Are eggs good for you? We crack open the latest guidelines



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Remember when doctors turned up their charts at eggs? Yeah, we do, too.

Now, most health experts roundly acknowledge these shelled protein packs can play a role in a healthy diet — provided they’re not lathered in bacon grease.

To make sense of the shift in sentiment, Dr. Frank Hu, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health and a member of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, explains what the latest research says about eating eggs. The committee recently submitted its 500-plus page scientific report to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the USDA.


What do the 2015 DGAC recommendations mean for eating eggs?

Answer: Reducing blood cholesterol is the key to preventing heart disease, Hu says, but the 2015 DGAC recommended dropping the guideline of no more than 300 milligrams of dietary cholesterol per day since it only has a small effect on blood cholesterol in healthy individuals.

“This means that egg consumption does not need to be limited in healthy adults. But the DGAC does not recommend individuals to eat high amounts of eggs either. Based on current evidence, moderate egg consumption up to one egg per day can be incorporated into a healthy dietary pattern for most individuals.”


Why are eggs OK if they’re high in cholesterol?

A: “Large amounts of dietary cholesterol may lead to only a small increase in blood cholesterol levels depending on other aspects of your diet. However, other nutrients contained in eggs may help to lower risk of heart disease.”


What’s in an egg that makes it nutritious?

A: “Eggs contain a variety of beneficial nutrients such as unsaturated fats, protein, vitamin B12, riboflavin, folate and vitamin D.”


Why was the egg vilified to begin with and what’s changed since we were told to avoid eggs?

A: “Eggs were assumed to be harmful to health due to their high cholesterol content. The original diet-heart hypothesis was that dietary cholesterol would increase blood cholesterol levels and translate into increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

“As more research has been published, it is realized that dietary cholesterol has no appreciable effect on blood cholesterol and moderate consumption of eggs up to one egg per day does not increase risk of heart disease. But it should be noted that consumption of eggs does not help to reduce risk of heart disease either.”


What are the strengths — and limitations — of eggs?

A: “Eggs are a good source of many nutrients and can be part of a healthy diet. There is some preliminary evidence that the dietary cholesterol in eggs may act differently in people with diseases such as type 2 diabetes, so it is possible that certain groups may still want to limit egg consumption.”


Preparation methods can affect nutritional composition of certain foods and eating certain parts of foods can be more nutritious than others. As we look at an egg — the white, yolk and all — how would you suggest eating it?

A: “I would recommend a whole egg cooked either without fat, such as hard boiled, or cooked with an oil high in unsaturated fatty acids.

“By cooking an egg with an oil high in unsaturated fats, you are adding some healthy fats to the diet because unsaturated fats have been shown to lower blood cholesterol and heart disease risk.”


Should you just eat the egg whites?

A: “An egg yolk contains all of the nutrients including protein, dietary cholesterol, vitamins and minerals. The egg white contains mostly protein. When you eat egg whites, you are removing the dietary cholesterol, but you are also leaving out other beneficial nutrients.

“For individuals who still need to limit dietary cholesterol, such as those with diabetes, it is reasonable to just eat the egg whites.”


Is there anyone who still should abstain from consuming eggs?

A: “It is possible that people with diabetes may have altered cholesterol transport in the body either due to insulin resistance or changes in apolipoprotein levels. This altered cholesterol transport may increase the effect that dietary cholesterol intake has on risk of heart disease.

“In addition, those with high blood cholesterol may be advised to cut back on dietary cholesterol. Because eggs are a source of dietary cholesterol, doctors may suggest limiting egg consumption. Limiting cholesterol rich foods that also contain saturated fats such as red meats is more important to lower blood cholesterol and reduce risk of heart disease.”


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This article was written by Michael Schroeder, Angie’s List.   

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