No doubt about it, eggs have gotten a bad rap over the last half of the 20th century. This contradicts the known healthy attributes of eggs, and has somewhat overshadowed them. Eggs have went from good for you to bad for you and back. It can definitely be a little bit confusing to keep up with.
I personally find eggs delicious. They’re quick and easy to make, and loaded with protein. You might even say that they are the perfect natural snack for those of us who are fitness-minded. For this reason, I wanted to explore these little oval wonders in more detail to find out what their deal is once and for all. Are eggs bad for you? Let’s find out.
When people discuss eggs in the context of health, two things will undoubtedly come up. They are:
- Saturated Fat
Eggs contain both of these, but only cholesterol in relatively high amounts. This is where the main concern arises when it comes to eggs being a regular part of someones diet. Ever since the 1950’s, cholesterol has been pegged as a prominent risk factor in heart disease. This hasn’t changed, but what has changed is our understanding of cholesterol.
Not all cholesterol is made equal, it turns out. Dietary cholesterol, the kind we eat, is much different from blood cholesterol. Blood cholesterol is not ingested, but made by the body. When you eat dietary cholesterol (in this case, from an egg), the dietary cholesterol doesn’t magically convert into cholesterol in the blood. In fact, according to many experts, dietary cholesterol from eggs has little impact on blood cholesterol levels at all.
“There is cholesterol present in eggs but this does not usually make a great contribution to your level of blood cholesterol” – Victoria Taylor, British Heart Foundation.
This sentiment is echoed by health professionals around the world nowadays, as many health foundations have dropped their recommendation to limit egg consumption to only 3 per week.
That said, dietary cholesterol does have some affect on the amount of overall cholesterol we carry in our body. That effect varies from person to person, but it’s generally accepted that dietary cholesterol contributes to about 30% of the cholesterol in your body. Due to this fact, the American Heart Association recommends you limit your dietary cholesterol to less than 300 milligrams a day if you’re healthy. Most eggs have between 150 and 180 milligrams of cholesterol, so having an average of one whole egg a day (sometimes 2) is just fine.
If you’re like me and want more protein, use additional egg whites. All the cholesterol in an egg is contained within the egg yolk and the vast majority of the protein is in the egg white. My morning breakfast usually comprises of one whole egg, and an additional one or two egg whites.
Saturated fat has been a topic of extreme controversy in recent years. More and more evidence is coming to light that tells us that we don’t yet have the full story on saturated fat, and that we don’t fully understand what effect it has on cardiovascular disease. None the less, as of right now, the scientific consensus among main stream health and medical communities is that saturated fat is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. How big of a risk factor? Well, it’s hard to say. Recent studies have come up with some conflicting results and needless to say, more research is needed.
What can be agreed upon however is that saturated fat has a much greater affect on blood cholesterol levels than dietary cholesterol. Research professor Bruce Griffin from the British Nutrition Foundation has this to say about it:
“The amount of saturated fat in our diet exerts an effect on blood cholesterol that is several times greater than the relatively small amounts of dietary cholesterol.”
Very high levels of blood cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease, therefore anything that can have an effect on it should be consumed in moderation. Luckily, there’s only about 1.5 grams of unsaturated fat in the average egg. This is a relatively small amount (about 2% of your daily recommended fat intake), and you’d really have to eat a lot of eggs to have to worry about their saturated fat content. Just like cholesterol, all the saturated fat in an egg is contained in the yolk. Therefore, if you’d like a little more substance without the added cholesterol and saturated fat, eggs whites make a perfect choice.
Eggs and Cardiovascular Disease
Though in the past eggs have been thought to be associated with cardiovascular disease, the evidence just doesn’t hold up. With the above facts, this doesn’t really surprise me either. Here’s a study that was published in 2011 that examined 14,000 university graduates over an average of 6 years. After taking things like age, sex, total energy intake, and other cardiovascular risk factors into consideration, there was no link found between egg consumption and the incidence of cardiovascular disease.
Here’s another study that set out to examine the relationship between egg consumption and mortality from stroke and cardiovascular disease. Those examined were consuming in excess of 7 eggs per week. The findings? No positive association between egg consumption and increased risk of mortality from cardiovascular disease or stroke. The authors of the study note that these results corroborate the findings of previous studies.
What Are the Benefits of Eating Eggs?
Not only are eggs not bad for you, they’re actually very good for you. In fact, I’d even go so far as to say that they’re nature’s nutritional bombshells. They contain over a dozen vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, D, E, B-12, zinc, iron, folate, phosphorus. Not only that, they also contain 6 grams of very high-quality protein with all 9 essential amino acids.
Eggs have also been proven to be quite beneficial to the eyes. Certain studies have found them to be effective in preventing macular degeneration, and also lowers your risks of developing cataracts.
If you love eggs like I do, then take solace in the fact that you can go out and enjoy them on a regular basis. However, like with most things, I recommend moderation over indulgence. Nutritional science is an ever evolving beast, and you never know what those wacky lab coats are going to uncover next. By having a well-rounded and balanced diet that doesn’t overdo any one type of food, you best set yourself up to “future-proof” your diet from any future nutritional discoveries down the road.