What came first, the chicken or the egg? We may not be able to answer this question, but we can talk to you about cholesterol in eggs, and whether or not eating eggs will raise your cholesterol levels.
Let’s start with the basics.
Eggs contain cholesterol. In one large egg, you’ll find about 186 mg of cholesterol, all found in the egg yolk. Up until 2015, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommended to consume no more than 300 mg of cholesterol a day, or 200 mg if you are at risk of heart disease. However, in the more recent 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines the recommendations changed (as they tend to do) and instead suggested “Eat as little dietary cholesterol as possible, but there are no specific limits.”
What was the reason for this change of heart?
Research has shown that dietary cholesterol itself isn’t necessarily the bad guy and surprisingly has a minimal effect on blood cholesterol. Cholesterol is is found in animal based foods (think beef, chicken, seafood, dairy), and is naturally produced by your body. We need cholesterol to help build cells and produce hormones. Cholesterol is produced in the liver and intestines from fats, sugars and proteins. Most healthy people can eat up to seven eggs a week with no increased risk of heart disease. A review looking at various studies on the the effect of no-egg consumption versus a moderate egg consumption, did not find that completely limiting cholesterol consumption was of a benefit.
So if cholesterol isn’t the enemy, what is?
Eating large amounts of saturated fat and trans fats can cause your liver to pump out too much “bad” cholesterol, also known as LDL cholesterol. This type of cholesterol can clog up your arteries and increase your risk of heart disease. Because of this, health professionals will usually recommend limiting saturated fat to 10 percent or less of your total calorie intake, and avoiding trans fat. Sugars have also been shown to have a negative effect on cholesterol and increased risk of heart disease. Recommendations from the American Heart Association include consuming no more than 6 teaspoons (or 100 calories) of added sugar for women, and 9 teaspoons or 150 calories for men. To translate this into food terms, 1 cup of coke has around 6 teaspoons of sugar! Read more about sugar on one of our previous blog posts.
Let’s return back to our friend, the egg.
I like to label eggs, a “pocket of nutrients”. They are one of the most simplest foods, but jammed packed with a truckload of essential nutrients. There are studies that show links between regular egg consumption and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and lowering blood pressure. So it seems it would be unwise to cut something pretty beneficial out of your diet on the premise that it may raise your cholesterol levels. That being said, moderation is always the key, especially when it comes to mixed and ever-changing messages.
If you enjoy eggs on toast a few times a week, there is no need to banish it from your diet. That being said, don’t go whipping up a 3-egg omelet on a daily basis.
If you are looking for ways to lower cholesterol you can try ramping up on exercise (aim for 150 minutes a week), increasing dietary fiber (around 25-30 grams a day), eat more of the healthy fats (nuts, olive oil, oily fish), avoiding trans fat and limiting saturated fat.