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Eggs and High Cholesterol Myth

With salmonella-poisoning scares on one hand and fears about its artery-clogging cholesterol levels on the other, the little egg has quite a blemished history regarding its health credentials. As a result, eggs are a food that many people view with suspicion, and therefore, actively limit their consumption (the magic figure of ‘no more than two eggs a week’ being deeply embedded in many cultures). This post questions this anti-egg sentiment and shows you why eggs should re-claim their rightful place as a healthy food that we should eat more often.

Let’s start by cracking the cholesterol myth. Eggs are full of this stuff and we all know that too much cholesterol is bad for our heart health, right? The problem with this simplistic assumption is that it overlooks an extremely important fact; the cholesterol in our diet, derived from foods such as eggs, has only a minimal and clinically insignificant effect on total levels of cholesterol in our blood stream*. Paradoxically, it is saturated fat that is guilty of raising our cholesterol levels, which eggs are relatively low in, rather containing mostly beneficial unsaturated fats.

Once we made it clear about eggs and their high cholesterol content we can focus on the things that make eggs a class act. Here we need to look no further than the valuable source of high quality protein they present. Protein happens to be more satiating, leaving you feeling fuller for longer. In a study of obese women, an egg-based breakfast, compared to a bagel-based breakfast, produced greater satiety and reduced energy intake for the whole day. This suggests that the old saying to ‘go to work on an egg’ could be a clever strategy for those trying to shed some weight.

But the story doesn’t end here yet. Eggs have lot more to offer us other than protein. Their sunny yellow yolks contain the carotenoids zeaxanthin and lutein, which happen to be also abundant in cruciferous vegetables (like kale, cabbage and spinach). These carotenoids accumulate in the retina and are known to provide protection against the development of eye problems, particularly age-related macular degeneration (causing the loss of the central vision) and cataracts. Moreover, eggs are a rich source of micronutrients and are actually one of the few dietary sources of vitamin D (the majority of it coming from sun exposure). Given the chronic lack of vitamin D in inhabitants of Northern Europe, any contribution to topping up its levels is a good thing.

Despite all these facts, the eggs bad cholesterol myth lingers on in the mind of the public. But in the light of the evidence, fears about eating more than two eggs a week should be banished. Instead, we should focus on all that is good about eggs. In fact, given the obesity problem of the modern world, why we continue to ignore a satiating, protein and nutrient-rich food like the egg is simply baffling. Indeed, the time has come to restore the reputation of the egg and to view it as a vital component of a varied, healthful diet.

*Note: Individuals with familial hypercholesterolaemia, an inherited susceptibility to high cholesterol levels affecting about 1 in 500 individuals, can be particularly sensitive to dietary cholesterol intake, and are advised to limit egg consumption.