Let’s separate the myths from the truths concerning eggs.
Whereas the old Dietary Guidelines for Americans advised restricting dietary cholesterol to 300 mg or less daily, (a large egg has about 186 mg of cholesterol), the new 2015 proposed guidelines say that, “dietary cholesterol is “not considered a nutrient of concern for overconsumption.” This follows increasing medical research showing the amount of cholesterol in your bloodstream is more complicated than once thought. That means – you can eat more eggs…?!
The committee says available evidence “shows no appreciable relationship” between heart disease and how much dietary cholesterol you eat, but it still recommends eating less saturated fat. As in previous years, the report advises limiting saturated fats to 10 percent of total calories. I’ll write more about saturated fat in an upcoming column.
Let’s bust some myths about eggs.
MYTH #1: EGGS ARE FATTENING
Truth? Eggs are thinning! Each has only about 70-80 calories and packs a punch of protein (7 grams of high-quality), vitamins (especially A & D), minerals such as iron, with carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, helpful in reducing the risk of age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in older adults. Plus choleine, a brain function nutrient!
However, just like my grannies’ green beans, eggs can become saturated fat and calorie carriers, such as frying a green vegetable in fat or swamped with heavy cream and cheese. At breakfast, replacing your (white flour) bagel (refined carbs) with satiating eggs can help you lose weight.
The Takeaway: Poached, hard or soft-boiled, eggs satisfy without added fat. My favorite is an open-faced omelet, a frittata: eggs whipped and cooked in a nonstick skillet, with lots of veggies, and topped with some feta cheese (naturally low in sat fat).
MYTH #2: HIGH CHOLESTEROL? YOU CAN’T EAT EGGS
Truth? A diet lower refined carbs, including healthy fats (fatty fish, nuts, seeds, avocado) is a more effective recommendation for the prevention and treatment of high cholesterol compared to recommending a strict limit on dietary cholesterol, such as in whole eggs.
The Takeaway: It’s not the egg, it’s the additions. As in Myth#1, instead of making your eggs (and foods in general) carriers of extra calories (obesity is an independent risk factor for heart disease), eat eggs “clean” – as above. Note: some researchers still think that those with existing heart disease due to high blood cholesterol need to consider the evidence carefully for limiting their eggs.
Top advice from Heart.org for preventing high cholesterol – don’t smoke and stay away from second-hand smoke; eat a healthy diet – including eggs or not – keep it mostly plant-based and high in fiber, and stay active.
For vegans, the guidelines don’t say to eat more eggs – as Dr. David Katz, the Director, Yale University Prevention Research Center; Griffin Hospital and President, American College of Lifestyle Medicine writes, “Whether adding eggs to your diet will confer benefit, harm, or neither, almost certainly depends on what you are now eating instead of eggs, and what eggs would be displacing. We seem to like our dietary guidance oversimplified, and sunny side up. Inevitably, though, the details can be a bit deviled. It makes sense to stop focusing on cholesterol restriction. But should you eat more eggs? It depends.
As a son of a cardiologist, Dr. Katz didn’t eat eggs for 20 years. I only added them back when the weight of evidence clearly tipped the other way. I added them back very selectively, however. I eat them occasionally, and when I do, they are organic, locally sourced, and from hens treated kindly — eggsclusively! Nor have eggs replaced my standard breakfast of mixed berries and other fruits in season; walnuts; whole grains; and non-fat, plain Greek yogurt. Read more here.
How many eggs can I eat?
The US guidelines do not say how many is too many. The British Medical Journal says on average one a day. The recommendations from the Australian Dietary Guidelines confirm Australians need to eat more nutrient rich foods such as eggs, in place of foods of lower nutritional quality. Their evidence found that consumption of eggs every day is not associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease and eggs should be considered in a similar way as other protein rich foods and consumed as part of a varied diet that is low in saturated fat and contains a variety of cardio-protective foods such as fish, whole grains, fruit, vegetables, legumes and nuts.
Author’s note: As a registered dietitian, my goal is communicating current scientific and informational advice and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Susan Burke March, a Cuenca expat, is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian, a Certified Diabetes Educator who specializes in smart solutions for weight loss and diabetes-related weight management. She is the author of Making Weight Control Second Nature: Living Thin Naturally—a fun and informative book intended to liberate serial dieters and make healthy living and weight control both possible and instinctual over the long term.
Contact her at SusantheDietitian@gmail.com