Eggs and Cholesterol
The Framingham Heart Study 1 has investigated the effect of host and environmental factors on the development of coronary heart disease since 1949. It concluded that within the range of egg intake of this population, differences in egg consumption were unrelated to blood cholesterol level or to coronary heart disease incidence. Most healthy people can eat up to seven eggs a week with no increase in their risk of heart disease. Some studies have shown that this level of egg consumption may actually prevent some types of strokes.
For years, the public have gotten the message that they should go easy on the egg especially the egg yolks. Long-vilified for their high cholesterol content by well-meaning doctors and scientists researching heart disease, eggs now seem to be making a bit of a comeback. So what changed?
The evidence to date doesn’t say you should ban eggs from your plate. In most studies so far, an egg a day does not have a negative impact on health 2. Interestingly, current studies 3 have tended to show that the consumption of eggs is not a risk factor of cardiovascular diseases in healthy people. However, people who are at high risk of cardiovascular diseases such as those with diabetes or hypertension need to have caution with dietary cholesterol intake, especially egg intake. Also, some people seem to be more sensitive to dietary cholesterol whose blood cholesterol level is highly correlated to dietary intake. Therefore, even though the recommendation of restricting cholesterol and egg consumption in American Heart Association 4 and 2015-2020 US Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee 5 has been eliminated, you still need to have caution with them based on the physiological status of people. On the other hand, the studies on the egg components impacting cardiovascular diseases risk showed that some egg components have potential protective effects on cardiovascular diseases, while others may have adverse effects. Due to the lack of complete data, the components of eggs that regulate cholesterol absorption and metabolism have not been extensively studied systematically. To solve the mystery of the relationship between egg cholesterol and blood cholesterol, it is essential to understand intestinal absorption of cholesterol from eggs and study the effect of cholesterol in eggs, and nutrients and cholesterol interactions in eggs. Also, the function of gut microbiota needs to be taken into consideration as well. Overall, in order to strengthen the basic research of egg functional components, understanding of the nutritional value of eggs can provide theoretical data for reasonable determination of the intake of eggs.
While it’s true that just one egg yolk has about 200 mg of cholesterol—making it one of the richest sources of dietary cholesterol—eggs also contain additional nutrients that may help lower the risk for heart disease. In addition, the moderate amount of fat in an egg, about 4.5 grams, is mostly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat, a fat that you need to be healthy. An egg contains only about 1.65 g of saturated fat and no trans fat. It’s also crucial to distinguish between dietary cholesterol and cholesterol in the blood, which are only weakly related. The focus on dietary cholesterol alone was de-emphasized as more attention was placed on the influence of saturated and trans fat on blood cholesterol. Accordingly, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015 removed the prior recommendation to limit consumption of dietary cholesterol to 300 mg per day 6.
The egg is a powerhouse of disease-fighting nutrients like lutein and zeaxanthin. These carotenoids may reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in older adults. And brain development and memory may be enhanced by the choline content of eggs.
But the full health benefits of eggs can only be realized if you store them properly — in the refrigerator — and cook them thoroughly to kill any potential bacteria.
Brown eggs are not more nutritious than white. The color and size of an egg are determined by the breed of hen, which can produce white, cream, brown, blue, green or speckled eggs. The color of the yolk is also not reflective of nutritional value but the type of poultry feed.
As part of a healthy balanced diet you can eat up to 6 eggs each week without increasing your risk of heart disease.
Chicken eggs are high in cholesterol, but the effect of egg consumption on blood cholesterol is minimal when compared with the effect of trans fats and saturated fats. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, one large egg has about 186 mg milligrams (mg) of cholesterol — all of which is found in the yolk.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, one large egg has about 186 mg milligrams (mg) of cholesterol — all of which is found in the yolk.
When deciding whether to include eggs in your diet, consider the recommended daily limits on cholesterol in your food:
- If you are healthy, consume no more than 300 mg of cholesterol a day.
- If you have diabetes, high cholesterol or cardiovascular disease, limit the daily cholesterol intake to no more than 200 mg a day (<200 mg/ day).
If you like eggs but don’t want the extra cholesterol, use only the egg whites. Egg whites contain no cholesterol. You may also use cholesterol-free egg substitutes, which are made with egg whites.
Some people are more sensitive to eating cholesterol in their diet and its effect on their blood cholesterol level. This means that when they eat food containing cholesterol, their LDL (bad) cholesterol levels rise more than other people.
Eggs and Health
Research on moderate egg consumption in two large prospective cohort studies (nearly 40,000 men and over 80,000 women) found that up to one egg per day is not associated with increased heart disease risk in healthy individuals 7. Of course, this research doesn’t give a green light to daily three-egg omelets. While a 2008 report from the Physicians’ Health Study supports the idea that eating an egg a day is generally safe for the heart, it also suggests that going much beyond that could increase the risk for heart failure later in life 8. You also need to pay attention to the “trimmings” that come with your eggs. To your cardiovascular system, scrambled eggs, salsa, and a 100% whole-wheat English muffin is a far different meal than scrambled eggs with cheese, sausages, home fries, and white toast.
People who have difficulty controlling their total and LDL “bad” cholesterol may also want to be cautious about eating egg yolks and instead choose foods made with egg whites. The same is true for people with diabetes. In studies including the Nurses’ Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-up Study, heart disease risk was increased among men and women with diabetes who ate one or more eggs a day 7, 9. For people who have diabetes and heart disease, it may be best to limit egg consumption to no more than three yolks per week.
Furthermore, to truly assess eggs and heart health, we need to examine how they stack-up to foods you might choose in their place—the classic nutrition substitution analysis.
Using some common breakfast options as an example:
- While eggs may be a much better choice than sugary, refined grain-based options like sweetened breakfast cereals, pancakes with syrup, muffins, or bagels, they may fall short of other options. A bowl of steel-cut oats with nuts and berries, for example, will be a much better choice for heart health than an egg-centric breakfast. Consumption of whole grains and fruit predict lower risk of heart disease, and when it comes to protein, plant sources like nuts and seeds are related to lower cardiovascular and overall mortality, especially when compared to red meat or eggs 10.
The bottom line: while eggs may not be the optimal breakfast choice, they are certainly not the worst, falling somewhere in the middle on the spectrum food choice and heart disease risk. For those looking to eat a healthy diet, keeping intake of eggs moderate to low will be best for most, emphasizing plant-based protein options when possible.
Figure 1. Egg nutrition facts11]
Do Eggs Cause High Cholesterol ?
Eggs were previously associated with heart disease risk as a result of their high cholesterol content. However, a solid body of research shows that for most people, cholesterol in food has a smaller effect on blood levels of total cholesterol and harmful LDL cholesterol than does the mix of fats in the diet 7, 12, 13. Dietary cholesterol and egg yolks do raise fasting levels of LDL cholesterol, by around 10%, in a dose-dependent manner 14, 15. But most healthy people don’t need to worry about eating eggs and their cholesterol. The cholesterol in eggs has almost no effect on our blood cholesterol levels. Your cholesterol levels are more influenced by the saturated and trans fat (and the added sugar) you eat. That is the saturated fat has a much greater effect on fasting LDL when it is consumed with cholesterol 16; this has been called the “bacon and egg” effect 17. In other words, your risk of heart disease may be more closely tied to the foods that accompany the eggs in a traditional American breakfast — such as the sodium in the bacon, sausages and ham, and the saturated fat or oils with trans fats used to fry the eggs and the hash browns.
People believed that if you ate cholesterol, that it would raise cholesterol in the blood and contribute to heart disease. It turns out that it isn’t that simple. The more you eat of cholesterol, the less your body produces instead. So the total amount of cholesterol in the body changes only very little (if at all), it is just coming from the diet instead of from the liver 18, 19.
Most healthy people can eat up to seven eggs a week with no increase in their risk of heart disease. Some studies have shown that this level of egg consumption may actually prevent some types of strokes 20.
- The majority of studies found that egg consumption did not affect major cardiovascular disease risk factors. Consumption of 6 to 12 eggs per week had no impact on plasma concentrations of total cholesterol, low-density (LDL) lipoprotein-cholesterol, triglycerides, fasting glucose, insulin or C-reactive protein in all studies that reported these outcomes in comparison with control groups 21. An increase in high-density (HDL) lipoprotein-cholesterol with egg consumption was observed in 4 of 6 studies. Results from randomized controlled trials suggest that consumption of 6 to 12 eggs per week, in the context of a diet that is consistent with guidelines on cardiovascular health promotion, has no adverse effect on major cardiovascular disease risk factors in individuals at risk for developing diabetes or with type 2 diabetes. The studies reported inconclusive results regarding the relationship between egg consumption (and dietary cholesterol) and the risk for cardiovascular diseases in individuals with type 2 diabetes.
- A review of egg consumption and heart health 22, it was concluded that consuming three eggs per day for 12 weeks did not increase cardiovascular disease risk in individuals with metabolic syndrome. Consuming a cholesterol free egg substitute does not decrease an individuals risk for developing cardiovascular disease risk factors, relative to whole eggs. Eggs are a bioavailable source of xanthophyll carotenoids, which have been shown to play a role in decreasing inflammation.
- This review 23 addresses the effect of eggs on cardiovascular disease risk from both epidemiological research and controlled prospective studies, in people with and without cardio-metabolic disease. It also examines the nutritional qualities of eggs and whether they may offer protection against chronic disease. The evidence suggests that a diet including more eggs than is recommended (at least in some countries) may be used safely as part of a healthy diet in both the general population and for those at high risk of cardiovascular disease, those with established coronary heart disease, and those with type 2 diabetes mellitus. In conclusion, an approach focused on a person’s entire dietary intake as opposed to specific foods or nutrients should be the heart of population nutrition guidelines.
But in another conflicting study 24, it was found that the very high cholesterol content of egg yolk, the phosphatidylcholine in egg yolk leads, via action of the intestinal microbiome, to production of trimethylamine n-oxide (TMAO), which causes atherosclerosis in animal models. Levels of trimethylamine n-oxide (TMAO) in the top quartile after a test dose of two egg yolks were associated with a 2.5-fold increase in the 3-year risk of stroke, death, or myocardial infarction among patients referred for coronary angiography. Persons at risk of cardiovascular disease should limit their intake of cholesterol and egg yolk. The authors concluded that gegular consumption of egg yolks should be avoided by people at risk of cardiovascular disease and “in our opinion, stopping egg consumption after a myocardial infarction or stroke would be like quitting smoking after lung cancer is diagnosed: a necessary act, but late.”
- Dietary cholesterol and egg yolks have important harmful effects in the post-prandial state, and increase the risk of cardiovascular events. New understanding of the role of the intestinal microbiome will revolutionize our approaches to diet and cardiovascular disease. Regular consumption of egg yolks should be avoided by people at risk of cardiovascular disease, which essentially means all North Americans who expect to live past middle age. “Stopping the consumption of egg yolks after a stroke or myocardial infarction would be like quitting smoking after a diagnosis of lung cancer.” 17.
- Much more important than the effects on fasting lipids are the post-prandial effects 17. Diet is not just about fasting cholesterol; it is mainly about the postprandial effects of cholesterol, saturated fats, oxidative stress and inflammation. In human subjects, endothelial function is impaired for approximately 4 h after consumption of a high-fat/high-cholesterol meal; this effect is probably due to oxidative stress 25.
- Dietary cholesterol above 140 mg in a single meal markedly potentiates post-prandial lipemia 26. High dietary intake of cholesterol increases LDL oxidation by nearly 40% 27, 28, and impairs endothelial function for several hours, probably through oxidative stress 29, 30, 31.
- A high-cholesterol meal increases vascular inflammation for several hours 32, and an egg-white-based substitute improved endothelial function compared with whole eggs 33.
- In Greece, where the diet is much more healthy, it was easier to show harm from egg consumption. A study by Trichopoulou et al. in Greek diabetics showed that an egg a day increased coronary risk 5-fold, and each 10 g of egg per day (about a 6th of a large egg) doubled cardiovascular risk.
- In this large prospective study, the authors have demonstrated that daily consumption of at least one egg is associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes in both men and women, independently of traditional risk factors for type 2 diabetes 34.
- In a prospective cohort study of 21,275 participants from the Physicians’ Health Study I, where study was trying to find the association between egg consumption and heart failure risk. After an average follow up of 20.4 years, while egg consumption up to 6 times per week was not associated with incident heart failure, egg consumption of 7 or more per week was associated with an increased risk of heart failure. Their data suggested that infrequent egg consumption is not associated with the risk of heart failure. However, consumption of 1 or more eggs per day (more than 7 eggs per week) is related to an increased risk of heart failure among US male physicians.
Effect of egg intake on blood cholesterol and cardiovascular diseases in human studies
The effects of egg intake on blood cholesterol and cardiovascular diseases have been discussed in several meta-analysis studies using research data collected over 60 years 35, 36. Large epidemiological works have been conducted to investigate the effect of egg intake on blood cholesterol levels and risk of cardiovascular diseases in children 37, young people 38, women 39, men 40, and older adults 41. Some have shown that egg consumption did influence the blood cholesterol level but did not increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases in healthy people 3. Meanwhile, other studies reported that high dietary cholesterol intake due to egg consumption is a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases and diabetes 42, 40, 43. The results of epidemiological studies and human intervention studies on the relationship of dietary egg intake and cardiovascular diseases risks are summarized in Table 1. Even though American Heart Association 4 and 2015-2020 US Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee 5 have removed the restriction of dietary cholesterol for healthy people in USA, there still are different conclusions due to differences in race, genetic makeup, physical fitness, and especially physiological status 3.
Among the 19 prospective studies investigating the effect of dietary egg intake on cardiovascular diseases risks, 6 studies reported positive correlation between egg consumption and different types of cardiovascular diseases incidents or mortality in healthy people 44. Pang (2017) reported the positive correlation with total cholesterol 45, and Spence (2012) reported the positive correlation with plaque area 46. However, other studies (11 out of 19) reported no difference on the cardiovascular diseases risks affected by the amount of egg intake 3. The adverse effect of egg consumption is observed in population with high risk of cardiovascular diseases, including people with diabetes or hypercholesterolemia, and who are sensitive to dietary cholesterol 47. Diabetic populations are in the high risk of cardiovascular diseases with two to four folds higher than healthy people. These studies also showed that diabetic people are more vulnerable to cardiovascular diseases after egg consumption 44, with a doubling of coronary risk with an egg per day in US population 48, and 5-fold risk in Greece population 49. Meanwhile, some studies found that high egg consumption increased the risk of gestational diabetes mellitus 50, insulin resistance 51, and the risk of diabetes 43. Therefore, the effect of egg consumption on cardiovascular diseases might be mediated by diabetes.
Almost all human intervention studies showed the serum LDL “bad” cholesterol and HDL “good” cholesterol levels increased in high egg consuming groups (1 to 3 eggs per day comparing to no egg or with egg substitute), while the ratio of serum LDL “bad” cholesterol to HDL “good” cholesterol (LDL/HDL) is unchanged (see Table 1). Most of these papers concluded that egg consumption is not a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases, based on the fact that the LDL/HDL ratio is unchanged because this ratio is thought to be a stronger risk factor for cardiovascular diseases. However, serum LDL “bad” cholesterol level alone should still be considered as a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases. This is especially true for those people whose blood cholesterol level is more sensitive to dietary cholesterol consumption. There are good reasons for the recommendation that persons at risk of vascular disease limit cholesterol to 200 mg/day 52. The very high cholesterol content of egg yolk (237 mg in a 65-gram egg) is a problem in itself, and even one large egg yolk exceeds that limit. Other studies reported the high cholesterol and high lipid diet could induce the inflammation in plasma, which is thought to contribute to atherosclerosis 53, and the susceptibility of LDL “bad” cholesterol to be oxidized could be increased by dietary cholesterol 54.
Table 1. Epidemiological and human intervention studies on the effect of dietary egg intake and cardiovascular diseases risks
|Reference||Participants||Age||Follow-up (years)||Outcome||Result b|
|Bernstein 2011 55||43,150||84,010||30-75||26||Incident stroke||(-)|
|Burke 2007 56||256||258||15-88||14||CHD, mortality||↑|
|Dawber 1982 57||912||30-59||24||Incident CHD and blood cholesterol level||(-)|
|Djoussé 2008 58||21,327||0||40-85||20||Incident MI and stroke||(-)|
|Goldberg 2014 59||572||857||57-75||11||Incident stroke||(-)|
|Haring 2014 60||12,066||45-64||22||Incident CHD||(-)|
|Houston 2011 44||864||1077||70-79||9||Incident CVD||↑ especially in diabetic people|
|Hu 1999 61||37,851||80,082||34-75||14||Incident stroke and CHD||(-) while in diabetic people may have ↑ effect|
|Mann 1997 62||4,102||6,700||16-79||13.3||Ischemic heart disease mortality||↑|
|Nakamura 2004 63||5,186||4,077||30-70||14||Stroke and CHD mortality||↑ in women|
|Nakamura 2006 64||43,319||47,416||40-69||10.2||Incident CHD||(-)|
|Qureshi 2006 48||3,756||5,978||25-74||15.9||All stroke, CAD||(-) while in diabetic people may have ↑ effect|
|Sauvaget 2003 65||15,350||24,999||34-103||16||Stroke mortality||(-)|
|Scrafford 2011 39||14,946||>17||8.8||CHD and Stroke mortality||(-)|
|Zazpe 2011 66||6,170||8,015||20-90||5.8||Incident CVD||(-)|
|Voutilainen 2013 67||1,019||0||51.9 (Mean)||18.8||Carotid atherosclerosis, incident MI||(-)|
|Pang 2017 45||8,131||8,463||>60||N/A||Serum LDL and total cholesterol||↑|
|Spence 2012 46||669||593||46-77||N/A||Carotid plaque area||↑|
|Trichopoulou 2006 68||424||589||50-80 (Adult diabetics)||4.5 (mean)||Mortality||↑|
|Reference||Participants||Age||Intervention time (weeks)||Intervention method||Outcome||Result a|
|Missimer 2017 69||24||26||18-30||11c||2 eggs/day vs. oatmeal||Serum LDL and HDL||↑|
|Serum ghrelin||↑ satiety|
|Lemos 2018 70||16||14||18-20||13||3 eggs/day vs. choline bitartrate supplement||Serum LDL and HDL||↑|
|SREBPs and HMG-CoA reductase level||↓ cholesterol biosynthesis|
|Herron 2002 71||0||51||18-49 (pre-menopausal)||11c||1 egg/day vs.|
|Serum LDL and HDL||↑|
|CETP level||↑ reverse cholesterol transport|
|Herron 2003 68||40||0||18-57||11c||1 egg/day vs.|
|Serum LDL and HDL||↑|
|Serum LDL/HDL||↑ only in hyper-respondersd|
|CETP, LCAT level||↑ reverse cholesterol transport|
|Mutungi 2008 40||28||0||40-70 (overweight/obese)||12||CRD:|
3 eggs/day vs. SUB
|Greene 2005 41||13||29||>60||11c||3 eggs/day vs. SUB||Serum LDL and HDL||↑|
|Ballesteros 2004 72||25||29||8-12||11c||2 eggs/day vs. SUB||Serum LDL/HDL||(-)|
|Knopp 2003 73||78||119||43-67||4||0, 2 and 4 eggs/day||Serum LDL and HDL||↑|
|Knopp 1997 74||86||45||41-68 (HC or HL)||12||2 eggs/day vs. SUB||Serum LDL||↑ in HC|
|Serum HDL||↑ in both HL and HC|
Abbreviations: CHD = coronary heart disease; CVD = cardiovascular disease; MI = myocardial infarction; LDL = low-density lipoprotein; HDL = high-density lipoprotein; SREBP = sterol regulatory element-binding protein; CETP = cholesteryl ester transfer protein; LCAT = lecithin-cholesterol acyltransferase; CRD = Carbohydrate-restricted diets; SUB = cholesterol-free, fat-free egg substitute; HC = hypercholesterolemia; HL = hyperlipidemia;
Footnote: b) ↑ increase, ↓ decrease, (-) no influence; c) Intervention time contain a 3-weeks washout time within the intervention period; dhyperresponders: increase in total cholesterol of ≥0.06 mmol/L for each additional 100 mg of dietary cholesterol consumed.[Source 3 ]
Table 2. Egg lipids
|Name||Egg, Whole, Raw||Egg Yolk, Raw|
|Average Content (g/100g)||Min. Value (g/100g)||Max. Value (g/100g)||Average Content (g/100g)||Min. Value (g/100g)||Max. Value (g/100g)|
|FA 4:0||<0.05||0||– 2||0||–||–|
|FA 18:1 n-9 cis||3.51||3.03||3.65||10.4||9.69||11.2|
|FA 18:2 9c,12c (n-6)||1.38||1.18||2.7||3.28||–||3.62|
|FA 18:3 9c,12c,15c (n-3)||0.061||0.02||0.58||0.15||–||0.27|
|FA 20:4 5c,8c,11c,14c (n-6)||0.12||–||0.13||0.37||–||0.4|
|FA 20:5 5c,8c,11c,14c,17c (n-3) EPA||0||–||0.003||0.01||–||0.011|
|FA 22:6 4c,7c,10c,13c,16c,19c (n-3) DHA||0.09||0.045||0.18||0.25||0.11||0.46|
Abbreviations: FA = fatty acids; EPA = eicosapentaenoic acid (omega-3 fatty acid); DHA = docosahexaenoic acid (omega-3 fatty acid); NA = not available.[Source 75 ]
Nutrition Content of Eggs
- 2 x 60g eggs
- % Recommended Dietary Intakes (RDI)
Table 3. Egg nutrition facts
|Sat fat (g)|
|Mono fat (g)|
|Poly fat (g)|
2800 (f), 3800 (m)^
|Thiamin (Vitamin B1) (mg)|
|Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) (mg)|
|Vitamin B6 (mg)|
|Vitamin B12 (µg)|
|Pantothenic acid (vitamin B5) (mg)|
|Vitamin A (Retinol) (µg)|
|Vitamin D (Cholecalciferol) (µg)|
|Vitamin E (Alpha-tocopherol) (mg)|
|Omega – 3 fatty acids (total) (g)|
0.89 (f), 1.46 (m)^
|Short chain Omega-3s (ALA) (g)|
0.8 (f), 1.3 (m)^
|Long chain Omega-3s (DHA/DPA) (mg)|
90 (f), 160 (m)^
|Omega-6 fatty acids (g)|
8 (f), 13 (m)^
|Lutein + zeaxanthin (mg)|
3 (f), 4 (m)^
|Vitamin K (µg)|
Table 4. Nutrient values of a medium-size boiled egg, whole milk with added vitamin D, and boiled manufacturing beef
|Category||Boiled egg||Whole milk with added vitamin D||Boiled manufacturing beef|
|Nutrient||Unit||1 large egg|
|Total lipid (fat)||g||5.3||10.61||3.25||3.26|
|Carbohydrate, by difference||g||0.56||1.12||4.8||0|
|Fiber, total dietary||g||0||0||0||0|
|Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid||mg||0||0||0||0|
|Vitamin A, RAE||μg||74||149||46||8|
|Vitamin A, IU||IU||260||520||162||27|
|Vitamin E (α-tocopherol)||mg||0.52||1.03||0.07||0.57|
|Vitamin D (D2 + D3)||μg||1.1||2.2||1.3||0.1|
|Vitamin K (phylloquinone)||μg||0.1||0.3||0.3||0|
|Trans fatty acids||g||0||0||0||0.078|
Footnote: a) Nutrient values and weights are for edible portion
Abbreviations: SFAs = saturated fatty acids, MUFAs = monounsaturated fatty acids, and PUFAs = polyunsaturated fatty acids.[Source 3 ]
Figure 1. Egg nutrients
Footnote: Basic composition of edible parts of the egg. (a) Egg white; (b) Egg yolk. Note that for (b), results refer to egg yolk/vitelline membrane complex.[Source 75 ]
Eggs contain the highest quality protein and are often used as a standard to measure the quality of other protein sources. A single large egg provides 12 percent of the daily requirement of protein for 70 calories 76. Eggs also have the highest biological value of any protein, meaning that the essential amino acids they provide are used very efficiently by the body. Eggs also contain varying amounts of vitamins A, D, E, K, B6, B12, folate, and a variety of minerals (particularly riboflavin, phosphorus, and iron). Because eggs are very easy to digest, they are frequently included in therapeutic diets.
The yolk makes up just over one third of an egg. It provides three-fourths of the calories, all of the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K), and all of the choline, lutein, and zeaxanthin. The yolk also provides most of the phosphorus, iron, and folate and almost half of the protein and riboflavin. The white (albumen) provides more than half of the total protein and riboflavin. Choline, an essential nutrient, is shown to be important for proper brain development in the fetus and newborn and may play a role in memory function throughout life and into old age. Lutein and zeaxanthin may prevent macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness in the elderly in the U.S.
Though these nutrients are present only in small amounts in eggs, research shows that they may be more bioavailable, or absorbed and utilized by the body, when obtained from egg yolk than from richer sources.
When deciding whether to include eggs in your diet, consider the recommended daily limits on cholesterol in your food:
- If you are healthy, consume no more than 300 mg of cholesterol a day.
- If you have diabetes, high cholesterol or cardiovascular disease, limit the daily cholesterol intake to no more than 200 mg a day.
- If you like eggs but don’t want the extra cholesterol, use only the egg whites. Egg whites contain no cholesterol. You may also use cholesterol-free egg substitutes, which are made with egg whites.
The risk of heart disease may be more closely tied to the foods that accompany the eggs in a traditional American breakfast — such as the sodium in the bacon, sausages and ham, and the saturated fat or oils with trans fats used to fry the eggs and the hash browns.
Tips for eating eggs 77
- The healthiest ways to cook eggs are to boil, poach or scramble them using reduced fat milk.
- Eggs are always available and easy to cook quickly – faster than getting takeaway.
- Eggs make great lunchbox fillers for adults and children and are very portable when hard boiled.
To lower cholesterol levels the National Heart Foundation recommends the following:
- Be smoke-free
- Achieve and maintain a healthy body weight
- Choose polyunsaturated or monounsaturated oils
- Choose foods such as wholegrain bread and cereals, brown rice, wholemeal, pasta, vegetables, fruits, legumes (e.g. chick peas, kidney beans and lentils), lean meats and poultry, oily fish and reduced, low or no fat dairy products
- Consume plant sterol enriched foods as part of a health eating plan
- Limit cholesterol-rich foods if advised to do so
- Limit alcohol intake to no more than 2 standard drinks per day for men and women
- Get at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity on most, if not all, days of the week.
Eggs are really nutritious and it’s fine to have them regularly as part of a healthy diet. Eggs contain of disease-fighting nutrients like lutein and zeaxanthin. These carotenoids may reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in older adults. And brain development and memory may be enhanced by the choline content of eggs. Eggs contain good quality protein, 11 vitamins and minerals, and are a source of healthy fats including omega-3 fats.
As part of a healthy balanced diet you can eat up to 6 eggs each week without increasing your risk of heart disease.
However, if you have high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular disease, limit your egg daily cholesterol intake to no more than 200 mg a day (<200 mg/ day).References
- Framingham Heart Study. https://www.framinghamheartstudy.org/
- Harvard University. Harvard Health Publications Published: December, 2014. Eggs and your health. http://www.health.harvard.edu/healthy-eating/eggs-and-your-health
- Kuang H, Yang F, Zhang Y, Wang T, Chen G. The Impact of Egg Nutrient Composition and Its Consumption on Cholesterol Homeostasis. Cholesterol. 2018;2018:6303810. Published 2018 Aug 23. doi:10.1155/2018/6303810 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6126094
- 2013 AHA/ACC guideline on lifestyle management to reduce cardiovascular risk: a report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines. Eckel RH, Jakicic JM, Ard JD, de Jesus JM, Houston Miller N, Hubbard VS, Lee IM, Lichtenstein AH, Loria CM, Millen BE, Nonas CA, Sacks FM, Smith SC Jr, Svetkey LP, Wadden TA, Yanovski SZ, American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2014 Jul 1; 63(25 Pt B):2960-84.
- USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference. Beltsville, MD, USA: US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Nutrient Data Laboratory; 2015
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans; 2015. https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines
- Hu FB, Stampfer MJ, Rimm EB, et al. A prospective study of egg consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease in men and women. JAMA. 1999;281:1387-94. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10217054
- Djousse L, Gaziano JM. Egg consumption and risk of heart failure in the Physicians’ Health Study. Circulation. 2008;117:512-6. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18195171
- Shin JY, Xun P, Nakamura Y, He K. Egg consumption in relation to risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013;98:146-59. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23676423
- Song M, Fung TT, Hu FB, et al. Association of Animal and Plant Protein Intake With All-Cause and Cause-Specific Mortality. JAMA Intern Med. 2016;176:1453-63. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27479196
- Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Egg facts. http://www.fao.org/resources/infographics/infographics-details/en/c/284410/
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