If you have high cholesterol, should you or could you follow the ketogenic diet? Here are some facts and myths to help you decide!
Much of what most people thought to have understood about cholesterol, both the “good” and the “bad” ones, is outdated and completely misunderstood. Until now doctors and medical professionals warned patients about eating high-fat foods for fear of increasing cholesterol levels which then would undoubtedly lead to heart disease and other metabolic issues like diabetes. Likewise, some folks are uber-hesitant to begin a ketogenic diet based on the all you can eat bacon and cheese buffet which goes against everything the medical professionals have been preaching all these years.
Both Are Wrong
It’s true. And once the bigger picture, the true picture, is clear… it will all make sense. Only humans and animals produce cholesterol which means humans get the 25% mentioned above through animal proteins. Plants are naturally cholesterol-free.
The Cholesterol Myths and Truths
First, we need to get a better understanding of the whole cholesterol fiasco and why the previous myths have been debunked.
- Cholesterol isn’t harmful. In fact, the human body produces 75% of the necessary cholesterol supply and the other 25% is ingested.
- Cholesterol doesn’t just float around willy-nilly in the bloodstream causing plaques and heart disease.
- A “cholesterol panel” is actually a lipid panel. Cholesterol isn’t even an interest; it’s the vehicle in which cholesterol travels that wreaks havoc on the cardiovascular system. When a lipid panel is drawn the good old doctors are looking for the numbers and sizes of the cholesterol carriers (lipoproteins), not the cholesterol itself. HDL (good), LDL (bad) and VLDL (ugly) are the vehicles, like a car per se, for cholesterol. These particles move the cholesterol around the parts of the body where it’s needed.
- The HDL, high-density lipoprotein, is deemed the “good” one because it’s responsible for returning any leftover LDL cholesterol vehicles back to the liver to be recycled or sent down the poop chute. HDL has anti-inflammatory properties and assists the immune system.
- The LDL, low-density lipoprotein, is not so good. These guys are slow and tend to get stuck in the arteries which start plaque buildup. The LDL value calculates how many and the size of these lipoprotein vehicles are in the blood. An overabundance of smaller LDL vehicles can cause problems. The best scenario is there is a lower number and they are bigger in size.
- Then there is the VLDL, very-low-density lipoprotein, which doesn’t even carry cholesterol and instead carts around triglycerides. Triglycerides are the byproduct of leftover and unused sugars (carbohydrates) that need a place to hide. They are smaller than LDL cholesterol carriers, thus the risk for heart disease is much greater with these guys.
In summary, cholesterol gets a free ride and a bad rap. Lipoproteins are just trying to do a good job, for the most part, and it appears that eating foods high in carbohydrates and sugars is the real culprit.
How Does Keto Help Cholesterol Levels?
Research has shown improved lipid panels in both men and women in several studies. A low-fat diet versus a ketogenic diet has also been examined and studied specifically for lipoprotein improvements. Studies have been conducted for as few as 24 weeks to more than a year. The common factors in research thus far:
- Triglycerides decreased due to the ketogenic diet limitations on carbohydrates and refined sugars.
- Increased LDL carrier size.
- Increased the number of HDL carries to deal with the LDL.
- Decreased body mass index and weight.
- Better blood glucose readings.
Pretty awesome news for those struggling with an out of whack lipid panel. And weight loss. And glucose issues.
The #1 Ketogenic Diet Myth
A menu consisting of bacon and cheese isn’t going to cut it on the ketogenic diet. That’s simply not true and a terrible meal plan. The ketogenic diet is based on getting the correct number of macronutrients (protein, fats, and carbohydrates) to maximize results and maintain a state of ketosis.
It’s all about balance. Adequate protein, a higher percentage of calories in fat than anything else and limit carbohydrates to 20-50 grams. Individual numbers vary based on goals and other factors. There are a number of macronutrient apps and calculators online. So, go ahead and eat the bacon and savor that cheese. They aren’t forbidden; they just have to fit the ratio. Need another reason the bacon and cheese diet is absurd? Humans need to balance electrolytes. Sodium, potassium and magnesium are imperative for health and wellness. Some of this can come from animal proteins, but the best sources are above-ground veggies. Plus, vegetables are a great source of vitamins and antioxidants.
Cholesterol isn’t such a bad guy after all. The ketogenic diet can absolutely assist in correcting a lipid panel, along with many other benefits. Oh, and a slab of bacon a day with a block of cheese certainly doesn’t fulfill the ketogenic dietary needs, but both are in fact keto-friendly foods.