There has long been debate over whether or not eggs are a healthy food. Strong arguments have been made both ways, and respected nutritional experts stand on both sides of the fence. When trying to figure out your stance on this controversial issue, information can be unclear and biased. To help you out, we’ve tried to wade through the information to boil it down so you can make an informed decision.
The Argument: Eggs are bad for heart health
When talking about eggs, the primary reason people are scared to eat them is the purported fact they will raise cholesterol levels. The American Heart Association (AHA)1 recommends eating no more than 300mg of cholesterol each day; one single egg yolk has around 185mg2. The assumption made is that by consuming high cholesterol foods, your body’s cholesterol will therefore increase.
Other studies have connected a regular diet of eggs with other health issues, too. One study3 found people who ate eggs had levels of plaque in their arteries not much worse than smokers. Another research group4 found that eating even just one egg a day raised the mortality rate among a group of 20,000 doctors.
The Facts: Eggs also are high in cholesterol
Yes, eggs are high in cholesterol. But interestingly, it isn’t high cholesterol foods that have the greatest impact on the level of cholesterol in our bloodstream. You may not know it, but your body produces cholesterol2 all on its own (about 1-2 grams!). To make it even more interesting, the amount of cholesterol your body produces is relative to the amount you get from your diet. Eat higher cholesterol foods? Your body produces less. Eat lower cholesterol foods? Your body will up its production. The reason is your body has “set point” for the amount of cholesterol it needs, and will adjust to make sure you stay at that level. Cholesterol isn’t all bad5; it’s actually an integral part of your cells structure and influences hormone biology.
Not so sure? There have been multiple studies done6 suggesting that there is no solid evidence connecting eggs with increased cholesterol levels (except in people with diabetes). The impact of eggs on cholesterol is very small, and at this point most researchers confidently say having an egg a day is completely fine. In fact, there have been studies done proving eggs increase good cholesterol7 and reduce bad cholesterol8.
It turns out the real culprits responsible for high cholesterol are saturated fats and trans fats. Consider this: people in Japan average eating around 328 eggs per year per person, and yet have some of the lowest rates of high cholesterol and heart disease in the world. Why? It has a lot to do with the fact the rest of their diet is low in saturated fat5.
The Facts: Eggs have many great health benefits
Aside from the cholesterol component, eggs are filled with a long list of other incredibly beneficial nutrients. In fact, eggs contain almost every vitamin and mineral your body needs to function properly. Here are just a few examples of what you get when you eat an egg:
|LUTEIN||Also found in spinach, this nutrient keeps your eyes healthy5 throughout life.|
|CHOLINE||It’s important for your heart and brain to function well, and can help decrease inflammation2.|
|VITAMIN D||This vitamin is hard to get from food, and eggs are one of the few good sources5.|
|OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS||Eggs are rich in these healthy fats.|
|B VITAMINS||From B6 to B12 to folate, eggs deliver these powerful nutrients that help prevent heart disease8.|
|PROTEIN||You get about 7 grams of high quality protein per egg.|
The Conclusion: Eat without worry
Study the research for yourself, but the information all points to the fact that eating an egg a day shouldn’t be a problem for your heart health. And for most relatively healthy people, the incredible list of other benefits of eating eggs puts the small risk in perspective. Enjoying eggs for breakfast is a healthy way to break up the routine, and your body certainly can benefit from them.