Over the years, we've heard a lot about how to keep our cholesterol at healthy levels—and about the need to keep an eye on the cholesterol in food.

And whether or not you are taking a cholesterol-lowering medication such as a statin, lifestyle strategies such as exercise and a healthy diet are part and parcel of a good cholesterol control program. That's why a lot of people have been limiting the cholesterol they get from dietary sources to 300 milligrams per day (for the sake of comparison, one egg yolk contains about 184 milligrams).

But many experts have concluded that focusing on the cholesterol in food is less important than another dietary strategy. Here's the lowdown.

What the Studies Suggest

It was believed for years that the cholesterol in food played a significant role in unhealthy cholesterol levels, but newer research has found that dietary cholesterol has a smaller negative impact on serum (blood) cholesterol than experts once thought it did.

For example, a recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, which followed 1,000 men for about 21 years, including some who carried a gene that might have made them sensitive to dietary cholesterol, found that eating eggs—up to one per day—didn’t raise their risk for coronary artery disease.

And by setting limits on certain high-cholesterol foods, people could potentially miss out on some important nutrients, says Sandra Procter, Ph.D., R.D., an assistant professor in the department of food, nutrition, dietetics, and health at Kansas State University in Manhattan. “Eggs contain lutein and choline, which are very important nutrients for eye and pregnancy health,” she says.

Another substance, saturated fat, found in foods such as fatty red meat, butter, skin-on poultry, and many baked and fried items, appears to have a greater effect on blood cholesterol than the cholesterol in food does.

That's why the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which were issued toward the end of 2015, no longer recommend a maximum cholesterol intake. Instead, the guidelines focus on saturated fat, and advise keeping the amount of saturated fat you eat to no more than 10 percent of your total daily calories.

Note that cholesterol is found only in animal products, so when you cut back on them to reduce saturated fat you automatically cut your consumption of foods that contain cholesterol. (Eggs, lobster, and shrimp, however, are high in cholesterol but low in saturated fat.) And when it comes to protein, experts recommend that you get it from a variety of sources to maximize your nutrient intake.