Egg for breakfast? Yum! But do you worry about what your favourite
breakfast food is doing to your cholesterol levels? New research reveals the truth about eggs and cholesterol.
If you love to start the day with an egg, you’re one of millions. And if, like me, you were taught that eggs were bad news for blood cholesterol and your heart, you’ve always felt that your choice of breakfast food belongs firmly in the ‘guilty pleasure’ category. So I was pleased to read that eggs, in fact, have been given a bad rap.
In an article published in Live Science
earlier this year, dietician Katherine Tallmadge wrote about a report published by Ying Rong of Huazhong University of Science and Technology in the British Journal of Medicine
in which the research team reviewed 17 different articles on eggs.
Their conclusion? ‘Higher consumption of eggs (one egg per day) is not associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease or stroke.’ (Further research is being done into the effect of eggs on diabetics, who have an increased risk of coronary heart disease linked with higher egg consumption.)
So is there really any link between eggs and cholesterol?
The cholesterol debate
First of all, cholesterol is vital for all human and animal cells to work properly. However, as your liver produces most of the cholesterol your body needs, there’s no real need to take in extra cholesterol-containing foods. Actually, says the study, it appears that the cholesterol in your diet is not the real problem. Most foods that contain cholesterol are of animal origin, such as bacon and other meat, and butter. These products are also high in saturated fats, which are in fact the real culprits when it comes to raised blood cholesterol and heart health. In South Africa, as in the rest of the Western world, incidence of heart disease is rife because of our high consumption of saturated fats.
Eggs, on the other hand, while being high in cholesterol (about 300 mg, most of them in the yolk alone, says The Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa), contain little saturated fat. Evidence is seen in Japan, where the local people eat on average 320-plus eggs per person per year but have low levels of cholesterol and heart disease. Why? In part, it’s because the Japanese eat a diet low in saturated fat. So it’s thumbs down to those who are convinced of the link between eggs and cholesterol.
Eggs contain useful nutrients such as vitamins A, D, E and K, and egg white is an excellent source of lean protein. Egg yolks also contain choline, necessary for brain development and function, and the phytochemicals lutein and zeaxanthin, which help protect against eye disease.
Omega-3-enriched eggs can now be found in most South African supermarkets. Although they contain the same amount of cholesterol as normal eggs, they also have up to 10 times more of the polyunsaturated fatty acids called omega-3 fatty acids, which have heart-healthy benefits. Omega-3s are also commonly found in fish and fish oils as well as canola, soybean and flaxseed oils.
So, eat your egg a day, guilt-free. Boiled or poached is preferrable, or fry it in just one teaspoon of vegetable oil. If making an omelette, use one egg yolk mixed with three egg whites. But forgo the bacon, sausage and butter-laden toast – that famous ‘Full English’ that so many people love. That’s where the trouble lies. Instead, have grilled tomato and thinly buttered toast.
Who should avoid eggs?
If you have a family history of high cholesterol, have established atherosclerotic disease or are suffering from type I or II diabetes, don’t eat more than 200 mg of cholesterol per day. An egg every third day or so would be a safer option. Remember though that like all things in life, balance is the key. ‘Enjoying food is, after all, one of the basic pleasures in life,’ says Tallmadge.
Now that you have the lowdown on eggs and cholesterol, read more about ‘Lifestyle and natural advice to manage high cholesterol’.
For safe, effective treatment of raised cholesterol, try Flora Force Cholesterol Aid™, a powerful, all-natural formulation that improves circulation, protects blood vessels, provides anti-oxidants and fights inflammation to prevent ‘thick, sticky blood’.