Unscrambling the Mystery of Eggs

Unscrambling the Mystery of Eggs

WHole EggsCatherine Cioffi, BS, Contributing Blogger

Eggs have gotten mixed press over the years. For years we’ve been told to avoid them because the yolks are high in cholesterol. We also know that eggs contain protein, vitamins A and D, omega-3 fats and the antioxidant lutein. So what’s an egg lover to do?

Cholesterol & Eggs
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, we should be limiting our daily cholesterol to less than 300 milligrams per day. For individuals with elevated LDL (bad) cholesterol, the recommendation is less than 200 mg per day.

Cholesterol is found is animal foods like meats, poultry, dairy, and eggs. Previously, it was thought that one egg contained 215 milligrams of cholesterol, so eating one or two eggs per day would make it tough to stay within the 300 milligram max recommended.  However, an updated analysis done in 2010 found that eggs now contain less cholesterol—about 185 milligrams per egg.

The Recommendation
Based on these findings, the American Heart Association (AHA) now says that “one egg a day can fit within heart-healthy guidelines for [healthy] people”.

Of course, it’s important that we eat them in moderation—no more than 1 whole egg per day, or 7 yolks per week. We also must take into account how much cholesterol we eat from other foods—it should all balance out—and remember other factors affecting blood cholesterol.

Although it’s commonly assumed that eating too much cholesterol will raise blood cholesterol, the real culprit is saturated fat. High intakes of saturated fat have been shown to raise LDL (“bad”) and total cholesterol levels. The AHA recommends keeping saturated fat intake less than 7% of total calories. On a 2000 Calorie/day diet, this would equal about 16 grams of saturated fat per day. Common foods high in saturated fat include solid fats (like lard), red meat, and dairy products like butter and cheese.

The Pros
There are also many nutritional benefits of eating eggs. They provide:

  • High-quality, complete protein, with 6 grams per egg.  Each egg (with the yolk) gives you all the required amino acids our bodies need.
  • 11 essential vitamins and minerals, including vitamins D, A, E, and K (the fat-soluble vitamins), folate, and vitamin B12.
  • Phytochemicals, such as lutein—a bright yellow-orange hue that helps with eye health.

If you’re tossing the egg yolks, you’re getting rid of some amazing-for-you nutrients like:

  • Omega-3 fats (called EHA and DHA)
  • Choline: an essential nutrient required by our brains, nervous system, and cell membranes.

Bottom Line: For eggs, there is more to the story than we previously thought. With so many nutritional benefits, both the yolk and the egg should be enjoyed.

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