When it comes to eggs and cholesterol, there has been much discussion (and even a little controversy). But what’s the truth? Let’s take a look.
When it comes to your cholesterol levels, diet is the single most significant contributing factor. Cholesterol occurs naturally in our bodies, and our liver produces all that we need. Any excess cholesterol we have in our bloodstream is there because of the food we consume. And it’s because of this that some foods have a huge health ‘NO-GO’ label on them.
For many years, one of these foods was eggs. The theory that pervaded public knowledge was that eggs raise blood cholesterol levels and increase your risk for cardiovascular disease. And when you survey eggs at a glance, it’s a no wonder why this myth has been accepted for so long.
As a general rule, healthy people are to consume no more than 300 mg of cholesterol every day, while those with heart disease or high cholesterol should consume absolutely no more than 200 mg. And according to BetterHealth, Australian chicken eggs contain an average of 200-250 mg each – close to the recommend daily intake with just one egg! This might be enough abolish eggs from the diet of even the most perfunctory weight-watchers. But there’s more to the egg story than this.
More recently, studies have explored the effects that the dietary cholesterol in eggs actually has on cholesterol in the blood. What they have found is that, compared to saturated fats and trans, the impact is very insignificant, and that eggs are in fact very good for you.
Confused? That’s not surprising. Let’s take a closer look at the truth about eggs and cholesterol.
The Nutritional Value of Eggs
When it comes to our eggs and our health, the positives far outweigh the negatives. Yes, eggs contain between 200-250 grams of cholesterol. But the effect this has on our blood cholesterol levels is minimal (more on that later).
One large egg also contains 13 essential vitamins and minerals, as well as a solid dose of high-quality protein. Much of the protein is found in the egg white, while the yolk is packed with things like vitamin D (one of the only foods that is), choline, and disease-fighting antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin.
In terms of fat content, eggs aren’t bad either. A typical serve of two large eggs will provide a total fat intake of approximately 10.4g – roughly 15% of your recommended daily intake (RDI).
Of that total count, 3.4g is saturated fat, 5.3g is monounsaturated, 1.7g of polyunsaturated, and 0.18g is omega-3 fatty acids. Of these, it is only the saturated fat that is bad for your body. Unsaturated fats and omega-3 are indeed very good for you. And, as an added bonus, cholesterol-boosting trans fats are nowhere to be seen!
Eggs and Cholesterol
But what about this 200-250 grams of cholesterol in each egg? Well, recent studies show that the amount of cholesterol in your diet is not a major factor in increasing the cholesterol level in your blood.
One study in particular looked at the impact of eggs on thickening of the carotid artery – a key contributor to cardiovascular disease – on over 1000 men aged 42-60, and found there was no association.
Further studies surveyed large groups eating 1-3 eggs a day over long periods, compared with people eating an egg substitute. The studies showed that eggs can actually help raise HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol), and that total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) levels don’t usually change, but sometimes can increase slightly. They also found that the omega-3 in eggs can help lower blood triglycerides, a component of high cholesterol.
In a nutshell? The cholesterol in eggs has little to no effect on our blood cholesterol levels.
So, Should We Be Eating Eggs?
Most public health organisations in Australia now include eggs as a part of a balanced diet. The Heart Foundation recommends we eat no more than 6 eggs each week. That could be 1 egg most days of the week, or a serve of eggs (2 eggs) in 2 or 3 meals a week.
If you are sensitive to cholesterol, or have high cholesterol, your doctor may recommend you keep eggs out of your diet, due to the saturated fat content. However, if you are healthy, eggs are an excellent source of protein and hard-to-find vitamins and minerals that are great for you.
If you are worried about cholesterol in your diet, look to those items that are rich in saturated fats, such as red meats, full cream milk and fast food, and trans fats, such as deep fried food, frozen pizza and cakes. These should be limited as much as possible!
If you have high cholesterol, you may choose to take complementary medicine in combination with a healthy diet and exercise. They can help increase HDL and lower LDL, as well as reduce the oxidation of LDL-c. For more information on complementary medicine for lowering cholesterol, click here.