Can You Eat Eggs When Watching Your Cholesterol?

About twenty years ago, egg consumption was discouraged by many healthcare providers because of their high cholesterol content. In fact, the recommendation was to consume three eggs or less a week, and no more than 300 mg of cholesterol a day. Because the average, intact, large egg contains about 210 mg of cholesterol, fitting in an egg into your daily meal plan was difficult under these guidelines. However, when several studies were later conducted examining the effect of egg consumption on cholesterol levels, it was discovered that eggs alone do not contribute to causing high cholesterol levels in healthy people. In fact, eating one egg a day did not significantly raise cholesterol levels in individuals in many of these studies.

A woman grocery shopping for eggs

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What researchers did discover was that individuals who consumed eggs also consumed bacon, ham, red meat, butter, sausage, and other food products that are high in saturated fat and trans fat – both of which can contribute to increased lipid levels and increasing your risk of developing cardiovascular disease if consumed long-term.

How Agencies React to Studies

Given these studies, many health agencies – including the American Heart Association – have relaxed their previous recommendation of consuming three eggs per week. Eggs - especially the yolk – may be high in cholesterol, but they are also chock-full of other healthy nutrients. They are a rich source of protein, containing the essential amino acids required by your body. In addition to protein, eggs also contain many vitamins, minerals, and a fatty molecule called lecithin, which aids in transporting and metabolizing fats in the body. The 2015 Dietary Guidelines from the American Expert Advisory Council has also recently changed its recommendations to drop the restrictions on high cholesterol foods like eggs due solely to their cholesterol content.

However, if you have heart disease, severely high lipid levels, or have diabetes, you should talk to your healthcare provider before adding eggs to your daily meal regimen. Studies have shown that some populations, such as diabetics, may be at risk of developing heart disease if they consume a large amount of high cholesterol foods, such as eggs. In this case, your healthcare provider may restrict the amount of cholesterol or eggs you consume on a daily basis.

There are many ways to maximize the healthy benefits of eggs in your lipid-loweirng diet, including:

  • Watch how you prepare your eggs. You can eat eggs plain or mix your egg with fresh vegetables or whole grains, rather than with foods that are high in saturated fat or sugar. Instead of butter, use a small amount of olive oil or canola oil to prepare your eggs. If you are wanting to add flavor to your egg dish, use spices instead of salt. 
  • Consume eggs in moderation. Although studies have shown that one egg a day does not have a significant impact on cholesterol levels, there are not enough studies to show the health effects of consuming more than one egg on your heart health. Eggs count towards your daily caloric intake, too.
  • There are alternatives to consuming eggs. If you want to include more eggs for that extra-large, healthy egg dish without significantly increasing the calorie count and fat content of your meal, you can use an egg substitute instead. Additionally, you can also carefully remove the intact yolks from the egg, using just the egg whites to prepare your dish.
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