Eggs have gotten a bad reputation in the nutrition world. Eggs are high in cholesterol, and cholesterol was first implicated in heart disease in the 1950’s. Since then, many government and research studies have suggested limiting egg consumption to decrease risk of heart disease, especially if you already have high blood cholesterol.
However, more recent research has indicated that eggs may not be as harmful for heart health as once thought. There are also many other positive benefits in eggs that may “out-weigh” negative impacts. Does this mean you can eat as many eggs as you want? Most health officials are hesitant to give an unlimited green light, so moderation for eggs may still be a good idea. See also: Are eggs good for you?
Right now, many organizations like the American Heart Association suggests most people can eat up to 1 egg a day without increasing risk for heart disease. If someone already has high blood cholesterol, a combination of risk factors for heart disease or a strong genetic disposition, they may want to limit egg intake less than 1 per day.
For most people, dietary cholesterol doesn’t strongly affect blood cholesterol levels. Therefore, eating about an egg a day shouldn’t adversely affect heart health. Some people may have a genetic predisposition to abnormally high sensitivity to dietary cholesterol, and may benefit from a reduced intake of cholesterol.
A 2013 study from the British Medical Journal also concluded that people with diabetes and a higher egg consumption was associated with a significantly elevated risk of coronary heart disease. More research needs to be done on egg consumption in people with diabetes, as not many research studies have been done on this. Diabetics may benefit from a lower consumption of 1 egg/day.
The cholesterol in eggs is found in the yolk. Therefore, eating only the egg whites won’t add cholesterol to your diet. For people watching their cholesterol intake, eating only egg whites instead of a whole egg can be a lower cholesterol substitute.
Are there any health benefits of eggs?
In the 2013 British Medical Journal study, researchers also concluded that a higher intake of eggs was associated with a lower risk of hemorrhagic stroke. This is similar to other studies finding an inverse association between egg consumption and stroke risk. Therefore, although eggs have been regarded as not heart healthy, some research suggests they may actually reduce risk for stroke.
Eggs are a rich source of protein, with about 7 gm of protein per egg. Most of the protein is in the egg white, so eating egg whites in place of a whole egg will still give you the protein in eggs. The protein in eggs are high quality, and the protein in eggs are one of the most digestible proteins for humans.
Egg yolks are a rich source of B vitamins and contain vitamin D. Egg yolks partially get their rich yellow color from 2 carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin which are beneficial for eye health.
Should you worry about your egg consumption?
Most people don’t need to worry about their egg consumption if they are eating about 1 egg a day. If you have diabetes or multiple risk factors for heart disease, then limiting cholesterol intake may be more important.
Since dietary cholesterol doesn’t significantly impact blood cholesterol for most of the population, other dietary factors may play a stronger role in negatively impacting heart health. Other factors to consider for heart health include trans fats intake, fiber intake, antioxidants, monounsaturated fats (heart healthy) and sugar intake.
See also: What to eat to lower your cholesterol
Rarely is one food the cause for increasing risk for a disease. Remember, your overall diet is more important for health than just one food. Eggs can be part of a healthy diet in moderation. Enjoy eggs with other healthy foods like vegetables, whole grains or beans.
Trans fats and excess sugar intake can negatively affect heart health, probably more than the cholesterol in foods. Trans fats are found in processed foods like packaged baked goods or fast food. Eating a lot of foods high in trans fats and sugar can increase risk for some chronic diseases.
Eating foods high in fiber can help decrease risk for heart disease because soluble fiber can help remove excess cholesterol from the body. Soluble fiber is found in oats, barley and fruits.
Although we don’t need to fear eggs as previously thought, most health professionals still suggest using moderation for egg consumption. Eating about 1 egg per day is currently recommended for most people.
Eggs have many health benefits, and shouldn’t be avoided all together. They are a rich source of protein, B vitamins, vitamin D and antioxidants.
Foods that increase risk for heart disease include trans fats, excess sugar and a diet rich in fiber can help lower cholesterol. If you have a history of heart disease, strong genetic link for heart disease, high cholesterol or diabetes, talk to a health professional for individual recommendation for daily egg intake.
References used in this article