Eggs. They are such a misunderstood food! One of the most common questions I am asked is- “So what’s the deal with eggs? Are they good for me?” The answer – more often than not – is yes!
Eggs have been vilified because of their high cholesterol content. In the past, the American Heart Association has set the daily recommendation for cholesterol at 300 mg for healthy individuals and 200 mg for people with high cholesterol, heart disease and/or diabetes. One large egg has ~190 mg cholesterol, so for a long time, Americans were advised to stay away from eggs because one could meet (or closely meet) the daily limit. Just to put this in perspective, here are a few foods and their cholesterol content (keep in mind that 3oz is about equal to the size of a deck of cards): 3oz of ground beef (85% lean) has 77 mg, 3oz of chicken or salmon has ~60 mg, 1 cup of whole milk has 33mg, and 1 cup of skim milk as 4mg. Egg whites have 0mg cholesterol, which also explains why egg whites started becoming preferable to whole eggs.
However, the most recent guidelines no longer include a specific restriction on cholesterol intake. The reason for this is because research shows that eating foods that are high in cholesterol do not significantly raise your blood cholesterol levels; instead, foods that are high in saturated and (even more dangerous) trans fats – such as fried foods, cookies, cakes and anything with “partially hydrogenated oils” in the nutrition label – are the main culprits for raising your total and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Trans fats even lower your HDL (“good” or protective) cholesterol.
Eggs can be an incredibly healthy food! Egg yolks are rich in B vitamins (particularly vitamin B12), biotin and selenium. B vitamins are necessary for nervous system and energy function; biotin is helpful for hair and nail health; and selenium is a crucial antioxidant. Egg yolks are also a great source of lutein and zeaxanthin, two antioxidants associated with reducing the risk for developing eye disease.
If you do not have diabetes or heart disease, you can have an egg as part of your daily meal routine. Just avoid frying it, and stay away from the not-so-healthy foods that are often paired with eggs (i.e. bacon, fried potatoes, sausage, highly processed American cheese), instead choosing vegetables, avocado and/or a small baked potato. For those at risk for heart disease (i.e. if you have a history of heart disease or you have diabetes), I would recommend eating an egg ~4x/week while also limiting those foods that can increase your risk for disease like baked goods and fried foods. If you don’t really eat any other animal products, you can eat an egg most days.
Instead of putting the focus so much on limiting eggs, aim to eat lots of vegetables, a few fruit servings daily, low sodium beans and controlled portions of healthy fats like olive oil, nuts and seeds, and avocado. Make vegetables the star of your dish instead of the side, and keep your protein choices lean and in appropriate portions. If you’re doing this, your one egg daily is more likely than not going to help you instead of harm you!
** Pictured above is eggs on chia latke from Clover in NYC- definitely worth checking out!