Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. Thus, it’s important for both genders to understand cholesterol and how it affects them. First, we’ll bust the myth that dietary cholesterol leads to high cholesterol in the blood, and then turn towards the foods that can help men and women balance cholesterol levels within the blood.
Eating foods high in cholesterol and saturated fat does not cause high cholesterol levels. Wait, what? Yes, that’s not a typo. This idea has been so ingrained into our psyches that when we think of ways to lower our cholesterol levels, the majority of us would immediately think we need to stop eating egg yolks, butter, fish, red meat and other animal products. High dietary cholesterol doesn’t necessarily translate into higher cholesterol within the body for most people.
Old science and studies conducted over half a century ago, told us that eating cholesterol and saturated fat raises cholesterol in our blood. This has been severely overstated. Today’s more recent research, which is also of a higher scientific standard, shows us evidence that this is not the case (1), (2), (3), (4), (5). This is great news because you’re allowed to eat your egg yolks again, which contain numerous vitamins and minerals that are lacking in our diets, including choline, vitamin D, and many B vitamins.
Is this the case for everyone? Of course it’s important to note that even though the association between dietary cholesterol and cholesterol levels in the blood has been exaggerated, diet does play a role in balancing your cholesterol levels.
Just because recent science has shed a different light on the role of cholesterol in foods as relating to cholesterol in the blood, doesn’t mean you can eat whatever you want and there won’t be an impact on your cardiovascular health. Eating a nutritious diet with more veggies, fruits, lean proteins and whole grains will reduce your risk of heart disease and help create the right balance between “good” and “bad” cholesterols. What should men and women be eating and how does it differ?
Because of men and women’s biological difference, diets and risk of cardiovascular disease differ. For instance, young women have a much lower risk due to estrogen, which tends to increase “good” cholesterol levels. However, once women go through menopause, their estrogen levels drop, and their risk of developing high cholesterol goes up.
In terms of food choices, whole grains are high in soluble fiber, which helps balance cholesterol levels. Men need more fiber than women: 38 vs. 25 grams a day before the age of 50 and 30 versus 21 grams a day thereafter.
Omega 3s are also important for both men and women to incorporate into their diets. However, pregnant woman may need more omega 3s at this time.
When it comes to diet and health research, it’s again important to note that these are averages and everyone’s health is unique to them, and it’s working with your doctor is vital to a long and healthy life.
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