Eggs: Friend or Foe?

Eggs: Friend or Foe?

Have you had an egg today? These days, nutrition experts say that’s a good choice. This breakfast staple is packed with healthy nutrients. Plus with 70 calories and 6 g of protein, a single egg helps keep you full without thwarting your diet.

But not so long ago, eggs were on most people’s do-not-eat list, thanks largely in part to the high cholesterol content: 185 mg per egg.  As we all know, too much cholesterol in the blood can lead to heart disease. So why are eggs recommended for breakfast now?

First, eggs are actually healthier than they used to be. A report from the United States Department of Agriculture states that hens’ feed is now mostly made up of high-quality ingredients including soybean meal, corn and vitamins. “[Because of this] the cholesterol levels in eggs have decreased from 215 mg to 185 mg for a large egg,” says dietitian Frances Largeman-Roth, author of Eating In Color: Delicious, Healthy Recipes for You and Your Family. Plus, eggs now have 64 percent more vitamin D than they did in 2002, according to the USDA’s report from the United States Department of Agriculture.

Another reason eggs are back on the menu: Scientists no longer believe the cholesterol in egg yolks leads to higher cholesterol in your blood. “Researchers now think it’s the saturated fat and trans fat in our diets that is more likely to raise cholesterol levels,” Largeman-Roth says. And a meta-analysis of 16 studies, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, didn’t find any association between egg consumption and heart disease in the general population.

In fact, in 2015 the national Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) decided to not recommend any limit on cholesterol intake for most people. Previously, the DGAC’s recommended people consume no more than 300 mg per day, so the 185-215 mg of cholesterol in a single egg was a huge chunk of your daily allowance. “This is very controversial because a recommended upper limit of 300 mg has been in place for years,” says Largeman-Roth.

However, some people should avoid eating whole eggs regularly. “If your doctor has told you that you’re at increased risk of heart disease, it’s smart to limit dietary intake of saturated fat and cholesterol and eliminate trans fat,” says Largeman-Roth.

When you wake up in the morning and decide to egg or not to egg, remember this advice: “The science on saturated fat and cholesterol keeps changing, but one thing that everyone can agree on is that for most healthy people, an egg a day can definitely fit into a healthy eating plan,” says Largeman-Roth.

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