Healthy eating tips: Do eggs raise cholesterol levels?
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Eggs are nutritious and an excellent source of protein. Despite multiple clinical findings that eggs are high in cholesterol, experts say that they do not raise the body’s cholesterol levels the way other cholesterol-containing foods do.
Dietitian Mbali Mapholi says cholesterol is one of the major health markers for the risk of heart disease, and the big debate has been about the link between eggs and high cholesterol levels.
“Over the years, there have been concerns that eggs may contribute to high blood cholesterol levels. New research has proven this not to be true,” says Mapholi.
Below, she details why eggs are good for you and why they are not as bad as they are put out to be with regards to increasing blood cholesterol.
Affordable source of protein
Eggs are a good source of protein, energy, vitamins, and minerals which are important for good health. They are also an easily accessible and affordable source of protein. In South Africa, you can even buy boiled eggs in the streets and at traffic lights in the mornings. Depending on the size of an egg, one egg (58g) contains about 7g of protein which is a good amount of protein per serving.
Eggs are low in fat
The fat in the whole egg is found in the egg yolk, not the white part. One average egg (58g) contains around 4.6g of total fat. This is about a teaspoon of total fat in one egg of which about a quarter is actually saturated fat.
Eggs are a great source of an essential nutrient, choline.
Eggs are a good source of a variety of vitamins and minerals. Let’s put a spotlight on choline which is a nutrient needed for many bodily processes including metabolism, neurotransmitter synthesis, and brain development. Our bodies can make choline only in very small amounts, which means the majority of choline should come from our diet. An average egg (58g) provides about 147 mg of choline. This means that eating just 2 eggs per day offers just above 50% of the Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) of choline.
Eggs are versatile
Eggs can be used up in the kitchen in many ways. They can be incorporated in quick and easy savoury meals or desserts, or served scrambled, poached, or boiled. Eggs can basically fit into our diet at all meals (breakfast, lunch, and supper), and snacks.
Eggs are suitable for the whole family including children.
Eggs can be offered to children from as little as six months old when they start eating solids. They are easily digested, nutrient-dense making them perfect for those small tummies.
Now back to cholesterol: are eggs as bad as they are put out to be with regards to increasing blood cholesterol?
Mapholi says eggs are rich in cholesterol and people with high cholesterol may wonder if they can safely eat them.
She says for many decades, people have been advised to limit their consumption of eggs — or at least of egg yolks as they were thought to increase total blood cholesterol. However, science on this is lacking.
“Available research has shown that for the majority of the people, eggs did not increase the total or LDL (the “bad” cholesterol. It was reported that some people may experience a mild increase in a benign subtype of LDL, but nothing concrete was concluded on that. Eggs consistently raise HDL (the “good”) cholesterol, which is actually positive.
“The science is clear that up to 3 whole eggs per day are perfectly safe for healthy people. There is no evidence that going beyond that is harmful – more research is needed as it has not been studied yet. It’s much more important to limit the amount of saturated fat you eat. Saturated fats are fats that are mostly found from animal origin. Too much-saturated fat can raise the cholesterol in your blood. So, most people can eat eggs if they are part of a healthy diet that is low in saturated fat,” says Mapholi.