It seems like more than ever, people have a problem with eating whole eggs. These days it might be par for the course to have 4 cookies for dessert, but somehow having 4 whole eggs for breakfast is considered a dietary faux pas…what gives?
Eating eggs should not be feared. But first, let’s clarify the confusion about dietary cholesterol:
In most individuals, dietary cholesterol has a minimal, if any, impact on your blood cholesterol. According to a research review by Dr. Maria Luz Fernandez, approximately 70 percent of the population has a mild increase or no alterations in blood cholesterol levels when given diets high in dietary cholesterol. One reason for this is that the body always compensates, so usually the more cholesterol you consume from your diet, the less cholesterol your body makes. Also, approximately 40 to 60 percent of dietary cholesterol is excreted.
According to a review of scientific research regarding eggs, population-based studies researching the association between egg consumption and blood cholesterol levels either found no association, or actually an inverse association.
However, there is a very small and rare percent (0.1 to 0.4 percent) of the population with a genetic predisposition to higher cholesterol levels. But, this is rare and is due to the fact that the higher cholesterol levels are because of a defect in a certain enzyme in the pathway of cholesterol synthesis.
But wait a minute, even if I don’t have to worry about the dietary cholesterol, aren’t eggs fattening…?
Just because a food contains fat, doesn’t mean it’s going to make you gain body fat. If you are consuming more calories than you need (a state of calorie surplus), you will gain weight in the form of body fat. That being said, fat contains more calories per gram than protein or carbohydrate, so it has a higher potential to make you gain weight. And yet we must remember to be mindful of the fact that this weight gain is the result of consuming too many calories, regardless of the dietary source. The bottom line is that you can eat a moderate or high amount of dietary fat and NOT gain body fat, if your calories are under control.
“Oh Them Eggs: I got a mind to ramble, I got an egg to scramble”
Benefits of Whole Eggs:
- Excellent source of protein: 6 to 7 grams in one egg (3 grams in the egg white and 3 grams in the yolk) and also a source of beneficial fat: 4 to 5 grams per egg
- This combination of protein and fat will help you feel full and stay full longer. The protein suppresses your hunger and the fat keeps food in the stomach longer. The longer food stays in your stomach, the longer you will feel full (helping to prevent overeating).
- There is a reason the yolk is yellow. It is filled with nutrients. The yolk is a great source of the carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin, which are important for eye health.
- Whole eggs contain a nutrient called lecithin, and this helps support cholesterol metabolism.
The American Heart Association has recently changed their recommendations and now do not specifically recommend either avoiding or limiting eggs to a certain number.
Health comes from the overall consistency of your diet, not avoiding a particular food. So let’s acknowledge all of the benefits of eggs, and the fact that they can be included in your meals.
And for some entertainment, here is Martin Mull's song about Eggs:
Fernandez ML. Dietary cholesterol provided by eggs and plasma lipoproteins in healthy populations. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2006;9:8-12.
Kritchevsky SB. A review of scientific research and recommendations regarding eggs. J Am Coll Nutr. 2004;23(6 Suppl):596S-600S
Tillotson JL, Bartsch GE, Gorder D, Grandits GA, Stamler J: Food group and nutrient intakes at baseline in the Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial. Am J Clin Nutr.