When I was in school for dietetics, eggs were considered a healthy food but one that should only be consumed two days a week because of their cholesterol content. And let’s be honest, that wasn’t too long ago….about 8 years to be precise. Since that time things have changed. Actually, a lot has changed. Now all of a sudden cholesterol in food isn’t really what raises our cholesterol…it’s saturated fats (although for some populations at greater risk for heart disease, cholesterol should still be limited (read about Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes here)). And these days even saturated fats are being looked at in a different light, with so many different forms having different effects on our blood lipids. Speaking of blood lipids, a simple lipid profile provides only the basic information and doesn’t provide enough detail for certain high-risk populations. Advanced lipid profiles can tell us so much more about a person’s risk (I mean, having “high cholesterol” may not be so bad anymore, as the types of LDL cholesterol are turning out to mean so much more than we ever thought). It’s confusing, even for me, a dietitian. There is just so much information out there, and so much yet to be discovered.
|Source: iStock Photo|
The whole saturated fat debate will probably carry on for years (if you’d like to read more check out a couple of my past posts; Margarine vs. Butter, and Is Coconut Oil Really That Great?), but a debate that I believe is finally coming to an end is the debate about eggs. Without fail, the question I get asked the most is, “How many eggs can I eat every week?” or “Are eggs bad for me”? I’m going to start handing out this article from the New York Times to everyone who asks this, because I sometimes feel like a broken record.
|Source: iStock Photo
The eggs may not be bad, but the bacon? That’s another story, for another post.
The bottom line? After pooling data from eight prospective studies, which included over 250,000 subjects, there was no evidence that eating up to an egg a day increase people’s risk for heart disease or stroke (diabetes patients were the only exception, but there were too few in the study to draw any conclusions. Please read the very short article to learn more).
|Now THAT is something to smile about! Wondering what this is? Egg white and oat crepes; 4 egg whites, 1/2 cup oats, a dash of vanilla, put in a skillet and cook like a pancake. Top with syrup or fruit or Greek yogurt or all three!|
But, the question still remains….how many eggs can be consumed each week before negative effects are seen? That’s still unclear, but the consensus seems to be that as long as you are eating a balanced diet, getting plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, etc. and replacing some of your saturated fats with unsaturated fats, it’s probably fine to do more than 1 egg a day, sometimes (but of course, listen to your doctor’s orders, as some people are at greater risk for heart disease and some evidence still shows that a reduced cholesterol diet is very important for certain high-risk populations).
|Nutrition Facts for eggs|
My personal opinion? Eggs are definitely high in cholesterol, but the mere 1 gram of saturated fat is pretty amazing. And check out the protein, riboflavin and vitamin E! And then there is the choline, which is found in the egg yolk and has some positive health effects. Ok, but what else do you notice about the label above? I have a confession. It wasn’t until I was working with a client just two weeks ago who was trying to stick to a low-sodium diet that I realized just how much sodium eggs contained. Can you believe I thought eggs were sodium free? Yeah, I’m so embarrassed. That 65mg is mainly from the whites. And guess who eats egg whites all the time?? ME!
|This is my egg white crepe, same as the picture above but a bit messier. Still delicious.
So….basically here is what you should know;
- To go along with this month’s National Nutrition Month Theme, remember, Eggs aren’t a “Bad Food” (there is no such thing as a bad food, only bad food patterns, and don’t you forget it!). They are low in saturated fat, and even though they are loaded with cholesterol the research doesn’t seem to show that they increase heart disease or stroke risk.
- If you’re skipping the egg yolks, you are missing about half of the protein and all of the choline in eggs.
- If you are just eating the egg whites you need to consider the sodium content. While the ~55 mg of sodium in 1 egg white isn’t high, it can quickly add up when you make that 6 egg white omelet!
- Eggs are delicious and health-promoting, but if you are on strict orders to reduce your cholesterol, do not eat them. Period.
Here are some of my past egg recipes;
And with Easter right around the corner, don’t forget eggs are perfect hard boiled and topped on spinach salads…..
…. and they are also perfect with peanut butter and chocolate 😉