10 Health Lessons Learned

By Karen Ansel, M.S., R.D., "What We’ve Learned," July/August 2012

Find out how nutrition science has evolved in the past decade. Here's what we know now—and didn’t then.

"Such a well sourced article Karen! It's very interesting to see how the common-knowledge assumptions change over time, thanks for the read! "

8. Dietary cholesterol isn’t so evil
Years ago, if you had a cholesterol problem you were under strict orders to avoid cholesterol-rich foods like eggs and shrimp. Today, we know these foods are fine to eat in moderation. The truth is our bodies need some cholesterol to make hormones, vitamin D, bile acids (compounds that help us digest fat) and the membranes that line our cells.

While some of the cholesterol in your bloodstream comes from the food you eat, your liver manufactures anywhere from two-and-a-half to five times that amount every day. When your liver senses incoming cholesterol from food, it simply produces less. What really trips it up is saturated fat from foods like cheese, butter and fatty cuts of red meat. When bombarded with too much saturated fat, our bodies respond by clearing less “bad” LDL cholesterol from our bloodstreams (the same thing happens if you’re genetically predisposed to high cholesterol). That means limiting saturated fat is far more important than axing all cholesterol from your diet. Keep your numbers in check by eating 7 percent or less of your calories from saturated fat (that’s 16 grams for a 2,000-calorie diet). And the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends limiting cholesterol from foods to 300 milligrams a day (that’s one and a half large eggs or, if you can believe it, 34 medium shrimp). If you have—or are at risk for—heart disease, cap cholesterol at 200 milligrams.

Next: 9. We’re eating too much sugar »

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