Are eggs a healthy superfood or a nutritional time bomb to avoid at all costs? The reputation of the egg has had a roller coaster ride for several decades. And, cholesterol in eggs is indeed a major issue, but there are other nutrients to consider as well.
As with many foods, extreme opinions ignore a lot of information. The value of moderation and a balanced diet gets overlooked. If you’re on the fence about whether you should include eggs in your diet, we’ll help you find some clarity.
Of course, it’s always worth talking to your doctor if you’ve got questions about how eggs could impact YOUR unique health issues and concerns.
Do Eggs Affect Your Cholesterol?
One of the biggest debates about eggs is how eating them impacts your cholesterol. Some studies have found dietary cholesterol in eggs doesn’t really affect cholesterol levels. That’s right—eating cholesterol may not raise your cholesterol levels.1
A much more likely culprit for high blood cholesterol levels is the saturated fat in your diet. Is it possible that cholesterol consumption may increase blood cholesterol levels? Yes. But it’s possible that people with more cholesterol in their diets eat more saturated fats and other unhealthy foods.
Many egg-eaters also have a side of highly processed bacon or sausage. These factors are more likely to increase cholesterol than the eggs themselves. Prepping eggs with healthy oils and serving them with veggie sides is a much better option.2
Keep in mind—the majority of the calories, fat, and cholesterol in eggs come from the yolks. But that doesn’t mean you should remove the yolks — in fact, Dr. Gundry believes you should get rid of the whites and ONLY eat the yolks.
You see, by removing the yolks, you also cut out some hefty nutritional benefits.
Yolks vs. Whites
The white of a typical egg contains more than half the protein of the entire egg. Egg whites are free of fat, and they contain vitamins and minerals. But the yolk contains all the essential fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins.
By leaving the yolks out of the picture, you miss out on a lot of nutrients. An egg is only a superfood if you consider the whole egg, yolk included. Egg whites alone are mostly an inexpensive source of protein — and chances are, you’re already eating enough protein.
HDL vs LDL Cholesterol
If you’re concerned about eating eggs, you might be wary of your own cholesterol levels. Now, there are two different types of cholesterol in the blood; one good and one bad.
The problem with cholesterol is that it can accumulate in the arteries. This impedes blood flow, increasing the risk of heart issues. LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol causes this build-up. When LDL levels are too high, it can pose a serious health risk.
HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol has a positive effect. It helps “wash” LDL cholesterol from your bloodstream. This helps your body to get rid of dangerous LDL of it before it builds up in your arterial walls.3If you want to eat to balance your cholesterol and keep levels healthy, your best bets are:
- Consuming fatty fish
- Eating healthy fats, like olive oil or avocado oil
- Eating more healthy vegetables
- Reducing your sugar and alcohol intake
Does Eating Eggs Increase LDL Cholesterol?
Most studies show that dietary cholesterol has little or no effect on blood cholesterol levels. These levels are more likely to be affected by:
- Activity level
- Consumption of unhealthy fats (like trans-fats and saturated fats)
- Healthy fats can boost HDL and decrease LDL. So, omega-3 fortified eggs could actually have a positive impact on your serum cholesterol levels.4
Dietary Guidelines for Cholesterol Consumption
Until recently, the U.S. dietary guidelines suggested a limit of 300 mg of cholesterol per day for adults. Since 2015, dietary guidelines haven’t placed any limits on cholesterol. This supports the belief that dietary cholesterol has a minimal impact on blood cholesterol levels.
As with many dietary guidelines, it can be hard to know who to follow. The USDA creates dietary guidelines in the United States. The trouble is, they’re associated with farming and agriculture. Both have an obvious interest in promoting animal proteins and egg consumption.
All the more reason to take control of your own health, and understand what you’re putting into your body. If you’ve got any questions about your cholesterol levels, talk to your doctor.
Other Health Benefits of Eggs
Of course, the cholesterol in eggs isn’t the only thing to consider. Eggs contain a wide range of nutrients that make them a great food to eat—in moderation.
As a source of protein, eggs are far less expensive than other animal sources. Each egg contains 6 grams of complete protein (including all 9 essential amino acids).
The nutrient profile in eggs is very complete. This allows the body to absorb and use many of these nutrients more efficiently. For instance, vitamin D found in eggs helps your body absorb calcium (also found in eggs).
Eggs contain many fat-soluble vitamins and a range of other nutrients, including:
You’ve probably heard calcium is important for developing strong, healthy bones. It’s also helpful to maintain healthy functioning of your muscles, brain, and nervous system.
Iron consumption helps prevent anemia and assists in hemoglobin function. This allows oxygen to flow through the bloodstream.
Selenium helps support heart health, and is thought to play a role in keeping you sharp and focused.
Potassium helps support healthy heart and kidney function, as well as playing a role in blood pressure regulation, muscular health, and metabolic support.
Zinc helps protect your body from the oxidizing effects of stress. It may also help keep you healthy in the face of seasonal bugs.
This B vitamin is critical for cellular health.
Lutein and Zeaxanthin
These antioxidants are beneficial to eye health. They protect against the effects of aging on the eyes.
Preparing and Eating Eggs Safely
Now, there are important safety aspects to consider when it comes to egg preparation. Eggs can contain salmonella, and if not cooked properly, can cause illness. Under cooked eggs present a food poisoning risk. Make sure to cook your eggs until the yolk and white are firm. Scrambled eggs should not be runny.
Simple precautions can eliminate much of the potential salmonella risk. As with any other perishable food, make sure you wash your hands and all preparation surfaces. Don’t eat eggs with cracked or broken shells. Also, steer clear of eggs that have been out of refrigeration for more than two hours. Don’t store egg dishes for more than a few days in the fridge.
All Eggs are Not Created Equal
There are more differences between natural, organic, and free range eggs than price. How the hens are raised can impact eggs nutrient value and safety.
- “Hormone-free” is one label you’ll often see on eggs. However, hormones are never used on laying hens and are actually illegal. In other words, all eggs in the U.S. are hormone free, whether they’re labeled or not.
- “Cage-free” seems like a nice idea; hens aren’t crammed into cages. It’s defined by the USDA as “Hens can move freely within the building/hen house, and have unlimited access to food and fresh water during their production cycle.” However, there are no space requirements. Hens can be cage-free while being kept in inhumanely small quarters.
- “Free-range” runs into similar issues as cage-free standards. According to the USDA, it means “continuous access to the outdoors during their production cycle, which may or may not be fenced and/or covered with netting-like material.”6 But there’s a gray area here, too. There’s no minimum space requirement or definition of what “outdoors” implies.
Diet has a big impact on the health of hens and their eggs. Chickens naturally eat green plants, wild seeds, worms, and bugs. Unfortunately, none of the above labels define what hens eat. Usually, they’re usually fed corn and soy, neither of which are very good for them — or us!
“Pastured” or “pasture-raised” eggs are ideal. They come from hens that live mostly outdoors and eat a natural diet. Pasture-raised eggs with added omega-3s come from hens whose natural diet is supplemented with flax.
This method isn’t regulated by the USDA. If a carton of eggs has either of these labels, there should be a “Certified Humane” label as well.
Cholesterol in Eggs: Am I at Risk if I Eat Eggs?
Now, there are a lot of benefits to eating eggs. The cholesterol content may slightly increase LDL levels in some people. For most, though, the effect is low. Beneficial HDL is also increased by eating eggs. This actually helps to prevent plaque from collecting in the arteries.
Nutrients found in eggs like vitamin E and potassium boost heart health. Choline also helps reduce cholesterol build-up in the liver. The protein content in eggs helps you feel full, helping you stick to a healthy diet. And pastured eggs contain a healthy boost of beneficial omega-3s for heart health.
Eating pastured eggs as a part of a balanced diet may reduce the risk of cardiovascular problems. Make wise choices about the type of eggs you eat and how the chickens were raised, and your heart will thank you.
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