With Passover and Easter upon us, my thoughts have turned to eggs! For years, eggs have gotten a bad rap because they are high in cholesterol, and many people who follow a heart healthy diet to lower their cholesterol tend to avoid them. But research on eggs and cholesterol suggests that they are not as unhealthy as we thought.
Egg whites are an excellent source of protein, with very few calories (only 17 in a large egg) and no fat or cholesterol. The egg yolk is where you’ll find the cholesterol as well as some fat, but most of that fat is actually unsaturated (heart healthy). In fact, a recently published review of research studies which looked back almost 50 years, suggests that eating eggs does not increase the risk for heart disease, and for most people, dietary cholesterol plays a minor role in raising a person’s blood cholesterol. Instead, it’s saturated fat that raises our cholesterol the most, and we should focus on eating as little of this artery clogging fat as possible.
The guidelines from the American Heart Association recommend eating less than 300 mg of cholesterol, and no more than 7% of calories from saturated fat each day. That works out to about 12-15 grams of saturated fat each day for people who eat 1600-2000 calories. One large egg has about 185 mg of cholesterol, and only 1.5 g of saturated fat. It’s also a good source of many other vitamins and minerals. When you do eat whole eggs, try to limit other sources of cholesterol like red meat (bacon), butter, cheese, or cream so you stay within your daily cholesterol and saturated fat limit. If you want to limit the yolks, try using one whole egg, and several egg whites in your dish. Egg substitutes like Egg Beaters are also fine to use as much as you like, because they are made with egg white, and contain no yolks.
Eggs are quick and easy to prepare for a meal any time of day, and they can be part of a healthy diet. For anyone advised to limit dietary cholesterol, keep the yolks to 2-3 each week. For most people, though, it’s not the egg that you should worry about; it’s the butter, home fries and bacon that usually go with it. Instead of eating them the traditional greasy spoon way, check out some healthier recipes from IncredibleEgg.org, and try this recipe for Strata with Asparagus and Boursin adapted from Cook’s Country- it’s a family favorite for a quick dinner, and leftovers are great for breakfast or lunch the next day!