 mg/dL
High: 160-189 mg/dL
My LDL cholesterol was in the desirable range at 60.
Mayo Clinic’s website says the guidelines for HDL cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol) is:
Poor: Below 50 mg/dL for women
Better: 50-59 mg/dL for women
Best: 60 mg/dL and above for women
My HDL cholesterol was in the best range at 67. My triglycerides levels were also also in the desirable range at 41.
Want to know what else the test revealed? That my sodium level was low. I found this to be very interesting. The normal range for sodium mmoi/L is between 136-145. My sodium level was slightly low at 134. So I actually need to add sodium to my diet to get it back within the “normal” functioning range.
I talked to my doctor about the concerns I had with eating eggs and bacon and it raising my cholesterol levels and he basically said not to worry too much because the cholesterol found in food is completely different from the blood serum cholesterol that causes heart attacks. He also said a lot of the original studies done on the link between cholesterol in food and heart health are outdated and inconclusive.
So, if eating eggs and bacon doesn’t raise your cholesterol and cause a heart attack, then what does? I believe inflammation does. And what causes inflammation? That’s debatable, but I believe it’s: processed and packaged foods, refined white sugar, wheat products, and alcohol (to name a few).
I’m grateful that my cholesterol levels are all within an ideal range and that I confidently eat a breakfast that isn’t limited to eggs whites, for now anyway. Because cholesterol levels can change over time I’ll probably get them checked again in about 3 years. So we’ll see if they remain ideal until then!
If anyone has any thoughts or opinions on food, cholesterol, or cholesterol tests, please share!