Addressing Cholesterol myths: Do eggs cause high cholesterol?
Eggs have long been a staple of the American breakfast. Whether you enjoy them sunny-side up, scrambled, hard-boiled, or as an omelet, eggs are no doubt a great start to the morning. Unfortunately, there are myths surrounding eggs, particularly regarding their cholesterol levels.
If you’ve been diagnosed with high cholesterol, then you probably steer clear of eggs altogether, and if your doctor has warned you about your cholesterol levels, then you may need to cut back on egg consumption. The good news is that you don’t need to fear eggs any longer, regardless of your cholesterol level, as many studies have debunked the myth that eggs are bad for you—so, go ahead and enjoy your eggs.
Nutrients in eggs
There’s no doubt that eggs are a healthy food to eat. They’re a great source of protein, contain 13 essential vitamins and minerals, nine amino acids, along with vitamin D, vitamin B12, phosphorus, and riboflavin. The majority of these nutrients are actually found in the yolk. Furthermore, there are only 78 calories in a boiled egg. Therefore, if you’re not eating eggs or are discarding the yellow center, then you are definitely missing out on essential nutrients that can boost your health.
How much cholesterol should you consume in a day?
It’s important to know how much cholesterol you should eat in a day. The Mayo Clinic recommends 300mg of cholesterol a day. So, where does that leave eggs?
The average egg has around 70mg of cholesterol. Although that may seem high—and you may be worried about having to limit what you eat for the remainder of the day—it’s important to understand how cholesterol in eggs is used by your body and that it doesn’t necessarily increase your overall cholesterol levels.
Cholesterol in eggs myths debunked
Although cholesterol has been long thought of as an enemy to our health, in actuality, our bodies require it to function normally. Cholesterol plays an important role in many cell functions and hormones, including testosterone, cortisol, and estrogen, so it’s a crucial part of healthy living. This is where the importance of understanding HDL and LDL cholesterol comes into play.
HDL cholesterol is the good cholesterol and LDL is the bad. When we have too much LDL cholesterol, it can line our arteries, making them thicker and limiting blood flow—this can cause damage to the heart over time.
Our livers naturally produce cholesterol and we consume even more in the foods we eat. When we consume high amounts of cholesterol through our diet, our liver actually begins producing less cholesterol to compensate.
So, where did the rumor that eggs contribute to high cholesterol begin? The initial warnings came from the American Health and Food Care authorities. Since the 1960s, the U.S. government has backed the notion that cholesterol is bad. The ideology at the time made sense, as people began consuming more and more fat, increasing the rate of heart attacks. But today, it seems the U.S. government is taking a different stance on the cholesterol issue.
America’s top nutrition advisory panel no longer cautions against consuming cholesterol-rich foods. Although the same panel deemed cholesterol unhealthy five years ago, the ongoing research from the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee has helped shaped new recommendations regarding cholesterol.
The panel suggests that consuming high-cholesterol foods won’t necessarily cause heart attack, but they do caution that consuming foods high in fat will contribute to heart disease. Still, those who already have heart problems should moderate their cholesterol intake and watch their diet.
Now you’re probably wondering how many eggs you can eat a day without worrying about your cholesterol? The common recommendation is to consume two to six eggs per week, but there isn’t enough scientific evidence to support or condemn this notion. Some experts suggest that an egg a day is perfectly fine, but this is largely dependent on an individual’s health.
One study, in particular, looked at two groups of individuals. One group consumed one to three eggs a day, and the others consumed egg substitutes. The participants were followed over the course of weeks and months.
The findings of the study uncovered that, in most cases, egg consumption was linked with an increase of HDL cholesterol, while total and LDL cholesterol didn’t change aside from a few cases where they only raised slightly. Consuming eggs could help lower triglycerides, and antioxidant levels increased while consuming eggs.
The researchers concluded that the results of eating eggs were largely dependent on the individual and that the results could not be applied to every person. In the study group, 70 percent of the participants did not suffer from adverse effects, and the other 30 percent only experienced minor changes. You should speak to your doctor about your own health and needs in order to determine how many eggs you can safely consume.
Reducing Cholesterol Naturally
If you’re still concerned about cholesterol, there are many other foods that can help you lower your levels naturally. Here are some tips that can help promote lower cholesterol.
Know your fats.
There are good fats and bad fats in many of the foods we eat, and knowing the difference between the two can help you make healthier choices that lead to lower cholesterol levels. Avoid saturated and trans fats that are commonly found in meats and dairy products as well as items that contain “partially hydrogenated vegetable oils.” Instead, ensure most of your dietary fats are made up of healthy, unsaturated fats like the ones found in oily fish, nuts, seeds, and vegetables.
Eat more fiber.
Choosing foods full of soluble fiber such as oatmeal and fruits can help lower blood cholesterol, especially when eaten as part of a diet that is rich in healthy fats.
Add in plant sterols and stanols.
Sterols and stanols are compounds that occur naturally in certain plants. They have a similar structure to cholesterol and limit the amount of cholesterol your body is able to absorb. These compounds can be found in some juices, yogurts, and spreads, and can be added into a healthy diet to help lower cholesterol.
Make it personal.
While a friend or family member may have found a miracle diet that lowered their cholesterol dramatically, this same regimen may not work for you. Physiological differences and genetics may make it so that a diet that is effective for your neighbor may not be as effective for you. That isn’t to say you shouldn’t try—follow the diet for a few months, and if the benefits your friend has been raving about aren’t evident, then it didn’t work. There is no one perfect diet that will lower everyone’s cholesterol, and it may take going through several different approaches before finding the one that works best for you.
Diet can be an easy yet effective way to manage cholesterol levels, and while you may not hit your goal and still be required to take medication, the amount of medication you take may be reduced by making changes to your daily consumption. Opt for a diet full of healthy fats, fiber-filled foods, plant sterols, and stanols, and remember that not every diet works for every person.