Over the past few years, there has been a lot of talk about good foods and bad foods. The world is starting to fight growing obesity and, slowly, we are becoming more aware about food choices.
Through discussions, we are being better educated on what to eat and what not to eat, but there have been many controversies that can be confusing. Is soy a fantastic source of nutrition or does it have negative effects on the thyroid? Are artificial sweeteners good for warding off obesity, or are they contributing to memory loss and cancer?
One of the biggest debates surrounding food currently is eggs. Are eggs good, bad or somewhere in between?
Let’s take a look.
Eggs have been getting a pretty bad rap of late, largely in part to the cholesterol associated with the yolk. One egg yolk contains about 200mg of cholesterol, and considering the recommended daily intake is just 300mg per day, two eggs and you’ve exceeded the limit.
Your body needs some cholesterol to make hormones, vitamin D, and substances that help you digest food, but with too much you can end up with high cholesterol. High cholesterol is the build up of a waxy, fat-like substance in the arteries, and this build-up increases the risk of coronary heart disease and strokes.
The controversy is that foods such as eggs are contributing to high cholesterol, but recent reports are suggesting that eating cholesterol isn’t the main thing that makes its levels in our blood go up. It’s the saturated fats (found in butter and other animal fats) that we should in fact be worried about.
Since these reports have been released, the Heart Foundation of Australia has revised its recommendations to state that “all Australians who follow a healthy balanced diet low in saturated fat can eat up to six eggs each week without increasing the risk of heart disease”.
So what does this mean?
The cholesterol you eat actually has very little impact on how much cholesterol is in your blood. When you eat a well-balanced, healthy diet, one consisting of whole grains, fruits, vegetables and limited processed meats or alcohol, cholesterol in foods like eggs isn’t a problem. It’s only when your cholesterol is already high that it becomes a bit of a worry. Even then, there is no need to cut out eggs entirely.
There are two kinds of lipoproteins that carry cholesterol throughout your body: low-density (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL). Having healthy levels of both types is important, but high LDL levels can lead to a build-up of cholesterol in your arteries.
HDL is considered the good kind, and it is this type that eggs raise. HDL carries cholesterol from other parts of your body back to your liver, where it is then removed from your body. The higher the level of HDL cholesterol in your blood, the lower your chance is of getting heart disease.
Every day, your body makes around 1-2 grams of cholesterol all by itself. When you consume cholesterol from eggs, your body produces less than this amount, due to a natural ‘thermostat’ within the body. You naturally adjust to the good cholesterol coming in.
Does this mean eggs are actually good for you?
Yes, it does. Egg yolks are one of the most nutrient-dense, anti-oxidant-rich and vitamin-laden foods you can eat. They contain calcium, iron, phosphorus, zinc, thiamine, B6, folate, pantothenic acid, lutein, zeaxanthin, B12, omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins A, D and E. These nutrients play a role in weight management, muscle strength, healthy pregnancy, brain function, eye health, and more.
Think about it this way - one egg contains all the nutrients and building blocks required to grow an entire baby chicken.
One of the most important nutrients an egg offers is choline (around 113mg), which helps to keep the brain healthy. Studies have shown that 90% of people don’t get enough choline in their diet.
Another plus is that eggs keep you feeling fuller for longer, meaning you consume less food and less calories. Studies have shown that eating eggs for breakfast eliminates the need for snacking between breakfast and lunch, and can result in the reduction of body fat.