Dear Dr. Mo: Should I or shouldn’t I eat eggs and are they healthy in any way? People keep saying eggs are full of cholesterol and should be avoided but, is this true?
Dear reader: Contrary to a wide-spread belief (or myth), eggs are very healthy food and a healthy individual can and should eat them on a regular basis. If a person loves eggs vey much and eats too many of them, this can increase cholesterol levels and associated risks for heart disease but if you stick to 4 whole eggs or fewer a week, evidence suggest that any risks you may have will not increase.
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), which had revised its dietary guidelines back in 2000 to “allow” healthy adults to consume eggs once again, you may eat one egg every day – so 7 eggs a week, which is even more than I’d recommend. However, the AHA still advises a total daily cholesterol limit to stay at 300 mg. One average egg contains anywhere from 180 to 220 mg of cholesterol so you’ll have to take that into account and read the food labels carefully to balance your daily cholesterol intake. This advice goes for everyone age 2 and older.
After decades of study, it has become clear that cholesterol found in food is not the main culprit for high cholesterol levels and consequential atherosclerosis and heart disease – saturated fat has a much more serious effect on blood cholesterol levels, especially the LDL or so called “Bad” cholesterol. Dairy products high in fat (i.e. 3.25% MF milk and full fat coffee creams) and fatty meat (i.e. red meat) are examples of foods packed with saturated fat. The AHA suggest that you should Limit saturated fat intake to less than 7 percent of total daily calories.
Why are eggs good?
Milk and eggs have a very high value for protein. One egg is low on calories (only about 75) but it has 7 grams of high-quality protein and 5 grams of fat (only 1.6g are saturated fat) and this total fat content is only about 8% of a daily recommended value. An egg also contains vitamins A, D, E and B12, iron and carotenoid pigments.
Lutein is a carotenoid pigment (responsible for yolk’s colour) which is highly bio-available in eggs – this means our body can easily access it and absorb it for use, which is good news as this pigment is very important for our long-term eye health, especially as we age.
Being low on calories and fat but high in protein, eggs manage to keep you feeling full for long and in a healthy way. Losing weight may be a challenging thing to do and it is important to eat foods that naturally come packed with good nutrients. These foods can and will stave off your hunger between your planned meals and keep you from snacking and cheating on your diet. Egg is a wonderful example of such a food.
Word of caution
If you are healthy, it’s recommended that you limit your dietary cholesterol to less than 300 mg a day.
If you have any cardiovascular disease, diabetes (either type 1 or 2 or pre-diabetes or metabolic syndrome) or a high LDL (“bad”) blood cholesterol level, you should limit your dietary cholesterol to less than 200 mg a day and speak to your doctor about your diet (eggs included).
Yours in health,