Cholesterol is known as the mother of all hormones and is important for the body’s production of steroid hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, and cortisol. According to nutritionist Holly Greenwood, “Cholesterol is like firemen at the scene of a fire—they are there to lend assistance during the accident—to help to put the fire out. They are not the cause of it.” Inflammation in the arteries can lead to the release of cholesterol, various lipoproteins, and other aid from the immune system released into the blood to help repair the damage. But over time this protective activation leads to scarring and plaque formation, the beginnings of coronary artery disease, the single leading cause of death in the United States.
Compare this to one hundred years ago when cardio vascular disease was considered quite rare, accounting for 8 percent of deaths. Cardiovascular disease, obesity, and high cholesterol are typically thought to be linked to consuming a high-fat diet; hence we are all encouraged to avoid fats. But this over-simplified thinking needs to be revisited. According to Greenwood, the problem actually lies with cholesterol oxides: cholesterol damaged by inflammation and oxidative stress which leads to clogged arteries.
Such oxidative stress can be caused by diabetes, hypertension, smoking, emotional stress, high iron levels, low dietary antioxidants, non- and low-fat milk solids, and trans-fatty acids. The latter are hydrogenated fats which give a longer shelf life to foods like cookies and crackers. These unnatural fats lead to increased free radical damage in the body as well as inflammation.
Contrarily, according to the Weston Price Foundation, the consumption of saturated animal fats such as organ meats, red meat, and butter are not high cardiovascular risk factors. Thus simply avoiding fats is not the right call: we must consider what types of fats we consume. Here’s a list of 12 heart-healthy fats and foods, which contrary to popular belief, shouldn’t be avoided but embraced.
1. Butter. What doesn’t taste better with butter? Butter is high in Vitamin A which is needed for proper functioning of thyroid, adrenals, growth, heart function, protein and calcium assimilation. Also known for its anti-oxidant properties, butter contains lecithin, which aids cholesterol and fat metabolism. It also has many important minerals, fatty acids and Vitamins D, E, and K. Like a daily vitamin, my family and I take Butter Oil.
2. High Vitamin Fermented Cod Liver Oil (FCLO). In the past European children were given cod liver oil because it is a good source of Vitamins A, D, K, E and DHA, which are important for strong bones, growth, fertility, skin, and brain development. According to Dr. Price, the effects of FCLO are enhanced when combined with high vitamin butter oil.
3. Organic Fruits and Vegetables. Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, preferably organic, grown locally and in season.
4. Soaked Grains. By soaking grains for 12-24 hours, grains are more easily digested. Nowadays many people are sensitive to grains which can cause digestive disturbances and wheat allergies. Soaking breaks down phytic acid, which would otherwise block absorption of minerals in the gut leading to deficiencies and bone loss.
5. Raw Milk and Dairy Products. Milk drinkers should consider consuming raw whole fat milk. When produced by reputable companies with healthy cows, raw milk is considered safe and contains many healthy components that are not found in the standard market variety. The enzymes and antibodies in raw milk are less vulnerable to contamination than pasteurized milk. Pasteurization actually destroys valuable enzymes and nutrients, which can trigger an immune response that leads to milk intolerance and increases health problems such as allergies, asthma, attention deficit disorder, and ear infections.
6. Bone Broth (also known as chicken soup). Make stock from the bones of chicken, meat, and fish. The stockpot is considered one of the most valuable utensils in our ancestors’ kitchens. Gelatin rich broths aid digestion and are important for those with intestinal disorders and many chronic illnesses.
7. Fermented foods. In the past foods were fermented as a way to preserve them for longer periods. Advantages include easier digestion of vegetables, increased vitamins, and enzymes known for antibiotic and anti-cancer properties. In addition, fermentation helps support the healthy bacteria in the intestine, similar to probiotics.
8. Organic Meats, Poultry, Fish, Eggs, and Organ Meats. Consider the sources when you purchase meats, poultry, fish, and eggs. Wild fish, free range chicken, grass fed beef, and eggs without antibiotics or growth hormones are a priority and can be consumed in moderate amounts. No longer a staple in the American kitchen, organ meats are rich in vitamins, fatty acids and minerals.
9. Healthy Fats. Not all fats are created equal. Fats from animals and vegetable sources are important for energy supply, cell membranes, and the production of hormones in the body. All fats should be whole, full fat—avoid consuming low- or non-fat products.
10. Whole foods. Avoid white refined foods like flours, rice, and sugar; cereals and crackers including organic brands; artificial sweeteners; and soy products. Cereals are made using an extrusion process of high temperature and intense pressure which destroys nutrients, causes oils to go rancid and makes them difficult to digest. White flour is broken down into the body like sugar and contributes to moodiness and increased cravings. Soy leads to deficiencies of vitamin D and calcium and hypothyroidism.