Eggs are jam-packed with protein, iron, healthy fats, and a variety of micronutrients, but they also contain dietary cholesterol.
If you eat them on a daily basis, the discussion surrounding cholesterol has likely crossed your mind.
The question is whether keeping track of the dietary cholesterol you consume is actually important.
We know high levels of blood cholesterol can increase your risk of developing heart conditions like coronary artery disease but does dietary cholesterol have the same risks?
We’ve got the answers you’ve been searching for.
Do Eggs Raise Your Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is used to build cells within your body and make vitamins, minerals, and hormones. However, cholesterol gets a bad reputation because too much of it can cause build-ups and plaque formation within your arteries that affect heart and brain health.
Your body naturally produces cholesterol in the liver, and you also consume cholesterol through dietary sources. Your liver makes more cholesterol if you eat foods high in saturated or trans fats.
High cholesterol, specifically LDL cholesterol levels, is associated with increased heart disease risk along with stroke and many other chronic diseases.
Health experts previously recommended consuming no more than 300 mg of dietary cholesterol, but in 2015, this was removed from the dietary guidelines. Now, there is no exact recommendation, but it is suggested that people are mindful of their blood cholesterol levels so it stays within normal limits.
One large egg contains about 186 mg of cholesterol, all of which is found in the bright yellow yolk. Since one egg has more than half of the previously recommended cholesterol amount, people really started to panic. But with further research, health experts discovered that eggs don’t significantly raise blood cholesterol for most individuals.
After eating eggs, research showed that 70% of the population experienced no changes or a mild increase in blood cholesterol, showing that most of the time dietary cholesterol does not significantly affect blood cholesterol.
In fact, consuming eggs regularly can raise your high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, otherwise known as “good cholesterol.” People with high HDL cholesterol levels are at a lower risk of developing heart disease or stroke, while people with high LDL cholesterol have a higher risk.
Other contributing lifestyle factors to blood cholesterol include overall fat intake profile, specifically trans fat and saturated fat, physical activity, smoking, stress, and alcohol.
The Health Benefits of Eggs
Eggs are one of the most nutrient-dense foods. They are incredibly rich in a wide variety of nutrients. Including protein, healthy fats and vitamins, and minerals.
They are rich in selenium, a good source of vitamin B2, and contain vitamin A, B12, phosphorus, folate, vitamin D, Vitamin E, Vitamin B5, calcium, zinc, and more.
Eggs are considered a complete source of protein as they are packed with nine essential amino acids, which need to be derived from our diet.
Eggs are actually the "gold standard" of protein. The protein quality score or the protein digestibility corrected amino acid score (PDCAAS) is a range from 0-1, and eggs score 100% or a 1 indicating the optimal amino acid ratios for digestion.
Eggs contain healthy fats in the form of omega-3 fatty acids.
Pasture-raised eggs have been found to have higher omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins A and E, and lower cholesterol and saturated fat content.
Omega-3s are associated with a lower risk of stroke, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease and may reduce the severity of eczema and rheumatoid arthritis.
Coronary Artery Disease
Eggs can play a role in changing the ratio of LDL and HDL cholesterol which has beneficial effects for preventing coronary artery disease, heart disease, and stroke.
According to research, eating just one egg per day may help lower your risk of dying from heart disease by 18% and reduce your risk of stroke by 28%.
Choline helps form cell membranes and promotes brain function and memory. It is especially important to consume this nutrient when pregnant or breastfeeding, as it plays a role in fetal brain development.
Studies show that less than 10% of women meet recommended choline intake, and just eating 2-3 eggs per day could help women meet their needs.
The lutein and zeaxanthin found in eggs have been shown to support your eye health, as these two nutrients can prevent cataracts and macular degeneration.
The vitamin A found in egg yolks can also help protect your vision by safeguarding the cornea.
Whole Eggs Vs. Egg Whites
An egg white contains fewer micronutrients, protein, and calories than a whole egg; however, the egg yolk is rich in cholesterol.
With the dietary recommendations before 2015, people were under the impression that opting for egg whites instead of the entire egg was a healthier option.
But in reality, studies show that there isn’t a correlation between the cholesterol provided by eggs and an increase in blood cholesterol, and most benefits of eating eggs are associated with eating the whole egg and not just the whites.
By tossing out the yolk, you’re actually missing out on some of the critical health benefits of eggs.
Plenty of research suggests eating a whole egg is a more nutritious choice than eating just egg whites.
How Many Eggs Should You Eat in a Day?
If you have no risk factors or preexisting issues with high cholesterol levels, it’s generally safe to consume 1 to 3 eggs per day.
Always check with your healthcare provider but eating eggs daily can be beneficial for a pregnant, postpartum, or breastfeeding woman as long as they are cooked thoroughly.
As previously mentioned, the choline in eggs is involved in brain development, and 90% of soon-to-be moms don’t meet the recommendations.
It’s recommended that a woman consumes 450 mg per day of choline when pregnant and 550 mg per day when breastfeeding. One egg contains about 150 mg of choline, so eating 3 eggs daily will ensure your baby’s brain development needs are met.
Nutritious Egg Recipes
Eating a veggie omelet every morning or snacking on hard-boiled eggs on your lunch break each afternoon can get old quickly. So we’ve got three mouth-watering ideas if you want to add a few new egg-centric recipes to your repertoire.
Baked egg bites, similar to the ones you’d find at Starbucks or Costco, are an easy grab-and-go snack. They are simple to make and contain 6 grams of protein per bite, thanks to the addition of cottage or ricotta cheese.
At lunch, enjoy a keto avocado egg salad sandwich. Instead of mixing in spoonfuls of unhealthy mayo, this recipe uses avocado to create a creamy texture. What’s even better is that avocados are high in vitamins K, E, C, and B6, along with niacin, folate, riboflavin, lutein, beta carotene, magnesium, potassium, and omega-3 fatty acids.
These keto egg muffins are another on-the-go snack that you should always have available. Just a couple of these will fill you up as you run out the door. Depending on your personal preferences, you can tweak the recipe to make flavors like ham and cheese, bacon and jalapeno cheddar, southwest, and mushroom with olive and thyme. These keto egg muffins contain 9 grams of protein and only 110 calories.
For more egg-inspired recipes and information on how to lower your “bad” cholesterol levels, click here.