Diet diary: The rise, fall and rise of eggs

Studies show that evaluating eggs, a nutrient-dense food, solely on its cholesterol content is a misplaced notion.

Written by Ishi Khosla | Updated: February 13, 2016 11:38 am

 

Egg is a healthy source of protein. (Photo: Thinkstock) Egg is a healthy source of protein. (Photo: Thinkstock)

The association between eggs, cholesterol and fear of heart disease goes back to over three decades. Countless number of people across the globe have either given up on their favorite breakfast food or made peace with the whites.

The good news, however, is that eggs can be part of your diet. The fact is that cholesterol management is more complex and dietary cholesterol perhaps is not the culprit. Evaluating eggs, a nutrient dense food, solely on the basis of its cholesterol content is misplaced.

Several studies have shown that regular egg consumption induces little or modest changes in blood cholesterol both in people with normal cholesterol and those with higher levels. Britain’s Food Standards Agency says there is no limit to eating eggs if they are part of a balanced diet.

Cholesterol actually acts as an antioxidant against dangerous free radicals within the blood and is also necessary for the production of certain hormones that help to fight against heart disease. Eggs are in fact an inexpensive nutrient-dense food rich in essential amino acids, essential fatty acids and are an important source of essential nutrients including iron, riboflavin, folate, choline, and vitamins A, B12, D, and E. Most of these nutrients are present in the yolk.

For years, it has been believed that dietary cholesterol intake should be kept to a bare minimum to maintain blood cholesterol levels and prevent heart disease. While it made logical sense that lowering dietary cholesterol intake will help lower blood cholesterol, however, there is more to it.

Our body makes cholesterol in the liver on a daily basis to maintain our health. When dietary intake of cholesterol is decreased, the liver compensates by producing more cholesterol, leaving total cholesterol levels relatively unchanged. In the same way, if cholesterol consumption is increased, the liver produces less cholesterol, and again, total cholesterol values will not be substantially altered. With faulty diets and increased dietary intake of sugars, unhealthy fats, trans fats, processed foods or toxic ingredients, cholesterol levels rise in order to combat these substances.

Several studies have found no significant correlation between eggs and heart diseases. As part of a healthy diet, egg cholesterol seems to have little impact on blood cholesterol levels. So the answer to decreasing blood cholesterol levels is not avoiding eggs and not necessarily decreasing dietary cholesterol intake, but rather improving ones diet and lifestyle overall by eating healthier in general, avoiding other harmful foods and engaging in regular physical activity. Before you start binging, remember, even a good thing in excess can be counter-productive and balance and variety are the key to healthy eating.

 

Author is a clinical nutritionist and founder of www.theweightmonitor.com and Whole Foods India