A change in dietary guidelines

Foods high in cholesterol not the greatest threat

Kathy Cunningham, M.Ed., R.D., L.D. | 4/20/2016, 2:03 p.m.
The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans has changed its stance on foods high in cholesterol. The new guidelines say that ...
Omega-3 fats, such as that found in salmon, may lower triglycerides and reduce inflammation that can lead to atherosclerosis, or plaque. Thinkstock.com/iStock/vicuschka

The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans have finally made their entry. Updated every five years by the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture, the guidelines provide recommendations to promote good health through healthy eating.

Healthy Hints

There is no exact menu to follow for healthy eating. Below are some general guidelines to help you choose wisely.

  • Increase healthy fats. Some fats are actually healthy. Monounsaturated fats like olive oil and avocados can improve LDL cholesterol levels, according to Mayo Clinic, as well as omega-3 fats found in fish, such as salmon and albacore tuna. Walnuts, peanuts, almonds and other nuts and seeds help keep blood vessels healthy. Although nuts are good for you, they are high in calories and should be eaten in moderation. A handful a day will do.
  • Switch the carbs. You need carbs for fuel, but carbs from whole-grain bread, brown rice, and other whole grains provide fuel as well as much needed nutrients. They are also high in fiber which helps prevent fat buildup in the blood.
  • Eat your veggies. Plant-based foods like fruits and vegetables are antioxidants that squelch the damage from free radicals that are linked not only to cardiovascular diseases but also to cancer.
  • Spice it up. People tend to overlook the health benefits of herbs and spices such as turmeric, ginger and garlic. These spices are powerful antioxidants and may lower cholesterol and prevent the buildup of plaque that is linked to heart disease.

Some guidelines have not changed. Americans are advised to eat more fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean protein, for example. But two recommendations in particular are not only new, they are game-changing.

The 300 milligrams per day limit of dietary cholesterol has been lifted. Although this change has sparked discussion within the nutrition and public health community, the guidelines are quick to point out that “this change does not suggest that dietary cholesterol is no longer important to consider when building healthy eating patterns.”

Research now shows, however, that the cholesterol we eat has only a small effect on blood cholesterol levels for most people. A meta-analysis published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found no association between saturated fat and heart disease in prospective studies involving close to 350,000 participants. Another study from Japan actually found an inverse association between saturated fat and stroke. In other words, those who ate more saturated fat had a lower risk of stroke.

Trans fats still taboo

Based on these and other findings the DGA revised its advice. Cholesterol-rich foods, like eggs, shrimp and lobster are no longer completely forbidden. One egg, which has 186 mg of cholesterol, will not affect your overall cholesterol if it is part of a healthy eating plan. That does not mean that these foods can be eaten with abandon. The guidelines advise that people consume less than 10 percent of their calories from saturated fat. In general, foods that are higher in dietary cholesterol, such as fatty meats, are also higher in saturated fat.