I was first introduced to the theory of cholesterol in eggs during my childhood, from the moment my brain grew strong enough to start understanding and retaining the stuff my mother was always telling me.
The phrase “eggs are healthy but don’t eat too many because they’re high in cholesterol” (loosely quoted) has been stuck in my memory banks – right alongside “carrots will help you see in the dark” and “pumpkin will give you curly hair”.
I now have almost no hair and I walk into large objects in the dark, so damn those pumpkins and carrots.
This got me thinking, if mom was wrong about the veggies, could she have been wrong about eggs and cholesterol? How many other people’s moms drilled the same theory into their heads and deterred them from enjoying egg based delights every day?
That set me off on a little mission to discover the truth behind cholesterol and eggs. Can you have an omelette every day or is it slow suicide? Let’s find out!
Cholesterol in Eggs: First Impressions
A Google search for “eggs and cholesterol” immediately shows that a boiled egg contains 187mg of cholesterol. Gee thanks Google, I’m trying to do some research here, not get everything on a silver platter.
So, moving on. Next stop Mayoclinic, one of the most popular medical authority sites on the Internet. Thomas Behrenbeck, M.D., Ph.D. of Mayoclinic fame is of the opinion that, while eggs are indeed high in cholesterol, the increase in blood cholesterol it will cause will vary from person to person.
Apparently all the cholesterol present in an egg is in the yolk. I remember my mom saying something like that as well back in the day. (I wonder in which part of the pumpkin the hair curling stuff was hidden).
So, for a cholesterol-free eggsperience (hardy-har), only eat the white of the egg. Of course, that’s no fun since the yolk is the tasty part. Let’s continue our research to find something more substantial.
Next Cholesterol Egg Stop: Britain
Off to the British Heart Foundation (BHF). I’m sure they’ll know a thing or two about eggs and cholesterol. According to their senior dietician, Victoria Taylor, one critical discovery revealed by recent research is that “much of the excess cholesterol in our bodies is actually produced by eating too much saturated fat rather than eating too much cholesterol”.
So, the cholesterol content of food is not as important as their saturated fat content. THAT is what poses the real cholesterol danger. This means that the danger in eggs lies more in how you prepare them than the egg itself.
According to the BHF then:
“Poached, boiled or scrambled eggs (without butter) are all absolutely fine and there are no restrictions on how many we should eat as part of a balanced diet”.
However, avoid eggs fried in butter and avoid adding other fats like cheese to the eggs. These dairy products, according to the BHF, are the main culprits.
That is good news for egg lovers like myself.
What About Studies?
The Harvard School of Public Health gives us another interesting angle to chew on: eggs contain a lot of nutrients that may actually help lower the risk for heart disease. These include protein, vitamins D and B12, riboflavin and folate.
They do caution that people having difficulty controlling their cholesterol, as well as diabetics, should be cautious about eating egg yolks. While an egg a day is generally safe for the heart, too much more than that could eventually lead to a higher risk of heart failure.
Here’s another interesting titbit I found: apparently Ying Rong of Huazhong University of Science and Technology reviewed 17 different egg studies. That study concluded much the same as the Harvard School of Public Health above: eating up to one egg a day is perfectly safe, but don’t exceed it if you are diabetic or have been identified as having a high risk for heart disease.
Another interesting fact I came across is that the people in Japan are consumers of some of the largest quantities of eggs in the world. They average 328 per person per year, yet still maintain low levels of cholesterol and heart disease. While that’s still less than an egg a day, not many of us eat eggs every day and this higher than average consumption clearly is not doing the Japanese any harm. Why? Because the rest of the typical Japanese diet is generally low in saturated fat.
Cholesterol in Eggs: Conclusion
I think we’ve now isolated the key to egg consumption quite clearly: stop worrying about the eggs and pay attention to all the stuff you’re eating in between the eggs!
If you average out at an egg a day, you’re not going to do your health any damage. In fact, there are so many nutrients in eggs that you’ll be doing your body a favor.
Eggs should be consumed boiled or poached, preferably. If you scramble or fry them, do so without butter or other cooking aids containing saturated fat. Also make sure you know about the link between coffee and cholesterol, since you usually have coffee with your eggs at breakfast.
So, research suggests you can hit a 3-egg omelette twice a week (as long as you cook it without butter and skip the cheese) and you won’t be the worse for wear. An egg a day is indeed more likely to keep the doctor away than the other way round, and the cholesterol content in eggs is nothing to be afraid of.
Using a well formulated natural supplement like Choleslo can help you control your cholesterol while eating more of the foods you love, within moderation.
Sorry mom, you were wrong about the pumpkins, the carrots and the eggs too. This makes me wonder about my father…