Cracking myths about eggs

Sandra May  |  1/12/2017 9:38:15 PM

Have you eliminated eggs from your diet because you fear they may raise your blood cholesterol level? Assuming you are eating healthfully, you may want to consider restoring eggs to your meals. At one time, national health officials warned Americans to avoid eating eggs because their high cholesterol content could raise the low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol in the blood. New studies now show that eggs aren’t as dangerous as they were once thought to be.

The truth is that eggs are high in dietary cholesterol (186 milligrams in a medium egg; 215 milligrams in a large egg). Also true is that high LDL cholesterol in the blood can raise the risk of heart disease or stroke. However, studies show that eating one egg a day has very little effect on LDL cholesterol levels. It is the unhealthful saturated and trans fats in foods in our overall diet that are the major culprits in raising LDL cholesterol. In general, the typical American diet can be high in saturated and trans fat.

The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends keeping saturated fat to less than 10 percent of our daily calories. For a 2,000 calorie diet that means less than 200 calories or 22 grams of saturated fat per day. One egg would only contribute 1.6 grams of saturated fat to your daily limit.

Not only are eggs relatively low in saturated fat, but they are an excellent source of protein. In fact, they are the gold standard for which other proteins are measured against. Eggs are nutrient dense, meaning they contain lots of nutrients with relatively few calories. The contents inside that smooth shell contain only 70 calories but 6 grams of high-quality protein (majority found in the whites) and 13 essential vitamins and minerals, most of which are in the yolk. Some of those nutrients include:

  • Vitamin D - Necessary for the absorption of calcium. Calcium is needed for healthy teeth and bones. Eggs are one of the few food sources of vitamin D.
  • Choline - Required for proper brain development in fetuses during pregnancy and may also be important for brain function in adults.
  • Lutein and zeaxanthin - Phytochemicals that are beneficial in preventing eye diseases such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.

Eggs are quite versatile and economical. For only 20 cents each, eggs can be the main focus of a meal or can be added to dishes for added protein.

If you eat the typical American diet that is high in saturated and trans fats, or if you have diabetes it is recommended that you limit your egg intake. Eggs, however, can fit into a healthful diet that is high in fruits and vegetables, whole grains and low in saturated and trans fat.

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