What’s the latest on eggs? My mother said that they are not good for your heart, but I had heard that they are healthy. Are they good for you or not?
Your mother isn’t right but she isn’t entirely wrong. (I’m not one to want to get on any mother’s bad side.)
Here’s the story: When it comes to good, cheap nutrition, it’s hard to beat an egg (oops, sorry about the pun). An egg is an excellent source of protein and provides vitamin A and vitamin K, iron, several B vitamins including folic acid, and the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin. The fat in eggs is predominately the good, unsaturated variety and is relatively low in unhealthy saturated fat. That’s a lot packed under one thin shell. At a little over a dollar a dozen, they’re a relatively inexpensive protein source that can work at any meal: scrambled at sunrise, whipped up as an egg salad at lunch, or folded over into a Western omelet when the sun goes down.
The only blemish on the egg’s record (this is where your mom isn’t entirely wrong) is that it contains over 200 milligrams (mg) dietary cholesterol. Dietary cholesterol can raise the “bad” LDL cholesterol, but luckily, not as dramatically as saturated fat and trans-fatty acids. The current recommendation is to keep your intake of dietary cholesterol under 300 mg daily, on average.
However, all sources of dietary cholesterol may not be created equal, according to a study in the issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association titled A Prospective Study of Egg Consumption and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease in Men and Women. In this study, Harvard researchers looked at the egg intake of more than 100,000 individuals; and, it appeared that eating up to one egg daily was not associated with an increased risk of heart disease or stroke in healthy individuals. The authors of the study speculated that various nutrients in the egg may actually be heart healthy, offsetting the high dietary cholesterol content.
However, those in the study with diabetes were found to be at somewhat of a higher risk. The Dietary Guidelines from the American Heart Association, advise that those with high levels of LDL cholesterol, diabetes, or heart disease should keep their dietary cholesterol to less than 200 mg daily.
Egg lovers take note: Mother Nature was on the ball, as she put all the egg’s dietary cholesterol in the yolk. If you separate the yolk from the white and toss it out, you’ve just tossed out all of the cholesterol and all the fat and saturated fat. So feel free to have a field day with those fluffy egg whites, which are cholesterol- and saturated fat-free.
If you want a two-egg scrambler or omelet, balance the cholesterol elsewhere in your diet over the course of several days. Or, use one whole egg and two whites, egg substitutes, or just the egg whites. For a lunchtime egg salad sandwich, make it an egg white salad filler by chopping up only the whites and adding some mustard and light mayo. You can also substitute two egg whites for one whole egg when baking muffins, cookies and sweet breads. No one will ever notice the difference … trust me.