For decades, eggs were all but banished from breakfast! Starting in the 1960s, a link between high cholesterol and heart disease was discovered. Well intentioned doctors and researchers began to advise the public to limit their consumption of cholesterol-containing foods. Eggs, which contain 200mg of cholesterol in their yolk, were specifically mentioned in the American Heart Association’s guidelines which recommended no more than three whole eggs per week. Overtime, these findings and dietary recommendations were found to be based on misunderstood data and inconclusive results. The studies that these guidelines were based off of did not take into consideration saturated fat which is found in many of the same cholesterol-containing foods including red meat and full fat fairy products. After years of further study, the evidence shows that saturated fat as well as trans fat have more of an effect on raising blood cholesterol levels and ultimately Cardiovascular Disease risk than dietary cholesterol. Eggs, despite their high cholesterol content, have less than two grams of saturated fat.
The Latest Recommendations
Based on the findings of various large-scale studies, the restrictions on eggs have been removed by many agencies worldwide including The American Heart Association which, starting in 2006, no longer mentions eggs in their guidelines. Additionally, Dietary Cholesterol is no longer linked to increased blood cholesterol levels and risk of heart disease. In 2015, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans eliminated their recommendation to limit cholesterol consumption to 300mg per day and now advises to keep saturated fat intake to no more than 10% of total calories per day. Instead of cutting out the egg, these guidelines would suggest swapping out the traditional saturated fat-laden sides and accompaniments such as bacon, sausage and high fat cheeses.
The Sunny Side of Eggs
While Americans avoided eggs, they also eliminated an economical source of protein that provides a host of essential nutrients needed for growth and overall health. Found in both the egg white and yolk, the high quality protein of an egg promotes muscle development and maintenance for children and adults. With six grams of satisfying protein and only seventy calories each, eggs may also aid in weight management. Egg yolks in particular contain a host of important vitamins and minerals including:
- Vitamin D-found in very few foods naturally, Vitamin D is essential in the maintenance of strong bones and teeth and supports a healthy immune system. Research also suggests a role in protection against several diseases including cancer and type 1 diabetes.
- Folate-A B-Vitamin needed for the production of DNA, red blood cells, and other tissues, Folate is especially important during periods of rapid growth including pregnancy and infancy. Inadequate intakes during pregnancy can lead to birth defects including spina bifida.
- Choline-Working together with folate, choline is involved with DNA production and is essential for proper nervous and brain system function
- Lutein and Zeaxanthin-Two important antioxidants vital to eye health, these precursors to Vitamin A help ward off damage to the retina and reduce the risk of macular degeneration.
Including More Eggs in your Diet
No matter which way you crack them, eggs make a nourishing breakfast, a protein packed lunch, or satisfying snack. Scrambled eggs served with whole grain toast and fruit makes a protein and fiber-filled breakfast. Hardboiled eggs are a portable snack perfect for after a workout and they make a great topping for salads. For a meatless dinner, a fluffy frittata filled with veggies is a nutrient dense dish with unlimited combinations.
Busting the Egg Myth
As with all foods, eggs fit into a varied diet in moderate amounts. Combined with healthy fats such as nuts and avocados, high fiber whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, eggs are a part of a heart-healthy diet. However, eggs can pose a health risk for those who have an allergy or intolerance or if they are consumed raw or undercooked.