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The Atkins diet, the Zone diet and the South Beach diet are low or complex-carbohydrate diets that are changing the way we eat. These diets promote limiting your daily intake of simple, processed or total carbohydrates and increasing your intake of protein. Examples of approved foods are lean meats, eggs and cheeses.
Whether you are on a low-carb diet or not, read on to find out why eggs are a good source of nutrition.
The Nutritional Lowdown
Eggs are a nutrient-dense food, which means that they provide a high proportion of daily nutrient needs while accounting for a small proportion of daily calorie needs. One large egg has only about 75 calories, yet eggs are an excellent source of high-quality protein and contain at least 13 vitamins and minerals. In facts, eggs are one of few foods that are natural sources of vitamin D. Besides being a source of nutrition for people of all ages, eggs are inexpensive, convenient and easy to prepare. Shell color has nothing to do with the nutritional value, quality or flavor of the egg. Different breeds of hens simply lay different colored eggs.
A large egg provides 6 grams of protein, which is 10% of the daily value based on a 2,000-calorie diet. Because of its high amount of protein, eggs are classified in the Food Guide Pyramid in a category with meat, poultry, fish, dry beans and nuts. However, eggs are lower in cost and calories than many of the other animal-protein foods from the same group. Egg protein is the standard by which the biological value of other proteins is measured and provides the optimal mixture of essential amino acids.
Fat and Cholesterol
One large egg contains 4.5 grams of total fat — 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of polyunsaturated fat and 2.0 grams of monounsaturated fat. An egg's saturated fat content is relatively low compared with its calorie content. One large egg contains 213 milligrams of cholesterol, 71% of the recommended daily value of 300 milligrams. This doesn't mean eggs aren't acceptable in a person's diet; just make sure your overall diet is otherwise low in cholesterol.
Folate, a B vitamin that is necessary for cell division and producing new blood cells, is found naturally in eggs, with one large egg containing 6% of the daily value of folate based on a 2,000-calorie diet. This is especially important for women who are pregnant or who are trying to conceive. Folate helps prevent neural tube birth defects and decreases the risk of low birthweight babies.
Lutein and Zeaxanthin
Occurring mostly in people 50 and older, age-related macular
degeneration (ARMD) is the leading cause of blindness in the elderly.
The disease occurs when the macula of the retina deteriorates,
affecting central vision. Lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidants that
together make up the pigment of the eye, can reduce risk of ARMD.
A study that analyzed egg yolks, 33 types of fruits and vegetables
and two fruit juices showed that egg yolks had the most lutein
and zeaxanthin of all food and juice sources.
The Yolk and the White
The yellow portion of an egg, or yolk, contains more vitamins and minerals than the white does. All of the egg's vitamins A, D and E and zinc are found in the yolk. The yolk has more phosphorus, folate, manganese, thiamin, iron, iodine, copper and calcium than the white does. All the fat and cholesterol and 44% of the protein in an egg are found in the yolk. An egg white contains more than half of an egg's protein, riboflavin and niacin. Also found primarily in the white are the egg's chlorine, magnesium, potassium, sodium and sulfur.
Storage and Preparation Tips
Make sure you handle your eggs with care. Store eggs in the refrigerator until you are ready to use them — and don't forget to cook them thoroughly! But don't ruin eggs' nutritional value with extra-fat cooking. Try poaching eggs instead of frying them, or use nonstick pans or nonstick vegetable pan sprays during preparation.
For more information, consult the following: Eggs are okay, every day. Nutrition Realities [newsletter]. Washington, DC: Egg Nutrition Center; summer 1999;
available online at: http://www.enc-online.org/NRv3n2.pdf; and the nutrition label for eggs, available online at: http://www.aeb.org/food/nutrition.html.
NUTRITION NEWS FOR HEALTH CARE PRACTITIONERS • PUBLISHED BY THE EGG NUTRITION CENTER
Executive Editor: Donald J. McNamara, Ph.D. Writer: Marcia D. Greenblum, M.S., R.D.
Even though eggs are not the major contributor of cholesterol in the American diet, over the last 35 years eggs have become the visual icon of high cholesterol, both dietary and blood cholesterol, and many consumers have responded by limiting, or eliminating eggs from their diets. U.S. Department of Agriculture data show that meat, poultry and fi sh together account for nearly 45% of cholesterol intake, compared to under 36% for eggs.1 Between 1970, when the public fi rst started hearing the diet-cholesterol message, to 1995, egg consumption decreased 24%, from 311 to 238 eggs per person per year. The message to limit dietary cholesterol had been so effective that recent surveys show that 45 to 50% of consumers considered dietary cholesterol "a serious health risk." And since everyone seemed to replay the same nutritional messages, "less than 300 mg per day of dietary cholesterol and no more than 3 to 4 whole eggs a week," consumers assumed that the recommendations must be not only science based but also proven safe and effective. Today as we are learning about many aspects of the more traditional conventional wisdom in nutrition, the proscriptions against eggs and dietary cholesterol are coming under increased scrutiny as new research not only questions the validity of old concepts but presents documented evidence that the old theories don't hold up well to rigorous scrutiny.
Today, as scientific investigation and statistical analytical methodologies
have improved, research studies provide a more accurate perspective of the
biological processes involved in diet-disease relationships. In fact, a 2007
observational study of 9,734 people conducted by researchers at the University
of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, found no increased risk for stroke,
ischemic stroke or coronary heart disease when subjects ate 6 or more eggs
per week. The researchers concluded that "the lack of relationship between
egg consumption and cardiovascular diseases may be attributable to lack of
association between serum cholesterol and egg consumption". 2
Over the years there have been numerous reports that egg consumption is not related to either plasma cholesterol levels or coronary heart disease (CHD) incidence. Epidemiological surveys across cultures, such as the Twenty Countries Study,3 reported that dietary cholesterol and egg consumption were related to cardiovascular disease mortality using simple correlation analyses but, when multivariate analyses were included correcting for saturated fat calories, there were no relationships between CHD and either dietary cholesterol or egg intakes. Data from the Framingham Heart Study,4, 5 the Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial (MRFIT) 6, the Lipid Research Clinics Prevalence Trial 7, the Alpha-Tocopheral, Beta- Carotene Cancer Prevention Study,8 the Nurses' Health Study,8 and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study 8 all reported that dietary cholesterol intake was not related to either plasma cholesterol levels or CHD incidence.
In 1999 Hu and colleagues at the Harvard School of
Public Health reported in the Journal of the American
Medical Association (JAMA) an analysis of data from
the Nurses' Health Study and the Health Professionals
Follow-Up Study on the relationships between weekly
egg consumption and CHD and stroke incidences.9 The
Nurses' Health Study included 80,082 nurses aged 34 to
59 years at study onset followed for 14 years (1980-1994) and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study involved 37,851 males aged 40 to 75 years in 1986 and followed for 8 years (1986-1994). The investigators determined daily egg consumption from multiple food-frequency
questionnaires and measured incidences of nonfatal myocardial infarction, fatal CHD, and stroke in the two study populations.
The investigators reported that after adjustments for age, smoking, and other potential CHD risk factors, there was no evidence for a signifi cant relationship between egg consumption and risk of CHD or stroke in either men or women. The researchers concluded "that consumption of up to one egg per day is unlikely to have substantial overall impact on the risk of CHD or stroke among healthy men and women." Using data from subgroup analyses, the authors noted an increased risk of CHD associated with higher egg consumption among study participants with diabetes (following an ad libitum diet) but not in those with hypercholesterolemia or excess body weight.
The findings by Hu et al.9 add to an ever increasing body of evidence indicating a null relationship between egg consumption and CHD risk. The fact is that most industrialized countries have reviewed the experimental and epidemiological evidence and their nutrition experts determined that dietary cholesterol restrictions are unnecessary for a heart healthy diet.10 In addition, studies are now showing that restricting eggs from the diet can have negative nutritional effects. The protein quality of eggs is the highest value in the supermarket, and it's available at the lowest price. Eggs have high nutrient density providing 13 different vitamins and minerals in excess of the caloric contribution. Eggs are a source of biologically available lutein and zeaxanthin which help protect eyes against age related macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness in the elderly. In addition, eggs are an excellent source of choline, an essential nutrient needed for fetal brain and memory development and prevention of neural tube defects. And what else is there in an egg which nature has included to optimize embryonic development?: cholesterol (Should eggs be considered nature's original "functional food"?) And surely, if eggs increased the risk of CHD then countries with higher per capita egg consumption should have high rates of CHD. In fact, it turns out to be just the opposite. The countries with the highest per capita egg intakes are Japan #1, then Spain and France, countries with very low rates of CHD mortality compared to the USA.
As the articles in this issue of Nutrition Realities show, there are many reasons to include eggs in a healthy diet. And for segments of the population who are at nutritional risk, the elderly, growing children, low income families, and those with serious illnesses, excluding an affordable, nutrient dense source of high quality protein and a variety of essential nutrients makes very little sense and is unjust. Our current understanding of the relationships between diet and CHD has moved beyond the simplistic view that dietary cholesterol equals blood cholesterol, and shifted towards an emphasis on saturated fats, obesity, and a sedentary lifestyle in CHD risk. Consider, that by giving the public one less ineffective dietary issue to concentrate on it may actually increase their awareness of some of their more risky behaviors. Slowly but surely, and with an ever expanding body of scientific evidence, eggs are coming back to their rightful place in the American diet. And for all those people who have been avoiding a food they enjoy, this will be a valuable shift in the conventional wisdom which will allow them to again welcome eggs back into their heart healthy diet.✤
1 U.S. Department of Agriculture/Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, Nutrient Content of the U.S. Food Supply, 190902004. Home Economics
Research Report No. 57, February 2007.
1 Qureshi AI. Regular egg consumption does not increase the risk of stroke and cardiovascular diseases. Sci Monit, 2007, 13(1):CR1-8.
1 Hegsted DM, Ausman LM. Diet, alcohol and coronary heart disease in men. J Nutr 1988;118:1184-1189.
2 Millen BE, Franz MM, Quatromoni PA, et al. Diet and plasma lipids in women. Macronutrients and plasma total and low density lipoprotein
cholesterol in women: The Framingham nutrition studies. J Clin Epidemiol 1996;49:657-663.
3 Dawber TR, Nickerson RJ, Brand FN, Pool J. Eggs, serum cholesterol, and coronary heart disease. Am J Clin Nutr 1982;36:617-625.
4 Tillotson JL, Bartsch GE, Gorder D, Grandits GA, Stamler J. Food group and nutrient intakes at baseline in the Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial.
Am J Clin Nutr 1997;65(1) Suppl:228S-257S.
5 Esrey KL, Joseph L, Grover SA. Relationship between dietary intake and coronary heart disease mortality: Lipid research clinics prevalence follow-up
study. J Clin Epidemiol 1996;49:211-216.
6 Pietinen P, Ascherio A, Korhonen P, et al. Intake of fatty acids and risk of coronary heart disease in a cohort of Finnish men — The alpha-tocopherol,
beta-carotene cancer preventionstudy. Am J Epidemiol 1997;145:876-887.
7 Hu FB, Stampfer MJ, Manson JE, et al. Dietary fat intake and the risk of coronary heart disease in women. N Engl J Med 1997;337:1491-1499.
8 Ascherio A, Rimm EB, Giovannucci EL, Spiegelman D, Stampfer M, Willett WC. Dietary fat and risk of coronary heart disease in men: Cohort follow
up study in the United States. BMJ 1996;313:84-90.
9 Hu FB, Stampfer MJ, Rimm EB, et al. A prospective study of egg consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease in men and women. JAMA
10 Klein C, The Scientifi c Evidence and Approach Taken to Establish Guidelines for Cholesterol Intake In Australia, Canada, The United Kingdom and the
United States, Life Science Research Offi ce, November 2006.
An ideal breakfast for kids would fill them up until lunch and provide protein to give them the energy to start the day off right. Eggs are a nutritionally sound choice. Eggs contain many nutrients, making them a sensible food to add to a child's diet any time of the day.
In addition, eggs are inexpensive, convenient and easy to chew and digest.
First, the Facts
One large egg contains about 75 calories and 4.5 grams of total
fat, including 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of polyunsaturated
fat and 2 grams of monounsaturated fat. Eggs contain at least 13
vitamins and minerals and are one of the few foods that provide a
natural source of vitamin D. Eating one large egg provides 213 milligrams of cholesterol;
however, this doesn't mean eggs should be unacceptable in a child's diet. It just means that the child's overall diet should be low in cholesterol, as recommended by the American Heart Association.
The yellow part of the egg, also called the yolk, contains more minerals than the white. The yolk contains all the vitamin A, D and E and zinc in the egg, as well as more phosphorus, folate, manganese, thiamin, iron, iodine, copper and calcium than the white.
The fat, cholesterol and 44% of the protein are in the yolk. The white contains more than half the egg's protein, riboflavin and niacin, as well as chlorine, magnesium, potassium, sodium and sulfur.
Eggs are a significant source of high-quality protein. It is especially important that children get enough protein in their diets to assist with growth and development. Protein is also a vital energy source. And the protein found in eggs provides an optimum mixture of amino acids. A large egg provides 6 grams of protein. Because of their high amount of protein, eggs are classified in the meat, poultry, fish, dry beans and nuts category of the Food Guide Pyramid.
A Filling Food
Satiety is the feeling of fullness. Eggs have a high satiety effect, which means that they are a food that will make a child (or adult) feel full. In a study, researchers wanted to find out which of two breakfasts was more filling: a bagel, cream cheese and yogurt, or two eggs, toast and jelly. They found that the people who ate the egg breakfast felt fuller after breakfast and stayed full longer than the group that ate the bagel breakfast. The first meal of the day is crucial for a child. If students eat eggs, either at home before school or in the school breakfast program, they will be fuller for longer. They won't have hunger pangs while they're trying to learn and they may not even eat as much for lunch.
A recent study found that there was no correlation between eating eggs and coronary artery disease (CAD) risk. Researchers tested a group of children between the ages of 8 and 12 who were at high risk for CAD and found that egg intake did not increase the children's risk for the disease.
Choline is a nutrient found in the egg that is essential for the normal functioning of cells. It is also important for women who may eventually be mothers to get enough choline, since it facilitates brain development in the fetus and newborn.
Eggs contain the antioxidant lutein, which plays an important role in keeping eyes healthy. It accumulates with zeaxanthin — another antioxidant — in the macular region of the eye, where these substances protect against some types of harmful, high-energy wavelengths of light. Getting enough lutein is important for a child's future, since it also may protect against age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in the elderly.
Our grandparents taught us to recognize eggs as a wholesome and nutritious food. They understood that eggs contain nutrients that scientists are just beginning to appreciate for their impact on overall health.
Eggs can be part of a healthful diet. The Nutrition Facts label on an egg carton tells a convincing story. A single large egg supplies less than 4% of the total calorie intake of a person who consumes 2000 calories a day. For as little as 75 calories an egg provides 12% of the Daily Value for protein and a wide variety of other nutrients such as Vitamin A, B6, B12, D, folate, iron, phosphorus and zinc in varying amounts. That makes the egg a nutrient dense food: lots of nutrition for relatively few calories!
HIGH QUALITY PROTEIN
While it is true that many foods offer nutrients, the
quality and the variety of the nutrients that an egg
offers makes it a stand out. Egg white is considered
an ideal protein, the one that all others are compared
to for quality. All the important amino acids,
the building blocks of body protein, are found in an
egg in the right proportions for your body's needs.
egg protein a
great source of
nutrition for a
well as an
to build muscle
or a senior
trying to preserve
tissue. In fact,
shown that when elderly women increased their protein intake, they increased their bone mineral density thereby decreasing their risk of hip fractures. For those interested in weight loss, research indicates that increased protein and reduced carbohydrate intake stabilizes blood sugar between meals which can lead to reduced between meal snacking.
BENEFICIAL FAT CONTENT
As for the fat found in eggs, two thirds of it is the
healthy unsaturated kind. And, now that we are
hearing more about health risks from trans-fatty
acids, it's reassuring to know that there are no transfats
in eggs. The fat that the egg does supply helps
nutrients such as vitamins A, D, E and K to be used
by the body. Still other nutrients such as iron, folate
and vitamin B12,
often lacking in our modern highly processed diets, can naturally be found in an egg.
Although eggs have been popular in most traditional diets, recent research has shown them to be even more nutritious than our ancestors could have known. In fact, the egg yolk is an excellent source of choline, a nutrient now considered essential for human health. Research has shown choline to be required for normal formation of brain tissue and memory and to play a role in preventing heart disease. The recently established adequate intake for choline is 550 mg. for men, 425 mg. for women and 450 mg. during pregnancy. Since a single large egg provides 125 mg. of choline, a daily egg as part of a balanced diet can help you to meet your daily choline needs.
LUTEIN AND ZEAXANTHIN
Lutein and zeaxanthin are two newly recognized nutrients that have put eggs in the "functional foods" category. A functional food is one that provides health benefits beyond its basic nutrient content. Lutein and zeaxanthin are members of a family of nutrients known as carotenoids and are found in green vegetables and egg yolks. These substances collect in parts of the eye and have been shown to play a role in promoting vision and preventing some common causes of blindness. In one well regarded study, The Beaver Dam Eye Study, subjects whohad the highest dietary intake of lutein were about 50% less likely to suffer from cataracts, the clouding of the eye covering which often accompanies aging, as those who had the lowest lutein intake in their diet.
Another eye disease, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), is a leading cause of blindness affecting people over the age of 65. The Eye Disease Case-Control Study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that subjects with the highest dietary intake of lutein and zeaxanthin had a significantly lower risk of AMD compared to those with the lowest dietary intake. Although vegetables supply most of the lutein in the diet, studies show that the fat content of an egg yolk may provide a beneficial fat matrix that helps the lutein and zeaxanthin find their way into and travel throughout the body where they accumulate in the eye.
even improve visual function.
CONVENIENT AND ECONOMICAL
Imagine all these health benefits at an incredibly low price. As expenses keep climbing, it's reassuring to know that eggs can provide so much nutrition for a family of four at less than $2.00 per meal. Consider another great advantage: eggs have a long shelf life. In fact, it is safe to use eggs up to 4 weeks after purchase if kept refrigerated. This means that on those days when everything is running late and you can't get to the supermarket, you can whip up anutritious, satisfying meal within minutes that costs much less than any restaurant take-out.
urge to snack.
Just keep a hard
cooked egg on
hand to see you
need to stop for
a snack that you'll
regret later. In fact, researchers interested in weight control are now saying that protein rich snacks like eggs can keep your appetite satisfied for longer than the usual sugary snack bars. Preliminary findings indicate that an egg, toast and jelly breakfast can even keep you from getting hungry longer than an equal calorie breakfast consisting of a bagel, cream cheese and yogurt.
So, why not start the day with a delicious scrambled
egg sandwich and a gulp of orange juice
whether at home or on the road? How about tossing slices of hard cooked egg into that tired
spinach salad for a delicious and nutritious treat? Eggs are the perfect solution for any last minute meal dilemma!
The sunny side of eggs
Eggs have a bad reputation because of their high cholesterol
content: 210 milligrams in the yolk of a large egg. But, in fact,
they do not raise blood cholesterol in most people—and they
may even be good for your heart in some ways. Here's the latest on eggs.
Eggs and your heart
You may be surprised to learn that dietary cholesterol, found in animal foods, raises blood cholesterol in only about one-third of people. And, as shown in some egg studies, dietary cholesterol causes the body to produce HDL ("good") cholesterol along with LDL ("bad") cholesterol in these "hyper-responders," thus helping off set potential adverse eff ects. Moreover, the LDL particles that form are larger in size—and larger LDL particles are thought to be less dangerous than small ones. In studies at the University of Connecticut, for example, eating three eggs a day for 30 days increased cholesterol in susceptible people, but their LDL particles were larger, and there was no change in the ratio between LDL and HDL, which suggests no major change in coronary risk.
More signifi cantly, eggs do not appear to contribute to heart disease in most people. A pivotal study from Harvard in 1999, of nearly 120,000 men and women, found no association between eggs—up to one a day—and heart disease, except in people with diabetes. Nor did it fi nd a link between eggs and strokes. Studies since then have similarly vindicated eggs, including a Japanese study of more than 90,000 middle-aged people in the British Journal of Nutrition in 2006, and a study in 2007 from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, which both found no link between frequent egg consumption and heart disease. In light of these findings, recommendations about eggs have changed over the years, and cholesterol guidelines, in general, are being rethought.
The unsaturated fats and other nutrients, including B vitamins, in eggs may even be benefi cial to heart health. It's the saturated-fat-rich foods that typically accompany eggs (bacon, sausage, cheese, and biscuits) and how eggs are often prepared (fried in lots of butter) that can raise blood cholesterol and the risk of heart disease. A large egg has only 1.5 grams of saturated fat and about 70 calories. A Bacon, Egg & Cheese Th e American Heart Association (AHA) has no specific limit on how many eggs you can eat, as long as you limit your total cholesterol consumption to 300 milligrams a day, on average (200 milligrams if you have heart disease, high cholesterol, or other coronary risk factors). Many researchers believe that the AHA guidelines are too restrictive, however, and endorse a higher daily upper limit for cholesterol for healthy people. A more reasonable goal is 500 milligrams a day (but still 200 milligrams if you have risk factors for heart disease, including diabetes). That would allow for an egg a day—even two on some days— and still leave room for other sources of cholesterol.
Other countries, including Canada, the U.K., and Australia, don't set any recommended upper limits for cholesterol, citing a lack of evidence that dietary cholesterol has a major impact on blood cholesterol. Keep in mind that even if it's okay for most people to consume more cholesterol than previously advised, this does not change recommendations to limit saturated and trans fats (from partially hydrogenated oils), as these fats aff ect blood cholesterol levels more than the cholesterol you eat does. Only a few foods—notably eggs, shrimp, and squid—are very high in cholesterol anyway—and they are low in saturated fat. Th e biggest problem with meat and dairy foods is not their cholesterol, but their high saturated fat content, which is why you should choose lean cuts and low-fat varieties.Biscuit from McDonald's, on the other hand, has 11 grams of saturated fat and 1,360 milligrams of sodium (more than half the daily limit for these nutrients) and 450 calories.
Good for your eyes . . . and maybe your waist
Egg yolks are a rich source of lutein and zeaxanthin, relatives of beta carotene that may help keep eyes healthy and have been linked to a reduced risk of age-related macular degeneration. Not only are these carotenoids well-absorbed and better used by the body than those from spinach or supplements, but a study in the Journal of Nutrition in 2006 also found that women eating six eggs a week for 12 weeks had increased macular pigment, which is thought to protect the retina of the eye from the damaging eff ects of light.
Th ere's some evidence that eggs promote satiety, due in part to their protein. In a study of overweight women, reported in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition in 2005, those who had two eggs for breakfast felt fuller afterwards and ate signifi cantly fewer calories at lunch than women who had a bagel-based breakfast with the same number of calories.
What's in an egg
One large egg contains 6 grams of high-quality protein (in both the yolk and the white). Th e yolk is also a source of zinc, B vitamins (including ribofl avin and folate), vitamin A, iron, and other nutrients.
In addition to lutein and zeaxanthin, egg yolks provide choline, an essential nutrient, which is especially important for fetal brain development. Researchers have also identified other compounds in eggs that may have anti-cancer, anti-hypertensive, immune-boosting, and antioxidant properties.
"Designer" eggs, from chickens fed special diets, usually contain more lutein, vitamin E, and/or heart-healthy omega- 3 fats. But they rarely provide enough extra nutrients to be worth their higher cost. Eggs that claim to be rich in omega- 3s, for example, contain only a small amount compared to fatty fish, such as salmon.
Brown eggs are not more nutritious than white. Different breeds simply lay eggs with diff erent shell colors—even blue and green. Yolk color depends on what the chicken ate: wheat and barley produce a light yolk, corn a medium-yellow yolk, and marigold petals a deep yellow. Though not a sure indication, darker yellow yolks may have more omega-3s and carotenoids. Organic eggs, from chickens fed an organic diet, do not have more nutrients than conventionally produced eggs, though some people may prefer them as a way to support organic production.
Words to the wise: Eggs are good food. Most people can eat one or two a day. Just don't mess them up by preparing them with fatty, salty ingredients or serving them with unhealthy side dishes.
UC Berkeley Wellness Letter, March 2008
© 2008 Health Letter Associates
Reprinted with permission from the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter
Rethinking Cholesterol Advice
The American Heart Association (AHA) has no specific limit on how many eggs you can eat, as long as you limit your total cholesterol consumption to 300 milligrams a day, on average (200 milligrams if you have heart disease, high cholesterol, or other coronary risk factors). Many researchers believe that the AHA guidelines are too restrictive, however, and endorse a higher daily upper limit for cholesterol for healthy people. A more reasonable goal is 500 milligrams a day (but still 200 milligrams if you have risk factors for heart disease, including diabetes). That would allow for an egg a day—even two on some days— and still leave room for other sources of cholesterol. Other countries, including Canada, the U.K., and Australia, don't set any recommended upper limits for cholesterol, citing a lack of evidence that dietary cholesterol has a major impact on blood cholesterol.
Keep in mind that even if it's okay for most people to consume more cholesterol than previously advised, this does not change recommendations to limit saturated and trans fats (from partially hydrogenated oils), as these fats aff ect blood cholesterol levels more than the cholesterol you eat does. Only a few foods—notably eggs, shrimp, and squid—are very high in cholesterol anyway—and they are low in saturated fat. Th e biggest problem with meat and dairy foods is not their cholesterol, but their high saturated fat content, which is why you should choose lean cuts and low-fat varieties.