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Why you should have a love-hate relationship with eggs.

Eggs for breakfast, an omelet for dinner, eggs and avocado. There are so many ways we can enjoy an egg.  However, the question is, is it healthy to do so? A few decades ago; it was generally considered that we should not eat too many eggs because of their high cholesterol content.

A couple of years ago a large study showed that we may not have to be overly concerned about eating eggs. And then last month, the alarm bells were ringing again. Researchers combined findings from 6 studies, involving almost 30,000 US adults, over a period of 17 years. Their conclusions show that there was a significantly increase of risk of cardio vascular disease, for each additional 300 ml of cholesterol a day (JAMA, 3/19/19).

Eggs are more than just cholesterol.

If it was not for the saturated fat and cholesterol content, eggs could be considered healthy. Two-third of the weight of a chicken egg is egg white and one-third is egg yolk. Whole eggs contain protein, riboflavin, iron, vitamin D, choline, Lutein and zeaxanthin (antioxidants). The egg white is mostly protein; while in the egg yolk you can find the cholesterol, saturated fat, and most of the other nutrients. In more detail

  • An egg white contains mostly water and 10% of its weight is high quality protein. This means that egg protein contains all the essential amino acids your body needs but can’t produce on its own.
  • An egg white contains very little fat and carbohydrates
  • A yolk contains approx. 3 times more calories than the egg whites, mostly coming from fat.
  • A yolk contains all of the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K), good for your bones and immune system.
  • A yolk contains all of the essential fatty acids.
  • A yolk contains lutein and zeaxanthin that will reduce the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration
  • Most of the calories of an egg are in the yolk, so a single 3-tablespoon serving of liquid egg whites has just 25 calories but 5 grams of protein. Virtually no fat and no carbohydrates.

What is cholesterol and do we need it?

Cholesterol is a fat-like substance that is an essential compound of the membranes of all the cells in your body and a major component of brain and nerve cells. Your body also needs cholesterol to make hormones, vitamin D, and substances that help you digest foods. Your body makes almost (approx. 80%) of all the cholesterol it needs. The remainder (20%) comes from foods from animal sources; plants are considered cholesterol-free.

Product Cholesterol
1 cup of whole milk 33 mg
1 ounce of cheddar cheese 30 mg
1 teaspoon butter 10 mg
1 egg 212 mg
3.5 oz. salmon 50 mg
3.5 oz. shrimps 194 mg
3.5 oz. lean beef 78 mg
3.5 oz. sirloin beef 89 mg
3.5 oz. pork chop 85 mg
3.5 oz. pork tenderloin 79 mg
1 oz. bacon 30 mg
3.5 oz. chicken (no skin) 85 mg
3.5 oz. chicken liver 631 mg

Good and bad cholesterol.

The total amount of cholesterol in your blood, includes both low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.

Bad Cholesterol = LDL. A high LDL level may lead to a buildup of cholesterol in your arteries and is associated with the buildup of a plaque that can clog your arteries.

Good Cholesterol = HDL. It removes bad cholesterol from your blood and artery walls and return it to the liver for excretion.

Healthy levels of blood cholesterol are 125 to 200mg/dL (man and women over 20 years of age)

Let’s not yolk around – how much cholesterol do we need?

Doctors, dietitians and nutritionists used to recommend that you consume no more than 300 milligrams (mg) of cholesterol per day or even no more than 200 mg if you had a high risk of heart disease.

U.S. dietary guideline committee concluded that cholesterol is ‘not considered a nutrient of concern for over-consumption.’ This was 2015, but research has continued, and cholesterol is back in the hot set.

One egg delivers approx. 200 mg of cholesterol and that two-third of the ‘old’ guidelines and already the maximum level for at risk patients (again according to the ‘old’ guidelines).

Recommendations.

We know that your body needs cholesterol, and it can almost produce it all itself. The US dietary guidelines, may not quantify the maximum amount of cholesterol in our diet, instead the guidelines recommend ‘eat as little cholesterol as possible’. The guidelines also recommend consuming less than 10 percent of calories per day from saturated fats. Many foods high in saturated fat are also high in cholesterol.

Healthy persons with low risk for developing heart disease, can enjoy eggs in moderation. The decision on including eggs on a regular basis in your diet should be based on your health, your risk factors for developing heart disease and your diet.

Person at risk for developing heart disease , e.g. people who have diabetes, people who have had a heart attack, obese people, people with high cholesterol levels caused by hereditary factors, aging people, should be careful and pay attention to their total daily cholesterol/saturated fat intake; and thus the intake of egg.

Love or hate your eggs?

LOVE! Certainly, eggs offer a lot of very good nutrients and a healthy diet can certainly benefit from all the good nutrients an egg provides.

HATE! May be. Granted they contain a high amount of cholesterol and saturated fat, but don’t delete them from your diet, only because of that. An egg is not the only food that contains cholesterol. You won’t eliminate bacon, butter and/or cheese from your diet, so no reason to eliminate eggs.

This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor or nutritionist to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.

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