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Published on Oct. 7, 2021

An egg a day, will it keep the doctor away?

Scrambled or poached for breakfast, hard-boiled on a sandwich for lunch… in a frittata for a lazy dinner..., or used in a delicious sponge cake or tiramisu. Eggs are among the most versatile, time-saving kitchen staple for any meal of the day. Eggs have received their fair share of bad press over the past decades, but here is the good news: the tides on eggs have turned and new scientific insights on the positive side of eggs are there.

Bad egg press from the past

Back in the 1960s and ’70s, eggs were seen as Public Enemy No. 1 for the heart, largely because scientists had discovered that high blood cholesterol levels raise the risk of heart disease, and eggs are high in cholesterol. However, the saturated fat in foods like red meat, butter, cheese, and other full-fat dairy raise blood cholesterol more than the cholesterol in eggs. So, eggs initially got more than their share of the blame than they deserved.

Cholesterol and eggs – what’s the deal?

Eggs contain cholesterol, so for years, the simple conclusion was drawn that eggs raise your cholesterol level. It’s important to understand the difference between dietary cholesterol, which is the amount of cholesterol already present in a food before you eat it — eggs or shrimp, for example — and serum (or blood) cholesterol, which is low-density lipoprotein, or LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol), manufactured by the body through the action of saturated fats which can build up in your arteries and increase your risk of heart disease – so it’s obviously something you want to minimize. The good news for egg lovers is that this train of thought is now outdated. Scientific research has found that cholesterol in food doesn’t have perse an effect on blood cholesterol levels. Instead, saturated fat (that’s the unhealthy type) has a much more potent effect on serum cholesterol profiles. So, it’s far more beneficial to focus on minimizing your intake of saturated fat than cholesterol. Saturated fat has twice the LDL cholesterol raising effect as dietary cholesterol, but the two together further complicate the risk as they are synergistically bad for raising LDL cholesterol.

Are eggs healthy?

Yes. Eggs are “eggcellent” for you. Eggs are a wonderful source of dietary protein for someone who is not overweight, has no family history of heart disease or other risk factors. In terms of macronutrients, eggs are jam-packed with protein and are classified as a ‘complete’ protein. That means eggs contain all of the essential amino acids that your body needs to function properly. Eggs also provide omega-3 fatty acids, which are anti-inflammatory and good for the heart.

When looking to the micronutrients, eggs are one of the few food sources of Vitamin D, which is key for bone health. But next to Vitamin D, eggs also provide many other essential micronutrients, including Vitamin E (antioxidant), Vitamin A for good eyesight and iron to boost energy levels. Not to forget, that’s all for just 75 calories per egg!

How many eggs is safe to eat?

Again, good news for egg lovers – if you’re otherwise healthy, there is not a real limit on how many eggs you can consume each week. This is not a green light to go for a dozen a day, as this would not leave much space in your tummy for other nutritious foods but consuming up to one egg a day is widely considered as safe. Eggs are a perfectly healthy component of a balanced diet. How many eggs you can eat depend on your health status, as there is a link with cardiovascular disease for people who have type two diabetes or high LDL cholesterol. In these cases, egg consumption should be capped to ½ an egg a day. For older people with normal cholesterol level and who eat a healthy diet, up to two eggs a day is recommended.

Take home message

So most of you can have your egg a day, but try skip the bacon, sausage and buttered toast — all high in saturated fat — that often go along with them. If you eat those with your eggs, you are flirting with danger. As the alternative you can perfectly combine your poached eggs with whole grain toast, olive-oil, smoked salmon, avocado, or a green salad.

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