There’s been a lot of talk lately about whether eggs are good or bad for you. One of the reasons some dietetic professionals aren’t taken seriously is because of how much the “truth” about eggs has been changed around. But nowadays, with our progressive technology and advanced nutrition knowledge, I think we’ve come up with a pretty solid answer about the whole egg controversy.
As much as I love how passionate people are about saving the environment (I am one of those people), it bugs me when some try to promote their cause by spreading misinformation… One of the subjects of this misinformation is, you guessed it: eggs. Vegans across the globe (some, not all) have made it their mission to trash talk eggs. And while I acknowledge the fact that chickens used to produce these eggs are not always raised in a sustainable manner, this does not mean that eggs are not nutritious.
One of the main things that gives eggs this bad rep is the belief that they can increase cholesterol levels, specifically LDL cholesterol (the bad kind). While eggs are relatively high in cholesterol compared to some other foods, this does not mean that it directly affects the cholesterol levels in our bodies. (I’ll explain why in a bit.) As we all know, high cholesterol can lead to cardiovascular disease, such as heart attack, stroke, or pulmonary embolism. So the assumption is that eggs lead to heart disease….
Another, related misconception is that you should only eat egg whites if you’re going to eat eggs. (Before college, I was definitely someone who did this.) And while egg whites are a great source of protein, the egg yolks definitely have their benefits too (more to come on that).
So, now that we’ve discussed a few common misconceptions about eggs, let’s get to the facts. Are eggs high in cholesterol? Yes, but does this mean that eggs cause your blood cholesterol to rise when you eat them? Not necessarily. It sounds contradictory, but just because the food you’re eating has cholesterol does not mean that all of that cholesterol is going to be absorbed. And it’s not usually dietary cholesterol itself that raises blood LDL cholesterol levels, but saturated fat. This is the case with eggs. While eggs are somewhat high in cholesterol (186 mg), they are relatively low in saturated fat (1.6 g), meaning they don’t actually have much of an effect on LDL levels in the body and therefore do not increase risk of heart disease. If lowering your LDL cholesterol is really a concern, you should start by looking at your saturated fat intake. Eggs are often given the blame for this regardless, because many of the foods commonly eaten with eggs are high in saturated fat and sodium, bacon, sausage, ham, butter. So looking at studies that simply show an “association” between amount of eggs consumed and prevalence of high cholesterol isn’t enough. Other dietary and lifestyle factors must also be accounted for.
Even if you consider the miniscule affect that eggs may have on blood cholesterol (and they really are extremely miniscule when you compare them to other foods), the benefits far outweigh any possible risks. As I mentioned before, egg yolks have gotten a bad rep in recent years. But truth be told, this is where the bulk of the nutrient density is. While egg whites are the main source of protein in an egg, the yolk contains some protein of its own along with many other benefits.
The nutrient content in eggs is much more than their given credit for. Not only are they a great source of protein and unsaturated fats, but their packed with lots of micronutrients that provide amazing health benefits. Some of these benefits include improving muscle strength, brain health, energy production, immunity, birth outcomes, childhood growth, eyesight, skin health, and weight maintenance.
How Many Eggs Per Day is Healthy?
The American Heart Association recommends no more than 300 mg of dietary cholesterol per day, 200 mg if you have a history of cardiovascular disease or high cholesterol. A medium-sized egg contains about 164 mg of cholesterol. This means that, depending on what else you’re eating, it is generally considered safe for everyone to have about 1 egg per day, 2 if you’re healthy. However, if you have other dietary sources that are high in cholesterol and saturated fat, that has to be considered. But if I had to choose between eating bacon or eating eggs, I would choose eggs. They may both have cholesterol, but bacon is significantly higher in saturated fat and sodium, and eggs are significantly more nutrient-dense. So it’s up to you. How will you use your dietary cholesterol?
While I don’t think it’s necessary for every healthy person out there to be eating just egg whites instead of whole eggs, eating egg whites may be a good alternative for people who are at risk of heart disease and already have a diet that is high in saturated fat and cholesterol. This being said, if you are in good health and eat a generally healthy and balanced diet, eating a few eggs here and there is totally fine!
Eggs have unjustly been given a bad rep. Just because they are technically high in cholesterol does not mean that they increase someone’s risk of heart disease. In fact, they may even decrease this risk, along with many other health risks, as mentioned above. Personally, I eat 1-2 eggs almost every day. I encourage you to do your research, consider the facts pointed out in this post, and decide for yourself.