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15 August 2016

Eggs are really nutritious and don't cause heart disease

For years we thought eggs increased our cholesterol levels and caused heart disease, but recent studies indicate that daily consumption of eggs has no adverse effects on cardiac risk factors.

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Are you wondering how many eggs you should be eating per week, or are you worried that you’ve been eating too many? 

For years, people limited their egg intake, thinking it was a major cause of elevated cholesterol levels and subsequent heart disease. 

In actual fact eggs are really nutritious and play an important role in among other things weight management, muscle strength, healthy pregnancy, brain function and eye health.

'Egg-cellent' for your health

An egg is a nutrient-dense food, as one large egg contains 13 essential vitamins and minerals, six grams of protein and all nine essential amino acids – all in only 294 kilojoules. 

Read: Health benefits of eggs

While egg whites contain some high-quality protein, riboflavin and selenium, the majority of an egg’s nutrient package is found in the yolk:

Choline is a nutrient found in lecithin and plays an essential role in foetal and infant brain development. Adequate choline during pregnancy may also prevent neural tube defects.

Lutein and Zeaxanthin are two carotenoids essential to eye health. In the retina, these two compounds act as antioxidants, minimising damage and reducing the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration.

Vitamin D is essential for maintaining serum calcium and phosphate levels and in developing and maintaining healthy bones. Several additional benefits of vitamin D are being actively investigated, including reducing risk of chronic health conditions such as diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease, and certain cancers. There aren't many foods that naturally contain vitamin D, but egg yolks do.

Protein. Eggs are a good source of high-quality protein with 60 percent coming from the white and 40 percent from the yolk. 

Leucine is an essential amino acid (one large egg provides 600 milligrams) that plays a unique role in muscle protein synthesis.

Can eggs give me bad cholesterol that can contribute to blocking my arteries?

Your body naturally produces cholesterol, a soft, waxy substance. Cholesterol is essential to the body and plays a special role in the formation of brain cells and certain hormones. 

What you may not realise is that there is a difference between dietary cholesterol found in food, and cholesterol in the blood, most of which is made in the liver.

Consumption of dietary cholesterol, such as that in eggs, has little impact on your blood cholesterol levels, and research has shown this repeatedly. Data from a January 2015 American Heart Journal study indicates that daily consumption of eggs or egg substitute had no adverse effects on any cardiac risk factors.

Read: Special eggs a heart booster

The main concern is if your intake of saturated fat is high, which can trigger your liver to produce more cholesterol. This only becomes a risk factor once your LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol level has exceeded a certain limit.

You should be more aware of what you are eating with the egg (e.g. bacon and sausages), how you prepare it (frying vs. poaching), or what you eat during the rest of the day – which may actually be what’s increasing your cardiac and cholesterol risk.

Scrambled, poached or boiled – include eggs in your daily routine

Recent research published in the British Medical Journal found that up to one egg a day can be part of a healthy, balanced diet. The dietary guidelines for Americans were revised in 2015 and no longer contain recommendations to limit dietary cholesterol intake, but concentrate more on overall dietary patterns.

Eggs can be incorporated in a healthy diet and are recommended as a nutritious food, forming part of a healthy eating pattern that includes the consumption of fresh vegetables, fruits and whole grains; low-fat dairy products; poultry (without skin); all types of fish; legumes; non-tropical vegetable oils and nuts; and limiting the intake of sweets, sugar-sweetened beverages and red meats.

Read more:

10 health benefits of eggs

China probes bouncing boiled eggs

Free-range eggs no better in nutrition

References:

1. Position Statement: Eggs and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease www.enc.org.au

2. Eckel RH et al. 2013 AHA/ACC Guideline on Lifestyle Management to Reduce Cardiovascular Risk. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2014;63:2960-2984.

3. Giordano P et al. Carotenoids and cardiovascular risk. Current Pharmaceutical Design        2012;18:5577-5589.

4. Institute of Medicine. Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium and Vitamin D. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. 2011.

The dietitians from Nutritional Solutions are Health24's expert team of registered dietitians.

 
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