“I cannot lay an egg, but I am a good judge of omelettes.”
George Bernard Shaw
Eggs were once vilified for their high cholesterol content and were thought to be a major contributor to heart disease.
According to Harvard University’s Harvard Heart Letter, however, it is not the cholesterol in eggs or other food that’s a major culprit. It’s saturated and trans fats (which our bodies may convert to artery-clogging cholesterol). Here’s how Harvard cardiologists unscramble the dietary facts and myths about the egg.
Fact: Eggs are a good source of nutrients. One egg contains six grams of protein and some healthful unsaturated fats. Eggs are also a good source of choline, which has been linked with preserving memory, and lutein and zeaxanthin, which may protect against vision loss.
Myth: Eating eggs is bad for your heart. The only large study to look at the impact on heart disease of eating up to six eggs per week (reported in the April 2008 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition) found no connection between the two. In people with diabetes, though, egg-a-day eaters were slightly more likely to have developed heart disease than diabetics who rarely ate eggs. (Ed. note: Quelle surprise . . . this study was done on men only). UPDATE January 2015: A new study (Katz et al) on egg consumption in heart patients also found no significant link between eating eggs and heart disease; Quelle surprise . . . study was funded by the American Egg Board (a minor improvement: this study included six women!)
Fact: Eggs do have a lot of cholesterol. The average large egg contains 212 milligrams of cholesterol. As foods go, that’s quite a bit, rivaled only by single servings of liver, shrimp, and duck meat. Your daily cholesterol maximum intake should be below 300 mg.
Myth: All that cholesterol goes straight to your bloodstream and then into your arteries. Not so. For most people, only a small amount of the cholesterol in food passes into the blood. Saturated and trans fats have much bigger effects on blood cholesterol levels.
So if you like eggs, the Harvard Heart Letter says that eating one a day should be okay, especially if you cut back on saturated and trans fats, plus dietary cholesterol from other sources such as red meat.
Eating one egg for breakfast, drinking two cups of coffee with one tablespoon of half-and-half each, lunching on four ounces of lean turkey breast without skin and one tablespoon of mayonnaise, and having a 6-ounce serving of broiled porterhouse steak for dinner would account for about 510 mg of dietary cholesterol that day — nearly twice the recommended limit.
If you’re going to eat an egg every morning, substitute vegetables for some of the meat, or drink your coffee without half-and-half in the example above.
Other ways to enjoy eggs without worrying about cholesterol include not eating the yolk, which contains all the egg’s cholesterol.
Read more about egg myths and facts: Harvard Heart Letter
How do you like your eggs?