Recent research shows that the cholesterol in eggs may not be as concerning as we once thought, but eggs continue to be a topic of nutritional debate. With constant conflicting views, you may question whether it’s okay to include them in a healthy eating plan.
Eggs, dietary cholesterol, and heart health
Past research suggested that dietary cholesterol was directly linked to increased blood cholesterol. More recent studies have shown mixed results with some showing no association at all. According to Harvard Medical School, a small amount of the cholesterol you eat may enter the blood, but blood cholesterol levels are more strongly influenced by saturated fat and trans fat intake. We now also know that the extent that the cholesterol in your diet increases blood cholesterol varies from person to person.
One chicken egg contains 180 to 215 milligrams of cholesterol depending on the size and source. All of this cholesterol is contained in the yolk. While one egg won’t exceed the recommended 300 milligrams per day suggested by the American Heart Association, people often eat more than one egg and combine eggs with other high cholesterol foods (such as bacon, sausage, and cheese). In addition to being high in cholesterol, this is another reason that eggs have been discouraged for healthy eating.
How many eggs can I eat each week?
More recent research has led many health organizations to update their recommendations on eating eggs. The Mayo Clinic states that four egg yolks or fewer per week have not been found to increase heart disease risk. The Harvard School of Public Health states that up to one egg per day has not been found to increase risk. It also adds that eggs contain nutrients that are associated with decreased risk, including protein, vitamin D, vitamin B12, riboflavin, and folate. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics supports that one egg a day can fit into a healthy eating plan if total daily cholesterol intake does not exceed 300 milligrams.
It’s important to point out that these recommendations are for most healthy adults. Research shows that eating whole eggs can increase heart disease risk in those with diabetes and those who have trouble controlling LDL-cholesterol.
Tips for incorporating eggs into a healthy eating plan
If you’d like to eat eggs, it’s still important to control your total cholesterol intake to meet health recommendations. These are a few ways you can enjoy eggs without going overboard.
If you don’t find one egg filling, add a few egg whites to your scramble or omelet to increase the amount of food in your meal. Egg whites do not contain any of the cholesterol, but they do provide lean protein.
Pair your egg with foods that contain little to no cholesterol. An egg sandwich made with two slices of whole grain bread, one egg, a slice of tomato, a slice of avocado and one teaspoon of whole grain mustard contains about 210 milligrams.
- Foods from animal sources contain cholesterol. On the days you eat eggs, monitor your intake of meats, dairy, and baked goods made with dairy and eggs to ensure you do not exceed 300 milligrams per day.