For decades now cholesterol has been the boogeyman of health. High cholesterol levels can lead to heart disease, research told us, and so we started watching our cholesterol. One measure people took: cutting their cholesterol intake. As it turns out, that’s not the best advice.
As it turns out, many high-cholesterol foods are actually good for us — and can lower our overall cholesterol levels. It might sound counterintuitive, but the evidence is increasingly pointing in that direction. Just as ingesting dietary fat will not make you fat (simple carbs are much more efficient at this), ingesting cholesterol will not increase your risk for heart disease.
In fact, there are many positive effects of ingesting foods rich in cholesterol. Here are just a few.
Many people are unaware of the micronutrient choline and the positive effects it can have on your health. As Chris Kesser writes, low choline levels can lead to “fatigue, insomnia, poor kidney function, memory problems, and nerve-muscle imbalances.” None of them sound particularly fun. The effects get worse with extremely low choline levels. Ingesting foods rich in choline can be keys to our health.
The problem is that the two foods highest in choline, liver and eggs, are typically snubbed by Americans due to their high cholesterol levels. Yet that harkens back to the old knowledge. We know now that dietary cholesterol does not necessarily raise our LDL levels. Adding eggs and liver to your diet can perhaps provide you with more energy. While Broccoli and brussels sprouts also contain choline, they are far behind the levels found in liver and eggs.
2. Muscle building
Obesity might be at an all-time high, but there is a movement working against it. More and more Americans are engaging in regular exercise. Exercise not only keeps the cardiovascular system in shape, but it also helps build muscle. Our muscles naturally deteriorate as we age, so exercise is a way to stave off that effect. And cholesterol can play a large role.
One study noted that exercisers who ingested more cholesterol gained more muscle mass than those with lower cholesterol intakes. This didn’t turn them into bodybuilders, but instead gave them stronger, denser muscles that will take longer to naturally break down. The key, it seems, is that cholesterol plays a role in the inflammation process. Regulating cortisol is important, and it appears dietary cholesterol plays a positive role.
3. Testosterone production
Men with low testosterone levels suffer from a number of ailments. They can range from depression to fatigue, and of course to erectile disfunction. There are supplements that can artificially boost testosterone, but there are many negative effects of those. They can actually lower testosterone over time, since the artificial testosterone signals to the body that it needn’t make its own.
In his best-seller The 4-Hour Body, Tim Ferriss tackles the issue of testosterone. What he found is that we produce it overnight, and that cholesterol plays a large role. He found that ingesting a large amount of cholesterol before bed — in the form of four egg yolks — can boost testosterone the next day. That’s not an everyday thing, but it shows that cholesterol ingestion can boost testosterone levels.
While there are many positive effects of cholesterol, not all cholesterol intake is positive. While eggs and liver can deliver essential nutrients, processed foods with high cholesterol can indeed raise your cholesterol levels. That’s not necessarily from the cholesterol itself, though, but the other elements in the processed foods.