Eggs and a Healthy Diet
Eggs have been in and out of favor several times over the last 50 years. They've been hailed as a great source of high-quality protein and condemned for all their cholesterol. The decision on whether to eat them is driven by myth almost as much as it is by facts. To help you decide if they should be on your plate, here's what we know.
Eggs are a great source of high quality protein. In fact, egg whites are considered one of the best sources of protein for supplements because of their excellent amino acid profile. Eggs are good sources for phosphorus, riboflavin and vitamin B12. Eggs are also convenient and stay fresh for relatively long periods of time. The fat and protein in eggs help you feel full.
On the negative side, whole eggs are high in saturated fat and cholesterol. One of the primary reasons they've been condemned is because it's thought they can contribute to clogged arteries and heart attacks.
The truth isn't as obvious as you might think. Lets start with cholesterol, something our bodies need to survive. Cholesterol is a structural molecule that every cell membrane needs. It's also used by our bodies to make steroid hormones like cortisol, estrogen and testosterone.
Up until 2015, dietitians suggested that we limit our daily consumption of cholesterol to 300 milligrams or less. Since a single large egg has about 186 milligrams of cholesterol in the yolk, it would seem to be an obvious food to avoid. However, the more cholesterol we eat, the less our bodies tend to make.
In 2017, scientists at the University of Sydney decided to test the link between eggs and increased cholesterol. They focused on people with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes, since those are major risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
The study had 128 people split into two groups. One group ate 12 whole eggs a week, while the other group ate two or less. Both groups were given detailed dietary guidelines including specific types and quantities of foods they could eat. There was an emphasis on replacing saturated fats with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
At the end of the one year study, both groups experienced similar weight-loss. Surprisingly there were no differences in clinical markers like glycemia, serum lipids, markers of inflammation or oxidative stress. When eaten as part of a healthy diet, egg yolks had no adverse effect.
What researchers found, the problem isn't so much the cholesterol, but the fat and saturated fat in the yolk. How much fat, saturated fat and trans fats you eat daily are much greater influencers of how much cholesterol is in your bloodstream. You have to consider the egg yolks TOGETHER, with all the other foods high in fats you eat daily.
For example, it's not unusual for someone who eats a couple eggs for breakfast to also have some bacon, toast covered in butter and potatoes fried up in grease. Eat that breakfast with a tall glass of whole milk or coffee loaded with cream and the fats all add up quickly. It's the inflammation caused by the combination of ALL those excess fats in your diet that increases artery clogging cholesterol.
If eggs are your primary source of saturated fat, researchers found you can easily eat one or two eggs with yolks a day without any adverse effects. But if every breakfast has bacon, every lunch is a burger and pizza is a dinner staple, you really should skip the yolks. (You might also consider changing your diet to include lean meats and more vegetables.)
The bottom line? Egg whites are an ideal food. A large egg white has no fat, no cholesterol, 3.6 grams of protein and only 17 calories. Egg whites are good at holding foods together and taste great when mixed with vegetables in omelets. They're affordable and easy to cook. Go ahead and eat the egg whites without concern, but limit yolks to one or two a day, along with a healthy diet.
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