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Cracking the Case For Eggs and Heart Health

September 25, 2019 3 min read

cracking open eggs

Eggs are an affordable, easy-to-prepare, and multifunctional grocery staple. They’re also one of the most controversial foods when it comes to health. Why can’t we leave the poor little egg alone?

There seems to be endless debate about whether eggs are good or bad for you. Among the pros, eggs are an excellent source of protein, vitamins, and minerals. Those who warn against eating too many eggs point to the fact that the yolks are high in cholesterol, which may contribute to elevated blood cholesterol levels and increased risk of heart disease. But is that really accurate? 

Eggs and Cholesterol

A 2019 study rekindled the longstanding argument that the cholesterol in eggs is bad for your health. The study associates higher egg and dietary cholesterol consumption with an increased risk of heart disease and early death; earlier studies conclude that egg intake may improve cholesterol, particularly by increasing HDL.

High intake of cholesterol-rich foods like eggs may elevate blood levels in some people, but not everyone. The new 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans eliminated the recommendation that it is necessary to restrict dietary cholesterol. There simply isn’t enough evidence that it is harmful.

Other nutrients, including saturated fat, trans fat and fiber, also play a significant role in determining blood cholesterol levels. Whether dietary cholesterol affects blood cholesterol is highly individual and depends on genetics, overall diet and lifestyle choices.

Nutrition and Eggs

A single medium-sized egg contains approximately 186 milligrams of cholesterol, but eggs are also a good source of many important nutrients.

Here’s the nutrition information for a single medium egg. Remember that actual nutrient values may vary depending on the size of egg you purchase.

One medium chicken egg contains:

Calories: 63
Protein: 6 grams
Fat: 5 grams
Carbohydrate: 0 grams
Cholesterol: 186 mg

Eggs are also good sources of some vitamins, including riboflavin, B12 and choline, as well as antioxidants like lutein and zeaxanthin, which contribute to eye health.

Eggs can absolutely be a nutritious, high-protein food in most diets — given that you don’t already have high cholesterol.

Should You Eat Eggs? 

If you have high cholesterol or simply prefer to be mindful about how much cholesterol you consume, here are some tips for how to include eggs in your diet:

  1. Choose pastured eggs for the highest nutrient content. Eggs that come from pastured hens tend to be higher in vitamins, minerals and omega-3 fats, which are linked to decreased levels of heart disease and inflammation.Of course, you can also eat just the egg whites if you want to slash your calories and cholesterol, but you’ll also miss out on all the vitamins and minerals that are concentrated in the egg yolk. 
  2. Prepare your eggs in heart-healthy ways. Adding cheese, meat and butter to eggs packs in additional calories and saturated fat that can contribute to elevated cholesterol. Hard boiled, baked or scrambled/fried eggs prepared in a bit of olive or avocado oil are healthier choices. 
  3. Focus on variety. Even if you love eating eggs every day for breakfast, it’s a good idea to change it up for more nutritional diversity and density. Try protein smoothies, whole grains or oats one or two mornings a week.

For most people, eggs can be part of a healthy diet. Instead of worrying about whether a single food is good or bad for your health, focus on the bigger picture and include a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins.

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