By Cara Rosenbloom, R.D.
One of the common complaints I hear from my clients is that they’re tired of eating egg-white omelettes at Sunday brunch. When I ask why they don’t use the yolk, I always get the same answer: “Yolks are rich in cholesterol, which is bad for my blood cholesterol levels.”
My clients are pleased to hear that Canada’s Food Guide recommendations for Meat and Alternatives include eggs – yolk and all. The Guide says that eggs can be part of a nutritious diet. If, like most of my clients, you are surprised to learn this news, read on to see how you can incorporate eggs into a healthy eating plan.
Eggs and cholesterol
Research from the 1970s reported that high-cholesterol foods, especially eggs, raise blood cholesterol levels. These early studies included foods that were rich in both cholesterol and saturated fat (such as butter), so scientists incorrectly believed that cholesterol was the main culprit. When researchers recently re-evaluated the data, they learned that diets high in saturated or trans fat − not dietary cholesterol − are mostly responsible for increases in blood cholesterol levels.
Saturated and trans fats are found in foods such as fatty meat, whole-fat dairy products and packaged and processed foods made with hydrogenated oils such as cookies, french fries and doughnuts.
Because one large boiled egg contains just 1.6 grams of saturated fat and no trans fat, scientists have recently concluded that the earlier link between eggs and blood cholesterol was largely exaggerated.
Eggs in moderation
In general, studies show that for healthy people with no history of heart disease, diabetes or high blood cholesterol, eating an average of one egg per day (or seven eggs per week) does not increase the long-term risk of heart disease.
However, foods that contain high levels of dietary cholesterol, such as egg yolks, may have a small effect on blood cholesterol levels in people diagnosed with high blood cholesterol or type 2 diabetes. A recent study showed that individuals with type 2 diabetes need to watch their egg intake because it can increase their risk of heart disease. The Canadian Diabetes Association suggests that people with diabetes may have up to two eggs per week. If you have either one of these conditions, or any other concerns about your health, speak to your healthcare provider, who will advise you on how much food containing dietary cholesterol you should eat.
One large egg contains 70 calories, six grams of high-quality protein and five grams of total fat, most of which is the healthy, unsaturated type. Eggs are a source of zinc, vitamin A, vitamin D and B-vitamins including folate, riboflavin and B6. Eggs also contain the antioxidant lutein, which may protect against the progress of early heart disease.
Brown vs. white: Eggshell colour depends upon the breed of the hen. Both colours provide the same nutritional value.
Storage: Eggs should be stored in their original carton, which prevents them from absorbing strong odours from other foods in the fridge. Store them inside the fridge, not in the refrigerator door.
Freshness: Use the best-before date, which indicates that eggs will be grade A quality as long as they have not expired. To double-check freshness, gently place a raw egg in a bowl of water. A fresh egg will sink while an older egg will float.
Variety: Bored of sunny-side up? Try these delicious egg-based recipes:
With this up-to-date information, you may wish to enjoy eggs at Sunday brunch – just remember to take a pass on bacon, buttered toast and cream in your coffee as well as egg dishes made with lots of added full-fat cheeses − they are loaded with saturated fat.
Learn more about cholesterol.
Last reviewed: March 2011