Eggs and Cholesterol

Do you believe eggs will increase your cholesterol and therefore increase your risk of heart disease?? Many people (1/4 of Americans per the Egg Nutrition Center survey) with high cholesterol cut eggs out of their diet. It has only been in the last few years that research has been done on the link between eggs and cardiovascular disease (CVD). Note, CVD is still the leading cause of death in the United States.

Yes…it’s true, eggs do contain a concentrated source of cholesterol (164-215 mg per egg depending on the size). However, the relationship between dietary cholesterol (in food) and serum cholesterol (in your blood) varies significantly depending on each individual and intake of dietary fiber, saturated fat, polyunsaturated fat, obesity, insulin resistance, and genetics. The overall effects of dietary cholesterol (for example the cholesterol found in an egg or shrimp) is small in comparison to the LDL(bad cholesterol)-raising effects of saturated fat in foods.

Note: Picture taken at breakfast @ Le Pain Quotidien. (Egg salad sandwich open face…Delicious!!)

Eggs and shellfish are two major exceptions. For example, eating one hard boiled egg with a piece of whole grain toast in the morning and eating shrimp stir fry for lunch (with brown rice and vegetables) will NOT likely raise your total or LDL (bad cholesterol); whereas a sausage and cheese breakfast sandwich followed by a bacon cheeseburger and fries for lunch will increase your total and LDL cholesterol. My point is that even though shrimp and eggs look like they have a “high cholesterol” content from the nutrition facts label, this does not necessarily mean that it will raise the serum cholesterol (in your body).

The latest National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey indicated the average cholesterol intake for all Americans aged 2 and older is 278 mg/day (358 mg for men and 237 mg for women). However, genetics also plays a role in dietary cholesterol’s effect and serum cholesterol in the body (15-30% of the population). The 70-85% of people remaining are effected little to none by the cholesterol in the diet. The Harvard Egg Study found that consuming as many as seven eggs per week was NOT associated with coronary heart disease or elevated total cholesterol among both men and women.

THE GOOD NEWS: One large egg contains 75 calories, and is a good source of 13 essential nutrients (vitamin B12, iron, zinc, folate, vitamin D, and choline, which is associated with improved cardiovascular health). Egg protein provides as many essential amino acids as animal protein and is a good source of carotenoids (nutrients important for eye health). Evidence shows there is no increased risk of heart disease with egg consumption for healthy adults. Make eggs part of your healthy, balanced diet!

My “egg” breakfast of choice: 1 slice of Ezekiel sesame sprouted bread toasted, with 1 poached egg and cracked lemon pepper and bit of olive tapenade on top! You won’t believe how satisfying it is… and only for ~160 calories and 7 grams of protein= a great way to start your day!

To learn more about including the right foods into your lifestyle and managing a balanced diet, schedule a nutrition appointment with Courtney Walberg, Registered Dietitian, Certified Personal Trainer and founder of Nutrition For Body And Mind.