Over the years there has been a back-and-forth debate on whether eggs can be part of a healthy diet. The general consensus of the last couple decades has linked eggs and cholesterol levels so it has been recommended to reduce or even eliminate the consumption of eggs. However, recent studies are giving eggs a better reputation and they may not be as bad as we have been told. The question becomes – are eggs high in cholesterol and do they increase the risk of heart disease?
The yolk of an egg is where the cholesterol is located. The total amount of cholesterol in the yolk of a large egg (the most common size in the U.S.A.) is around 213 mg. This number is about 50-60 mg lower than what was previously thought. The American Heart Association recommends a maximum of 300 mg of daily dietary cholesterol. Just looking at those two numbers you can see that an egg a day can fit into your diet, but you don’t have much room for any other dietary cholesterol. However, this has begun to get a little more confusing with studies over the last few years. The cholesterol in eggs may not be as bad as it seems.
First, the esteemed Nurses’ Health Study from Harvard indicates that there is no statistically significant increase in the risk of a heart attack between those that eat one egg a daily when compared to those that eat just one egg per week on average. This finding has also been backed up by the Physicians’ Health Study, which has found that moderate consumption of eggs did not statistically increase the risk of cardiovascular disease (though, people with diabetes were more strongly affected).
Why doesn’t the consumption of eggs increase the risk of heart disease?
More recent studies have found that eating eggs raises both your LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) and HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) levels. Not only that, but the LDL that is created is large. So large, in fact, that this LDL has trouble getting through the arterial walls so it does not promote plaque in your arteries that smaller forms of LDL do. An increase in HDL cholesterol helps decrease the risk of heart disease since it takes cholesterol out of the blood and carries it to the liver to produce bile. Since LDL and HDL are both increased by adding eggs to your diet the ratio between the two remain the same. When the ratio remains the same, even with an increase of total cholesterol, your risk of heart disease do not increase. There have been several recent studies that have found these results, with the most important study performed by the University of Connecticut.
What is the best way to add eggs to my diet?
Whether you just like the taste or you are looking for a way to get more protein in your diet, giving up on having eggs in your diet is not an option. What are you supposed to do?
Some recommendations now allow 1-2 whole eggs per day to be added to the diet of a healthy person. The key word there is “whole”. An easy way to add more eggs to your diet is by using egg substitutes, such as Egg Beaters. These egg substitutes are essentially just egg whites so they have 0 mg of cholesterol. Most egg substitutes are yellow in color, but that is only because coloring is added to give the appearance of whole eggs. Besides the protein and nutrients that you can find in egg whites, these substitutes also include added minerals and vitamins.
If you want to make an omelete, scrambled eggs, or some other dish with more than one egg you can either use all egg substitute or combine one whole egg with some egg substitute. You will be surprised with the consistency and the taste. It really tastes very much like you are not eating mostly egg whites.
For a fast and easy way to make an egg breakfast that tastes great, you can now get egg substitutes that have vegetables, cheese, spices, and herbs already added. Just pour some in your pan and cook up some scrambled eggs that taste great and are ready in just a couple minutes.
How not to add eggs to your diet
You have decided that 1-2 eggs per day is okay to add to your diet and you want to fry a couple up for breakfast. Be careful with how you prepare this meal. You can make this meal much worse for your health by frying in a lot of butter, adding salt or accompanying the eggs with foods high in saturated fat, such as bacon or sausage. It is best to use just a dab of butter or, better yet, a quick mist of cooking spray.
While eggs and cholesterol have had a storied past, most people in the medical field are forming the opinion that adding some eggs to your diet is not necessarily a bad thing. As with any changes, moderation is key and you should discuss any significant changes with your doctor.